|Canadian sledge hockey goalie Benoit St-Amand practices with his team mates Wednesday afternoon. (Carmine Marinelli/QMI AGENCY)
VANCOUVER - A chance for another Winter Paralympic gold medal in sledge hockey awaits Canada if it can maintain its dominance over Japan in Thursday’s semifinal at Vancouver 2010.
Canada is 12-1 all-time against Japan. The only loss was a 2-1 shocker in the preliminary round of Salt Lake 2002.
The game plan for the midday meeting at Thunderbird Arena is simple: be physical and contain Japan’s speed.
"It is important to get a hit or get hit on the first shift. It gets me into the game,” said defenceman Raymond Grassi of Windsor, Ont. “The first shift of the game (against Norway), I got cracked in the head and it got me in the game."
Canada beat Japan 2-0 for the bronze medal at the Sledge Hockey World Championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic last May and 5-0 at the World Sledge Hockey Cup in Charlottetown last November.
"We can take the body but we have to use our speed,” said Japanese coach Kojin Nakakita. "In order to have success, it will take a lot of guts, a lot of pain, and we will have to learn to survive."
The game will be telecast live nationally. Defending world champion United States meets Norway in the other semifinal later that night.
It will be the penultimate game for 49-year-old goaltender Paul Rosen.
"I have six more periods in my career and I want to go out a winner,” Rosen said. "The sweater is being hung up on Saturday."
The Thornhill, Ont. resident had 23 surgeries over 24 years to solve a serious 1975 midget hockey leg fracture. The right leg was finally amputated above the knee because of an infection. Rosen learned to play sledge hockey in 2000 and backstopped Canada at Salt Lake 2002.
In women’s standing giant slalom at Whistler Creekside, North Vancouver’s Lauren Woolstencroft won her second gold medal of the Games over German Andrea Rothfuss by 7.57 seconds. Slovakia’s Petra Smarzova won bronze.
Canada’s Jim Armstrong-skipped squad roared to a 6-1 lead after three ends over Germany in wheelchair curling and coasted to an 8-6 win. Jens Jaeger’s rink scored a trio in the seventh end, but could only muster one in the eighth. First-place Canada improved to 5-1.
Canada is fourth overall with three gold, three silver and two bronze medals. Russia leads with 23.