The Paralympic Games are only two days old, but the Canadian men’s sledge hockey team has already clinched a spot in the semifinals.
One day after demolishing an outclassed Swedish side, the Canadians continued to prove their worth as the class of Group A with a 4-0 win over Norway in preliminary round play on Sunday.
With first place in the group on the line, both teams knew the importance of the game, and this lead to a tentative start by both sides and a scoreless first period.
Canada tallied nine shots on goal during the frame, but Norwegian netminder Kristian Buen was up to the challenge.
The deadlock ended when forward Ole Bjarte Austevoll took a penalty early in the second period, giving Canada the man advantage. Dominic Larocque capitalized on a chance late in the power play to make it 1-0. It was Larocque’s third goal of the tournament.
Six minutes later, Canadian defenceman Adam Dixon extended the lead to 2-0, and that score held up until early in the third period, when Dixon struck again to put Canada in cruise control.
Marc Dorian added an insurance marker with less than a minute left to ice the victory for the Canadian side.
Captain Greg Westlake, who was part of the sledge hockey squad that lost the bronze medal match to Norway in Vancouver, denied that his team went into today’s contest hoping to settle some scores.
"It was not revenge. We have a short memory in sports. We are a brand new team, we have nine new players, for us it's just another game and we were excited to play. And we are happy and lucky with the result."
Dixon's second goal of the game was a strange one, as the defenceman shot the the puck from centre ice, and it took an awkward bounce that caught the Norwegian goalie off-guard.
"It wasn't so much me that caught him off-guard as the ice," said Dixon. "I think he got an awkward right-to-left jump there and I was fortunate to get that. They never ask how, they just ask how many, right?"
Canada currently sits atop Group A with 6 points. The Czech Republic holds second spot with 3 points following a 2-1 win over Sweden earlier today. Norway is in third with 2 points, while Sweden has managed only a single point through two games.
With a 2-0 record and a +13 goal differential, only a major meltdown in the final game can prevent the Canadians from finishing first in their group. However, whether they finish first or second, they are assured of a formidable opponent in their semifinal matchup.
Following the preliminary round, the four teams that advance will play crossover games, meaning that Canada will likely play either Russia, South Korea or the U.S. , all medal contenders coming into the event.
Canada gets right back at it tomorrow, when it plays the Czech Republic (streaming live on cbc.ca/paralympics at 11 a.m. ET).
Westlake said that Canada won’t be expecting a cakewalk in its final round-robin encounter.
"Czech is a big team, they take up a lot of ice. They are good defensively and offensively. I don't think it will be a five- or six-goal game. "