It might have only been a pre-tournament game, but Team Canada still got the result they wanted to open the World Para Hockey Championship at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.
Canada scored a pair of goals in the first period and built a 5-0 lead through two before going to a 9-0 victory over Korea in the lone exhibition game for both teams on Tuesday afternoon.
The tournament hosts then added another two goals in an overtime period before Korea scored the only marker in the shootout.
On the whole, it was the kind of result Canada was hoping for as they aim to contend for gold in the first Para Hockey Worlds on home soil.
“Our team is looking amazing and we’re feeling confident, there’s a lot of belief in our dressing room,” said Team Canada captain Tyler McGregor. “It’s nice to be here in Moose Jaw, we’ve had a few days here and the facility and the entire setup is awesome, so we’re settling in and that was a nice little tune-up for us. All in all, we’re feeling really good, there’s lots of confidence and belief both on and off the ice with our team.”
The contest was largely dominated from start to finish by Canada, as they held Korea without a shot until the five-minute mark of the second period and would go on hold a 48-6 advantage in shots by the time things were said and done.
Shutting down Korea’s offence was one of the goals heading into the contest, and McGregor was happy with how the team was able to do that in their first outing.
“One of the core beliefs with our team is that we want to be really difficult to play against and lock it down defensively and allow that to translate into our offensive game,” McGregor explained. “That’s a great example of what we did, especially as the game went on. We did a good job of not only maintaining that intensity but also increasing it and opening it up toward the end of the game and pulling away. So I’m proud of our team for playing that way and sticking to the plan.”
Just getting the chance to take the ice in any fashion was a bonus in and of itself for the team and head coach Russ Herrington, given the lack of regular competition on the international para hockey scene. That’s translated into a lot of intrasquad games over the last few months, with Canada happy to have finally faced a true opponent.
“It’s good to put into practice in real situations what we’ve been working on and focussing on all year,” Herrington said. “When you don’t have a lot of games to play, it’s very difficult and a real process to try and be consistent, That’s something we struggle with all the time and it’s a challenge moving forward, how do we let go of today and start focussing on tomorrow and how to be one per cent better tomorrow.”
Canada and Korea will now have a few more days to practice and settle in before the tournament begins on Sunday with a slate of three games. Canada opens the round-robin against Korea on Monday at 7 p.m.
“To be part of history with the first championship on home soil is amazing, to be in Saskatchewan for the first time for a para event is great, and not having to do anything in a bubble after the last two events is a nice change,” Herrington said. “Right now, we want everyone to enjoy the moment, and we hope that we can use that energy and direct that into our performances on the ice.”
Tickets are on sale for games throughout the event and can be found at www.sasktix.ca.