Story by Hockey Canada
OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – James Dunn (Wallacetown, Ont.) and Tyler McGregor (Forest, Ont.) scored power-play goals in the second period and Dominic Larocque (Quebec City, Quebec) shut the door in third, leading Canada’s national Para ice hockey team to a 2-1 win over the United States on Saturday at the 2021 IPC World Para Ice Hockey Championship.
Larocque finished with 15 saves, seven of them in the third period as the U.S. pushed to tie the game late, but the Canadians closed out the victory to end a seven-game winless streak against their cross-border rivals.
“I thought it was a good game for our team considering we have not played in a long time,” said Canada’s head coach Ken Babey. ‘’We played well defensively and we were able to close [the United States] out for most of the evening. Our guys battled hard and blocked shots to preserve the win, and now we look forward to playing South Korea tomorrow.”
The game opened at a furious pace, even with neither team having played a competitive game in 491 days. The teams exchanged a few chances, with Billy Bridges (Summerside, P.E.I.) just missing an opportunity to open the scoring when he couldn’t knock down a rebound in tight.
“It was a great feeling to be back in a game after 16 months,” said McGregor. “I think everyone played a hard game; it was fast and physical, and we needed to work together to be able to overcome that speed and physicality. It was important for us to get the first win, but there are still some things we need to improve on after such a long break.”
Special teams came into play in the second, as the Americans went down a man early in the middle frame. Leading the rush from the wing, Liam Hickey (St. John’s, N.L.) made a perfect pass to Dunn, who finished the play with a lovely tap past American goaltender Steve Cash at the tail end of a power play.
“It was awesome to be back on the ice,” said Hickey. “Our entire team is very grateful to be in competition again. We are happy to start off the tournament with a win and we are extremely excited to carry the momentum forward and play our next game.”
The U.S. was back in the box five minutes later, giving the Canadians another chance with the man advantage. This time it would be McGregor finding the scoresheet, also off the rush. Greg Westlake (Oakville, Ont.) veered in front of the net, causing three American players to collide, leaving a clear path for the Canadian captain, who fired a wicked wrist shot under the bar to put Canada ahead by a pair at 9:35 of the second.
The boys in red and white would carry that two-goal lead into the third period, where both teams started to show some fatigue, the result of a prolonged off-season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. cut into the Canadian lead less than a minute into the third off the stick of Brody Roybal, who broke in alone and beat Larocque low to the stick side to make it a 2-1 game.
The Canadians pressed to restore their two-goal advantage, but a penalty midway through the frame gave the Americans a little more life. Roybal had the best chance, finding himself below the face-off dot and with a clean shot, but Larocque knocked it aside.
With the win, Canada improved to 58-43-1 all time against the United States. In addition to ending the seven-game winless run, the Canadians also beat the U.S. at the worlds for the first time since the gold medal game in 2017.
Canada is right back on the ice Sunday (5 a.m. ET/2 a.m. PT), taking on South Korea in a match-up of Day 1 winners.
Audiences across the country can watch Canada’s games live and on-demand at Paralympic.ca and the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Facebook page. CLICK HERE for more broadcast information.