April 19 - Norway's ice sledge hockey team has secured its place at the Sochi 2014 Paralympics thanks to a 2-1 win against Italy that came down to a penalty shoot-out at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships today.
Norway's assistant captain Morten Værnes (pictured top) scored the match-winning goals to make him the team's hero of the event in Goyang, South Korea.
"We saw they were getting more and more tired, and we had more power, more strength left, so I always knew we could take them," Værnes said of his opponents.
"And we had the best goalie and the best shooters, so I was pretty confident that we would take it."
Værnes explained that Norway's goalkeeper Kristian Buen was equally responsible for the nation's result after he prevented each of Italy's shots from entering the net during the shoot-out and recorded 15 saves throughout the course of the game.
Italy had led first in the game, as Florian Planker put the first tally on the board with 4:12 remaining in the second period, when he hit the puck into the net off a pass from Grégory Leperdi.
Norway quickly regrouped, with Rolf Pederson tapping in a score, assisted by Eskil Hagen, early in the third period but both defences stepped up late in the match, forcing the game to go into overtime, and even then neither side was able to get a score, resulting in the penalty shoot-out.
Værnes added that qualifying for Sochi 2014 "means everything", and that the team's next major goal will be to make the Paralympic podium again – the team won bronze at Vancouver 2010.
Today's result means that Norway will join Canada, the Czech Republic, Russia and the United States at the next year's Paralympic Winter Games, along with three other teams that will be determined later this year at the Paralympic Qualification Tournament.
Earlier in the day, host nation South Korea achieved their first win of the event when they defeated Sweden 5-0 in the seventh-place game.
The championship will conclude tomorrow with the medal games when Canada will take on the US for gold and the Czech Republic will challenge Russia for bronze.
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April 2013: Norway and Italy set to battle for final Sochi 2014 spot at IPC Sledge Hockey World Championships