The United States national sledge hockey team wrapped up their three-game exhibition series versus Canada with a 2-1 win. The series was contested in Rockland, Ontario, and the US won the first game by a 2-0 tally. Canada replied in the second with their own 2-0 win.
Greg Westlake of Canada and Craig Brady of the US collided near the boards as the physical tone was set early on. Nikko Landeros got the first shot on net for the US. In the first minute, Canada’s Kieran Block was called for a penalty, putting the US on the power play.
Despite the power play, it was Canada that poured on the offensive pressure. Alternate captain Billy Bridges had the first shot on net for Canada. Another highlight during the Canadian penalty kill was Bradley Bowden stripping the puck off American Josh Sweeney.
A few minutes later, it was Canada’s turn to go on the power play. With a penalty to Buffalo native Alexi Salamone, Canada became aggressive. Westlake and Bowden both scrambled for the puck in the corners. Forward Kevin Rempel had an open, net but shot wide as the score remained tied at zero.
Rempel would quickly gain another scoring opportunity. Bridges collided with Salamone and the puck went loose. Grabbing the loose puck, Rempel went to the top shelf of US netminder Steve Cash for the 1-0 lead.
After the goal, there was a lot of back and forth that was complemented by clean checking. Bridges would collide with Rico Roman while Bowden and Landeros would also bump into each other. Cash was tested often by the Canadian as a high-bouncing puck could have easily made the score 2-0 in Canada’s favor.
With the save by Cash, the momentum quickly turned. Josh Pauls of the US was on a breakaway and made a cross-ice pass to Declan Farmer. The Tampa, Florida native buried the puck past Canadian netminder Corbin Watson.
Canada would try to regain the lead after the goal. Adam Dixon had a hard shot that went wide, while Bridges was blocked by Cash on a breakaway. Bowden also had a shot that went wide as the score remained tied.
Kevin McKee from Davenport, Iowa tried to get the US back into the game as he rushed up the ice. Shadowed by three Canadian skaters, he was unable to get a shot on net. His effort would pay off as a few seconds later, the US were back in the Canadian zone. With the puck in the corner, a light pass was deflected into the Canadian net to the shock of the hometown crowd. Paul Schaus was credited with the goal while Sweeney earned the assist.
In the dying seconds, Canada tried again to tie the game. Bridges weaved through traffic, but his shot was denied. Canadian captain Westlake released a hard shot but Cash was impenetrable.
Heading into the second stanza, Canada found itself on the defensive. Westlake and Salamone both collided near the boards. With the US nearly adding a third goal in the first 30 seconds, Canada was resilient in providing solid defense.
Bowden made a clearing pass to Kieran Block so that the US could not have another scoring opportunity. A shot by Landeros was blocked by one of the Canadian skaters to the approval of the fans. Sweeney and Schaus both had scoring opportunities, but Watson denied them both.
With 2:30 remaining in a period with very few scoring opportunities for Canada, Adam Dixon tried to make something happen. As the US tried to dump the puck, Dixon intercepted it. Westlake charged into the US zone and was unable to shoot. Bridges also got into the action as he threw a check that echoed throughout the arena.
As the US maintained their 2-1 lead after two periods, Canada came out strong. Westlake checked Roman into the boards. Bridges streaked down the ice and fired a shot that was blocked in heavy traffic. A few seconds later, Daniel McCoy of the US released his own shot that was blocked. With Marc Dorion about to fall out of his sled, he laid down on top of the puck. He quickly got up, but no Canadian players were open to receive a pass.
The US were struggling to get a shot on net as Canada poured the pressure on Cash. Tyler Carron from Fort Collins, Colorado was hit by Rempel as the challenge for both teams was to gain momentum. Josh Pauls would have the first shot on net for the US, but was unable to score.
With a sense of desperation, the game started to become physical. Bridges, Bowden and Westlake worked on a line together and aggressively tried to tie the score. Bowden would have several good chances as the US defense was under pressure. As Bridges spilled behind the US net, Landeros tried to grab the loose puck, but was quickly met by Westlake.
Bridges would be called for a penalty with 4:55 remaining. Despite being a man short, Canada continued to play with dogged determination. Westlake stripped the puck from Sweeney and dumped the puck back in the US zone. Adam Dixon went on a breakaway as the crowd started cheering in anticipation of a goal.
Three US players quickly caught up to him and he dumped the puck. Bowden quickly soared down the ice but could not release a shot. Anthony Gale of Canada got behind the US net with the puck but could not center a pass. Canada would successfully nullify the US power play but their aggressive play could not result in a goal.
Eager to tie the score, Dixon persevered. With the puck back in Canada’s end, Dixon managed to clear the puck. A quick-skating Bowden overskated the puck as it marked the second time that the two could not connect. With 20 seconds left, Watson abandoned his net in favor of an extra attacker. Bowden and Westlake led the charge again but Cash retained his composure and was solid between the pipes as he preserved the 2-1 victory for the United States.