GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Canada’s Paralympic Hockey Team skated to a silver medal following a 2-1 overtime loss to the United States in the gold medal game Sunday afternoon in Gangneung.
The Canadians took an early lead on a goal by veteran Billy Bridges (Summerside, P.E.I.) at 12:06 of the first period, and held on to the lead until the Americans tied it up in the dying seconds of the third frame to force overtime. Dominic Larocque (Quebec City, Que.) faced 16 shots – four more than his U.S. counterpart – but the United States skated to gold as Declan Farmer found the back of the net at 3:30 of overtime. The full game story and stats can be found at HockeyCanada.ca.
“Our guys were tremendous. They battled hard. They took Canada’s para hockey program to a silver medal. I’m very proud of our team, and I’m very lucky to be part of such a great group of young men and such a great organization [as Hockey Canada],” said head coach Ken Babey (Saskatoon, Sask.) whose disappointment over Sunday’s loss wasn’t overshadowed by the prospects he sees for the program leading into 2022. “The veteran players showed a lot of experience, and they bought into the system and the style of play. We’ve taken the style of play to a whole new level, and Canada should be proud of that and our team is proud of that. We have a lot of young players coming up, and through this experience, we’ll be better. Our fortunes are looking pretty good for the next quadrennial.”
Canada dominated its opponents through the preliminary round and semifinal play where they outscored Sweden, Italy, Norway, and Korea 42-0 while allowing only 13 shots on goal. Canada ends the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games with a record of 4-1.
“This whole build has been fantastic. It’s not the result we wanted tonight, but I think it’s important to take a step back and realize that in high-performance sport, the difference can be inches, millimetres, a millisecond, and that can determine the outcome, and that can determine and shape your experience of a [Paralympic] Games,” said team captain Greg Westlake (Oakville, Ont.), one of three players who won gold in 2006, and bronze in 2014. He said that while silver isn’t the colour of medal the team had hoped for, a Paralympic Games medal of any colour is special and holds a lot of power. “I’ve been fortunate to go to a lot of galas, a lot of golf tournaments, a lot of hospitals, and people don’t care that it’s gold, silver, or bronze, they care that you stuck to something, persevered, and you were able to accomplish something not many people do in their life. I think over time we’ll take this silver medal back home and hopefully inspire a whole new generation of Paralympians, Olympians, [or] just high-performing people that say hey, bad things are coming, but we’re going to work hard and we’re going to come out the other side [and be] okay.”
Canada’s lone para hockey gold medal came in Turin in 2006 where three members of this year’s team – Brad Bowden (Orton, Ont.), Bridges, and Westlake – finished atop the podium. Canada has also won Paralympic silver in Nagano, Japan (1998) as well as a pair of bronze medals in Lillehammer, Norway (1994), and Sochi, Russia (2014).
The addition of Canada’s silver medal adds to the record medal haul for the Canadian contingent at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, surpassing the 2010 record of 19 medals in Vancouver.
Canada’s para hockey team is set to return home on Tuesday, March 20, with arrivals in Vancouver on AC64 at 11:40 a.m. (Arsenault, Gemmell), and in Toronto on AC62 at 4:50 p.m. (Armstrong, Bowden, Bridges, Cozzolino, Delaney, Dixon, Dunn, Henry, Hickey, Larocque, McGregor, Sholomicki, Smith, Watson and Westlake).
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