For the first time since 2012, the United States successfully defeated Canada in a Wheelchair Rugby game. It took two periods of overtime but the USA eventually prevailed 60-59 in the Parapans on Wednesday night.
The United States got the first advantage as they were able to force a 12 second violation and get an early two goal lead. But Canada responded perfectly forcing a turn over and levelling scores at the first opportunity they had with their hi-lo combination working well.
Canada forced a turnover with two minutes to go on the half, the USA defence worked to steal possession back but Zak Madel maintained it and called the timeout. That allowed Canada to recover and hit a two goal lead that they needed, sending the crowd in to raptures.
The Canadians were controlling from there, and could very well have forced another turnover if not for Chuck Aoki calling a smart time out to keep it tight. The game was showing why these teams hold the rankings they have.
In the middle of the second period a poor Mike Whitehead pass put Madell in trouble, that allowed the Americans to push him in to the back court and level the scores at 17. The Canadians got a lucky escape with three minutes to play as they lost possession but the Americans couldn’t regather, sending it out for a Canadian inbound.
A spinning foul behind the play cost the USA dearly as it was behind play with Aoki clean through on goal. It became a two goal penalty when Canada scored on the play, putting America in trouble with two minutes left in the half, and good clock management saw Canada have the biggest lead of the game at the half at 27-24.
The physicality really came up in the third period as the teams went for the game, but the sides continually couldn’t complete turnovers. That lead to both sides going to their substitutes with the exhaustion being much more a factor in this game than the earlier games.
The crucial turnover may have come with three and a half minutes to play in the third period as a loose ball was gathered up by Madell. The Americans tried to play the block, but Madell got the ball away, allowing Canda to take the lead out to four.
A foul on Madell cost Canada dearly as he was boxed for a technical foul, which allowed USA the goal and the man advantage. Canada couldn’t score on the play and USA cut the gap down to two with just over a minute to play in the third.
Another late turnover from the Canadians gave the USA a chance to score and they took it, scoring again. That made it a one goal gap in to the final period as the score sat at 37-36 to the Canadians, with the USA starting with possession.
The US team duly obliged and levelled the scores at 37 with the opening possession of the final period. That saw the tension ramp up as the heavy hits flew in before Canada were able to open up a lead.
Unfortunately for Canada they couldn’t hold on, as a late turnover allowed the USA a chance to score which they took. That knotted the scores up at 51, which sent the game to overtime for the first time in the tournament.
The two teams could not be split from the first period of overtime as they went tit for tat in that first period, sending it to a second three minutes. It was here where the United States managed to get the job done, upping their defence, and getting the vital turnover to win the game.