Canada's Para hockey team got off to a strong start at the International Para Hockey Cup with a 3-0 win over host Czech Republic on Saturday in Ostrava.
Three-time Paralympian Liam Hickey scored a pair of goals, including an empty-netter to close out the victory, while Mathieu Lelièvre scored his first goal with Team Canada to provide insurance in the third period.
The Canadians took control following a scoreless first period and finished with 25 shots on goal. Jean-François Huneault recorded the shutout with 13 saves.
"Our focus thus far has been on playing solid defensive hockey and I thought we did that. It was great to see contributions from veterans and new guys alike," Canadian head coach Russ Herrington said. "To me, this is a building block for us and motivates us to have an even better performance tomorrow."
Hickey opened the scoring at RT Torax Arena with a power-play goal early in the second period. The 24-year-old from St. John's, Nfld., fired a wrist shot top shelf over goaltender Martin Kudela after receiving a pass from James Dunn. Fellow Paralympian Dominic Cozzolino also picked up an assist after starting the play at the blue line.
Lelièvre put Canada up 2-0 with 6:32 left in the third period with a beautiful shot over Kudela's glove. Saoud Messaoudi collected the assist on the play.
The Czechs pulled their goalie with just under two minutes left, but Hickey ended any hopes of a comeback by racing down the ice for the empty net goal after getting the puck from Cozzolino at centre ice.
"I'm proud of this team. We worked hard to get to this point, and everyone is very happy in the room," Huneault said.
Canada's roster includes nine members from the Paralympic team that won silver at the Beijing Games in March, along with newcomers representing Canada for the first time.
"We had to stick with it today after not our best start. We have a young team here and its a new group of guys," Hickey said. "It was good to have that challenge and get the win today. We were positive in the room between periods and never let anything get in our heads. We had good energy all game long and we need to build on that."
The Canadians will next face the International Para Hockey Team (IPH) on Sunday at 10 a.m. ET. IPH is a team consisting of athletes from Germany, Norway and Slovakia.
The tournament runs until Sept. 30.
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