CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. (Hockey Canada)– Brody Roybal opened and closed the scoring, leading the United States to a 5-2 win over Canada and first place in the preliminary round Wednesday at the 2017 World Sledge Hockey Challenge.
The Americans finished the round robin unbeaten for the fourth year in a row, and will face Italy in their semifinal on Thursday afternoon (12 p.m. AT). Canada meets South Korea later in the day in its semi (7 p.m. AT).
“We didn’t necessarily play a bad game,'' said Canada's Para ice hockey head coach Ken Babey. ''We had moments where we played pretty well. I expected the Americans to play a pretty strong game. They haven’t played us for eight months and they’ve been waiting for this moment – they pushed pretty hard. At the start of the game, our boys struggled a bit, but I saw some good things. We’re going to focus on playing better defensively and the whole structure of our game has to be strong to get through the semifinal.”
Pressure in the Canadian end led to the opening goal, with Roybal jumping on a turnover before tucking a shot around goaltender Corbin Watson (Kingsville, Ont.) for the 1-0 lead.
Declan Farmer took advantage of a fortuitous bounce less than three minutes, doubling the lead after the puck hopped over the stick of a Canadian defender at the hashmarks.
Billy Bridges (Summerside, P.E.I.) got the crowd at MacLauchlan Arena back into it before the end of the opening frame, wiring a shot past U.S. netminder Steve Cash with the Canadians enjoying a two-man advantage.
The P.E.I. native struck again just shy of the 10-minute mark of the second period, playing give-and-go with Liam Hickey (St. John’s, N.L.) before netting the tying goal.
“The U.S. is an extremely good team,'' said Bridges. "We know they are a good opponent and every single time we play them we need to be able to bring that fire and that level of focus immediately. I’d rather not score a single goal and give our goalies a shutout and win the game, than score two in a losing game.''
But Josh Misiewicz restored the American lead late in the middle frame, finishing off a pretty passing play in front of Watson.
Kevin McKee added a little insurance less than a minute into the third period when his shot went up and over the Canadian keeper, chasing him from the net in favour of Dominic Larocque (Quebec City, Que.).
Canada pushed to get back into it, outshooting the U.S. 6-4 in the third period and 22-14 overall, but Roybal finished the scoring into an empty net with 21 seconds to go.
The Americans have now won 18 consecutive games at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge; their last loss came to Canada in the gold medal game of the 2013 tournament in Toronto, Ont.