PAULS SCORES OT WINNER, U.S. WINS WSHC GOLD
JASON LA ROSE
LEDUC, Alta. – Josh Pauls was the overtime hero, scoring 19 seconds into the extra period to give the United States a 2-1 win over Russia on Saturday night and its third gold medal at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge.
The Americans also won gold in 2009 and 2012, beating Canada in the final each time.
Pauls took a feed from Brody Roybal, cruised into the slot and rifled a wrist shot over the glove of Russian netminder Evgeny Plotnikov for the quickest overtime finish in tournament history.
Kevin McKee had the other goal for the Americans, who finished without a loss for the first time in eight appearances and trailed for only 10:23 in five games, all on Saturday.
Ivan Berdnik was the lone goal scorer for Russia, which lost to the U.S. in the final of a major international event for the second time in less than a year; the Americans earned a 1-0 victory in the Paralympic gold medal game last March in Sochi, Russia.
The game started at a frantic pace, with just two whistles in the first nine minutes.
The Russians hit the scoreboard first at 11:42; Maxim Kuzminykh rattled a shot off the far post, but Berdnik was there to clean up the rebound and beat a diving Steve Cash for the 1-0 lead.
Russia outshot the U.S. 6-5 in the first period, but the offence dried up after that; the Russians managed just three shots on goal in the final two periods, and were held without a shot entirely in the second.
McKee pulled the Americans even just before the midway mark of the middle frame, swinging out from behind the net and beating Plotnikov low to the far side with his left hand.
The Russian goaltender stole the show from there, making 10 of his 18 saves in the third period, including a pair of point-blank stops in the final minute with the U.S. pressing for the winner.
The Americans now hold two of the three most important gold medals in sledge hockey (World Sledge Hockey Challenge, Paralympic Winter Games) and will look to complete the trifecta when they host the 2015 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship, beginning April 24 in Buffalo, N.Y.