Greg Westlake (Oakville, Ont.) scored the game’s lone goal midway through the second period to help Canada’s National Sledge Team to a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic in a final preliminary round game on Tuesday (March 11) at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
The victory gives Canada a perfect 3-0 record and first place in Group A, and sets up a meeting with the United States in Thursday’s second semi-final. Russia and Norway will play in the early semi-final.
Corbin Watson (Kingsville, Ont.) wasn’t busy, needing to make just seven saves for his second consecutive shutout, but made the big stops when needed as the Czechs pressed late for the tying goal.
The Canadians went on the offensive right off the opening face-off, with Kevin Rempel (Vineland, Ont.) hitting the post just 25 seconds in, but could not solve Czech netminder Michal Vapenka; Canada held a slight 4-3 advantage in shots on goal in the opening 15 minutes, but many more were wide or high.
The pressure continued in the second period, with all three lines generating scoring chances, but it took until the 7:33 mark of the middle frame for the Canadians to finally get on the scoreboard.
After Brad Bowden (Orton, Ont.) kept the puck down low, it made its way onto the stick of Billy Bridges (Summerside, P.E.I.), who found Westlake alone in front of the Czech net and the Canadian captain made no mistake, rifling a shot over the shoulder of Vapenka and just under the crossbar.
Canada outshot the Czechs 19-7 overall. Westlake and Bridges combined for almost half that total, registering five and four, respectively. Tyler McGregor (Forest, Ont.), who celebrated his 20th birthday on Tuesday, was next best with three.