EXPERIENCE AND YOUTH HELP CANADA TO SLEDGE WORLDS WIN
JASON LA ROSE
GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Billy Bridges (Summerside, P.E.I.) and Liam Hickey (St. John’s, N.L.) finished with two goals and two assists apiece, leading Canada’s National Sledge Team to its second win in as many days at the 2017 IPC World Para Hockey Championship, 7-0 over Italy on Thursday.
The Canadians have been absolutely dominant in their first two games; they have outscored Norway and Italy by a combined 16-0, and allowed only five shots on goal total.
Bridges, the fourth-oldest player on the Canadian roster, and Hickey, the second-youngest, did the damage against the Italians; the Atlantic Canada natives seemingly played keep-away for most of the game, and combined for two of the prettiest goals of the tournament.
Greg Westlake (Oakville, Ont.) added two goals for Canada, his second-straight multi-goal performance, and Corbyn Smith (Monkton, Ont.) had one. Adam Dixon (Midland, Ont.) chipped in with three assists.
Just as they did in their opening win over Norway, the Canadians took control with a dominant first period.
Bridges got the festivities started just past the two-minute mark, driving to the net and beating Italian goaltender Santino Stillitano to the far side, and Westlake found room on the short-side to double the lead at 4:41.
Smith cleaned up the rebound of a Westlake shot to make it a 3-0 game at 12:50, and Bridges toe-dragged around a defender before feeding Hickey for the 4-0 goal with 36 seconds left in the opening frame.
Canada owned the puck in the first 15 minutes, outshooting Italy 11-0.
Gabriele Araudo replaced Stillitano to start the second period, and the move seemed to spark the Italian defence; Canada managed just four shots in a scoreless stanza, although the Europeans still couldn’t manage one.
Canadian goaltender Corbin Watson (Kingsville, Ont.) finally faced his first shot two minutes into the third period. He needed to make just two saves in all to record his 25th career shutout, tying Paul Rosen for the most in Team Canada history.
Bridges finally got a puck past Arauto 1:44 into the final period, crashing the net to bury a feed from Hickey, and Hickey finished off a picture-perfect give-and-go with Bridges to push the lead to 6-0 at 4:35.
Westlake converted the Canadian touchdown with less than seven minutes left, going to the left hand to wire a shot past Arauto.
The Canadians are back to action Friday (2 a.m. ET/11 p.m. PT) at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, facing off against Sweden in the third of six preliminary-round games.