World sledge hockey chal­lenge re­turns to P.E.I.

Team Canada sledge hockey team mem­bers kick off the Paras­port Fes­ti­val on Thurs­day at MacLauch­lan Arena in Char­lot­te­town

Journal Pioneer - - SPORTS - BY CHARLES REID More at www.hock­ey­canada.ca.

CHAR­LOT­TE­TOWN - Billy Bridges hasn’t let go of the gold medal match ver­sus the United States in last year’s world sledge hockey chal­lenge.

Team Canada lost 5-2 mainly be­cause of an Amer­i­can three­goal out­burst to start the sec­ond pe­riod that gave it enough of a gap Canada couldn’t over­come.

“I re­ally still be­lieve we lost be­cause of three min­utes of undis­ci­plined hockey,” said Bridges, who along with Team Canada line­mate Liam Hickey were in Char­lot­te­town to kick­off the Paras­port Fes­ti­val on Thurs­day at MacLauch­lan Arena and be the faces of the world sledge hockey chal­lenge Dec. 3-9 in the city.

But Bridges, a Sum­mer­side na­tive and long-time Team Canada mem­ber, un­der­stands that loss helped drive the team to a gold medal af­ter beat­ing the Amer­i­cans 4-1 at the 2017 IPC world para hockey cham­pi­onship in April in South Korea. “It shows how far we’ve come since. I’m on a line with Liam and Dan Delaney and it’s one of the dead­li­est lines I’ve ever seen.”

Bridges might be on to some­thing as he notched six goals and 16 points at the worlds, while Hickey had seven goals and 16 points and net­ted the even­tual game-win­ning goal in the ti­tle game.

Chal­lenge-wise, the States is back this year and is joined by Korea and Italy. Things kick­off Sun­day. Dec. 3, when the United States plays Korea and the Canucks tan­gle with Italy.

It’s the fourth time the city has hosted the event. It did so last year and 2008 and 2009.

For Hickey, a St. John’s, N.L., the chal­lenge can be a con­tin­u­a­tion of what hap­pened in Korea be­cause he said this team has its mojo back.

“We got our con­fi­dence back in Korea. We were down a lit­tle af­ter the chal­lenge last year. We saw what we could do as a team,” said Hickey, who played for P.E.I.’s wheel­chair bas­ket­ball team at the 2015 Canada Games. “We fo­cus on speed. Our phys­i­cal­ity comes out of that.”

Hickey, who was born with­out a fe­mur in his right leg, was a rookie at last year’s chal­lenge. But he’s no stranger to in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion as rep­re­sented Canada in wheel­chair bas­ket­ball at the Para­pan Amer­i­can Games in Toronto in 2015 and the 2016 Rio Par­a­lympics.

Bridges, who has spina bi­fida and has skated with Team Canada since 2004, said the time spent in Korea with­out the dis­trac­tion of friends or fam­ily helped gal­va­nize this squad as it looks to­ward the world chal­lenge.

“Ev­ery­thing about Korea brought us to­gether as a team. We were there 22 days and there was no where else to go. We were to­gether all the time,” he said.

Bridges and Hickey held a sledge hockey demo ses­sion on Thurs­day as part of the fes­ti­val.

A full event ticket pack­age, which in­cludes six pre­lim­i­nary round games, both semi­fi­nals and the medal games is $50. Tick­ets go on sale Wed­nes­day, Nov. 1 at MacLauch­lan. Pre­lim­i­nary round and medal round tick­ets will be avail­able on site Dec. 3.

CHARLES REID/THE GUARDIAN

Liam Hickey, left, and Sum­mer­side na­tive Billy Bridges were in Char­lot­te­town Thurs­day to help kick off the Paras­port Fes­ti­val in the city. The Cana­dian na­tional sledge hockey team mem­bers also helped launch the 2017 world sledge hockey chal­lenge Dec. 3-9 at MacLauch­lan Arena where Canada will try to win gold for the sixth time.

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