Canada finishes with silver at first-ever Para Ice Hockey Women's World Challenge

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Canada's women's Para hockey team, seen during round-robin play on Friday, fell to the United States in the gold-medal final on Sunday at the inaugural Para Ice Hockey Women's World Challenge in Green Bay, Wis. (International Paralympic Committee - image credit)
Canada's women's Para hockey team, seen during round-robin play on Friday, fell to the United States in the gold-medal final on Sunday at the inaugural Para Ice Hockey Women's World Challenge in Green Bay, Wis. (International Paralympic Committee - image credit)

The Canadian women's Para hockey team faced the United States in a historic gold-medal final on Sunday at the inaugural Para Ice Hockey Women's World Challenge in Green Bay, Wis.

While Canada suffered a 5-1 loss, the game signified an important moment in the development of women's Para hockey.

Serving as a showcase for the women's game, the first-ever event is a major step toward establishing a women's Para ice hockey world championship, with the ultimate goal of increasing female participation and having the sport added to the Paralympic program.

The tournament featured four teams, with Team World defeating Great Britain for bronze earlier on Sunday at the Cornerstone Community Center. Team World was comprised of athletes from several nations.

In another first for World Para Ice Hockey, the tournament featured an all-female officiating crew, including Canadian officials Jane Ogilvie and Danielle Williams.

Sunday's championship final between Canada and the U.S. lived up to the heated rivalry, with physical play throughout the game and several scrums in front of the net.

The Canadians found their backs up against the wall early, as American forward Katie Ladlie opened the scoring just 49 seconds into the game. Ladlie finished off a three-on-one break by cutting across the goal and putting the puck past veteran Canadian goalie Tracey Arnold.

The 44-year-old Arnold, who has been on Canada's national team since 2019, finished the game with 15 saves  — including several impressive glove stops that kept the game within reach early on.

Ladlie added insurance with her second goal of the game midway through the opening period, but Canada responded with its lone goal just under two minutes later. Quebec's Raphaëlle Tousignant, who scored a hat trick against Team World on Saturday, capitalized on an ill-timed line change by the Americans.

Tousignant forced a turnover and sped down the ice on a breakaway before shooting the puck over the glove of goalie Hope Bevilhymer, who finished with three saves.

Lera Doederlei restored the two-goal lead with a wraparound goal with under three minutes to go in the first period.

The Americans continued to dominate possession in front of the home crowd, and fellow forward Catherine Faherty gave the U.S. a 4-1 lead with 1:27 left to go in the first.

Tempers began to flare as the game progressed. American star Kelsey DiClaudio was penalized for roughing in the final seconds of the first period, and Canada was given a five-on-three power-play when Robynne Hill was also called for roughing early in the second.

But Canada was unable to seize the key opportunity against a composed U.S. penalty kill unit.

Solid defence from both teams led to a scoreless second period, but Faherty finished off the scoring for the U.S. by finding the back of the net with 4:30 left in the final frame.

Arnold made a beautiful glove save with seven minutes left in the game, but Canada was unable to generate a spark on offence. The Americans had another goal waved off in the third period due to a hand pass.

Canadian forward Aubree Clements was injured during a late scrum in front of Canada's net, but she was able to skate off a few minutes later after being attended to by the team's athletic trainer.

Team World captured bronze earlier in the day with a commanding 5-0 win over Great Britain. Ailin Zheng and Rebecca Mann led the way with two goals apiece as Team World outshot the British 12-3.

Zheng and Mann scored power-play goals as part of a three-goal first period, while Cindy Ouellet added a goal in the second period.