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Canada, USA to face off in sledge hockey semifinals

Canada and the United States can't seem to avoid each other in hockey playoffs. Today, the two sledge rivals will meet in the semifinals at the Sochi Paralympics to see who will play Russia for gold.
Canada's path to the sledge hockey gold medal at the Sochi Paralympics goes throught the United States. The two teams play in semifinal action on Thursday at noon ET. (Getty Images)

Four years after losing the chance to play for gold on home ice in Vancouver, the Canadians will get a shot at redemption, but not without stiff competition from a team Canada knows all too well: the United States.

In their last game of the preliminary round on Tuesday, the top-seeded Canadians used Greg Westlake’s second period goal to overcome a tough Czech Republic side 1-0 and clinch the top spot coming out of Group A.

Winning all three of their group games, the 2013 World Champions will play an American side that will be hungry to repeat their gold medal performance from 2010.

The Canadians, however, will be ready.

They finished the preliminary round with 15 goals and just one against. They had 73 shots on goal  and a save percentage of 94.4 per cent — both measures the highest of any team’s.

They will rely on tournament leading scorer Adam Dixon and forward Dominic Larocque. The two players have scored four and three goals, respectively.

But Team USA also has statistics on its side. Goalie Steve Cash has a save percentage of 90.3 per cent, second to Canada. Cash has only let in three goals, good enough for second best in the tournament.

The Americans finished second in Group B behind the Russians, the only team to defeat them in group play.

We are two great teams- Team Canada Captain Greg Westlake

The tournament “has been a great ramp up” to meeting the United States in the semis, Canada’s assistant captain Brad Bowden said Wednesday.

“The fact that it’s Team USA makes it a huge challenge for us. And we’ve played them all season and they’re a very competitive team. They know our system, they know our players, so it’s nothing new for the both of us.

“It would feel really, really good to go out with a win against them.”

Playing the States "is not too bad," captain Greg Westlake said Tuesday. "I think they're not too pumped about it, either. We are two great teams and have been waiting for this game for too long."

The semifinal games will be played this Thursday, March 13 at Shayba Arena. Canada-USA will be played at 12:00 ET (streaming live on cbc.ca/paralympics.)

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