TORONTO – The U.S. National Sled Hockey Team enjoyed a stress-free Tuesday with a midday practice and a trip to a movie, but getting its mind off hockey hasn’t knocked the squad’s focus.
Team USA will take on Canada Wednesday night at MasterCard Centre, and, despite two wins to start the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, the U.S. knows it must elevate its game to take down its biggest rival.
“This is one of those games you circle on the calendar,” said forward Josh Pauls of Wednesday night’s showdown with the Canadians. “We’ll have to play really well or Canada will take it to us. We have to keep it simple and not get too fancy with the puck. This will be a tough, physical hockey game, so we need to get shots to the net and grind away.”
The United States has been able to dictate play during stretches of its first six periods of hockey this season, and the improvement up and down the lineup – thanks largely to simply getting back into the pace of international competition – breeds a lot of confidence for the U.S. group.
Now, with one game remaining before the bracket portion of the tournament, Team USA knows it can secure the top-seed with a win Wednesday.
“We’ve done some good things to this point, but, like I told the guys, the tournament starts now,” said head coach Jeff Sauer. “We’ve won the two games we needed to win to get ourselves into the right situation. Now we get ready for the next level.”
That next level is Canada, the only team in the world that can match the depth and talent of Team USA. Team Canada has the best chance to knock off the Americans, who are defending champions.
According to Sauer, the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is simple – find a way to get the offense rolling.
“Canada will be a very formidable opponent,” Sauer said. “They are an interesting team. They have a lot of depth and good goaltending. One of my concerns about our team coming into the tournament was the number of goals we score, and Canada will do some things that will make it difficult for us. If we can find success offensively, we’ll find success overall.”
Puck-drop between the U.S. and Canada is set for 8 p.m. ET.
|1-8 (12.5%)||Power Play||2-7 (28.6%)|
|4-4 (100%)||Penalty Kill||4-5 (80%)|
|Dec. 1||Russia||W, 2-1|
|Dec. 2||Korea||W, 5-0|
|Dec. 4||Canada||L, 1-4|
|Dec. 5||Russia (Semifinal)||W, 4-1|
|Dec. 7||Canada (Championship Game)||L, 1-3|