Facing off against Canada in a rematch of the PyeongChang 2018 gold medal game, the U.S. scored two shorthanded goals within 25 seconds in the first period. Despite a slew of American penalties, Canada struggled to convert on the power play, and the U.S. won 5-0.
“It's really hard to put it into words,” said defender and four-time Paralympian Josh Pauls. “To battle back like we did, fight through those penalties, to score two shorthanded goals in the first period, this team showed that we can battle back through adversity whether it’s in or out of games. This team is just so mentally resilient and it’s such an honour to be part of this group."
Leading the charge offensively were Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal, who had two goals apiece.
“We had a great team game out there,” said Roybal. “I think that is what sets us apart from every other team. We have so much depth. Every single guy on our team is an incredible player.”
This marks Canada’s second straight Paralympic silver, and sixth Paralympic hockey medal since Para ice hockey – also known as sledge ice hockey or sled ice hockey – was introduced to the Games in 1994.
Games took place at the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing, which three weeks earlier had hosted the Olympic men’s ice hockey gold medal game.
“We came out flying and had some great chances early,” said Canadian Greg Westlake, who announced that he would be retiring from the sport following Beijing. “In our sport, with 15 minute periods, if you can take the lead early it changes the whole dynamic completely. It's the world of woulda, coulda, shoulda. It would have been nice to get some goals early, but it didn't happen. You look back on it, and we could have got it done, but we didn't. So we take our silver medal and hold our heads high.”
After it was announced that the Russian Paralympic Committee would not be allowed entry into the Beijing 2022 Paralympics due to the war in Ukraine, the tournament was reduced to seven teams, with three teams in Group A and four teams in Group B.
Group A round robin play was led by Team USA who, in addition to their win over Canada, secured a 9-1 win over South Korea. Farmer led the tournament in scoring in the round robin, becoming the United States’ all-time points leader at the Paralympic Games at the age of just 24.
Meanwhile, the host nation made its Paralympic ice hockey debut in Group B, with wins over Czechia, Italy and Slovakia. China scored 18 goals through three games, with five of those goals coming from rising star Yifeng Shen, who showed why his nickname is “Little Whirlwind.”
China’s team was also the only to roster a female player, Jing Yu.
“I hope that women out there will see my debut and believe that there is a chance for them to be on the same stage,” said Yu. “Disabled women all over the world, I hope they know it’s not impossible, and I hope they see this as encouragement.”
With the USA and Canada going straight to the semi-finals, the remaining four nations met in the qualifying finals to determine who would play the North American squads.
In a rematch of the 2018 bronze medal game, Korea came out on top over Italy with a convincing 4-0 victory. China and Czechia’s match-up was tighter, with the two teams exchanging goals throughout the game until China’s Zhidong Wang scored with less than two minutes remaining to secure a 4-3 win for the host team. Italy and Czechia met the next day to play for fifth place, with Italy winning 4-3 in overtime after a thrilling back-and-forth game.
The gold medal showdown was set following a pair of 11-0 semi-final wins, with Canada beating Korea and the U.S. beating China. The Americans continued to put on an offensive and defensive masterclass in the final, and by the end of the tournament had scored 30 goals and allowed only one against.
China made history in the bronze medal game, beating the defending bronze medallists to claim third place in front of a loud home crowd. Shen was in on all four Chinese goals, scoring two of them, as the home team shut out Korea 4-0.
The future is bright for the Chinese team, as they look forward to continuing to build their program. “We'll build on this experience and work on the areas that we still need improvement in, and get stronger as a team,” said Shen. “We want to work hard to stand on the top of the podium.”
The next Winter Paralympics will be held in Milano Cortina, Italy in 2026 while the next World Championship is planned in spring 2023 with the host to be announced this spring.