BRIDGES, BOWDEN LEAD CANADA TO PARALYMPIC BRONZE
SOCHI, Russia – It wasn’t the medal it was hoping to come home with, but in the end Canada’s National Sledge Team captured a well-earned bronze at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Led by the team’s two longest-serving members, Brad Bowden (Orton, Ont.) and Billy Bridges (Summerside, P.E.I.), Canada convincingly defeated Norway 3-0 on Saturday.
Bridges scored twice and Bowden had a goal and two assists in a six-minute span in the second period that saw Canada finally break through and open up a scoreless game.
Corbin Watson (Kingsville, Ont.) made 10 saves for his third shutout of the Games.
While a bronze medal game can sometimes be hard to get up for, neither team was lacking for motivation. Canada was looking to rebound after a disappointing semifinal loss to the Americans; Norway was looking to continue its streak of medalling at every Paralympics.
Some solid goaltending by Kristian Buen – as well as by the post on an Adam Dixon (Midland, Ont.) point shot – kept the Canadians off the board through the first 15 minutes.
The floodgates would open early in the second, though. The ice was still wet when Bowden stick-handled his way from the side boards through three defenders to flick a backhand past Buen.
Two minutes later Canada struck again. After Greg Westlake (Oakville, Ont.) mishandled a cross-ice pass from Bowden in front of the net, Bridges picked up the loose puck and swept it under his sled and past Buen.
Norway continued to generate few chances of its own. Its best chance came when forward Loyd-Remi Pallander Solberg broke in behind the Canadian defense, but his shot was easily handled by Watson.
Canada put the final nail in the coffin on the power play; a Norwegian clearing attempt was kept in at the blue-line by Dixon, who sent the puck back behind the net and allowed his team to reset. Bridges then went top shelf to finish a crisp passing play from Bowden and Dixon.
Norway had struggled to score throughout the tournament – four goals in four games coming in – and with Canada’s defence allowing few forays into is zone, it was hard-pressed to reverse that trend.
The Canadians continued to press in the third, allowing its opponents only one good scoring chance early on that Watson easily turned aside.
Canada finished with 18 shots on goal – and probably almost as many that didn’t register.
The bronze is Canada’s fourth Paralympic medal in sledge hockey. The country previously won gold in 2006, silver in 1998 and bronze in 1994.