Liam Hickey returns home to St. John’s this week with a Paralympics silver medal, but the prospects for gold down the road look good for one of Canada’s bright, young Para hockey team stars.
“We’ve taken the style of play to a whole new level, and Canada should be proud of that and our team is proud of that,” hockey coach Ken Babey said after Canada suffered a disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to the United States in the gold-medal game early Sunday morning (NL time) to close out the 2018 PeongChang Paralympics.
“We have a lot of young players coming up,” Babey said, “and through this experience, we’ll be better. Our fortunes are looking pretty good for the next quadrennial.”
Hickey, who turns 20 six days from now, is almost assuredly one of Canada’s young stars Babey is talking about.
Playing in his second Paralympics — he was part of Canada’s basketball team in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games — Hickey tied for second in team scoring with six goals and five assists in five games.
He assisted on Billy Bridges’ first-period goal in the final, staking Canada to a 1-0 lead.
It remained that way until 37.8 seconds remained in regulation time when Declan Farmer scored the tying goal with the American goalie on the bench for an extra attacker.
Just before Farmer forced OT, the Canadians came inches from an insurance marker when Rob Armstrong hit the post in an empty U.S. cage.
Farmer then scored the game-winner for the U.S., 3:30 into overtime.
“When that game ended in overtime, I think our average age on the ice was maybe 19 or 20, and it’s important for those guys to not hang their head,” captain Greg Westlake told reporters.
“Those guys should be so proud of the effort they gave and the life lessons they’ve learned, being able to turn themselves over to a program, saying, ‘I’m going to commit to this, I’m going to work at this every single day.'”
Canada dominated its opponents through the preliminary round and semifinal play where they outscored Sweden, Italy, Norway, and Korea 42-0 while allowing only 13 shots on goal.
Canada ends the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games with a record of 4-1.
Canada, ranked No. 1 after last year’s world championship victory, and the second-ranked Americans had never met in a Paralympic gold-medal game.
After their gold medal in 2006, the Canadians failed to reach the podium in 2010 in Vancouver, then had to settle for bronze four years ago in Sochi after a semifinal loss to the U.S. The Americans won gold in both Games.
It’s the first time since 1998 that Canada’s hockey program has left the Olympic and Paralympic Games with no gold medals.
The Para team’s silver comes almost a month after the Canadian women lost a heartbreaker to the U.S. in the Olympic gold-medal game, and Canada’s men’s team was dispatched by Germany in the semifinals.
The addition of Canada’s silver medal adds to the record medal haul for the Canadian contingent at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, surpassing the 2010 record of 19 medals in Vancouver.
With files from the Canadian Press and Hockey Canada