By Gary Anderson

November 28 - US players Josh Sweeney (left) and Taylor Lipsett will be looking to lay down a marker for Sochi 2014 in Toronto ©Getty Images Reigning Paralympic champions the United States and current world champions Canada will be joined by Russia and South Korea at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, which starts in Canada this weekend, as preparations for Sochi 2014 begin to crank up.

With all four teams set to take to the ice in the Shayba Arena next year, the tournament in Toronto's MasterCard Centre will provide the challengers with an opportunity to fine-tune preparations and also check out the opposition.

And that is certainly what Canadian forward Brad Bowden will be looking for, suggesting that teams will get a chance to lay down a marker ahead of the ultimate competition next year.

"You want teams to go into the Paralympics and know that they're eventually going to play you," he said.

"And you don't want them to kind of play you; you kind of want to set the pace before you go in so that the other teams know that the next time they play you."

Hosts Canada will be going for their fifth World Sledge Hockey Challenge title and will be looking to sign off in style in front of their own fans after a year which saw them crowned world champions in Goyang back in April, followed up by victory at the Sochi 2014 Four Nations test event in August.

Canada's Brad Bowden is looking forward to competing in front of home fans in Toronto © Getty Images Brad Bowden is looking forward to competing in front of home fans in Toronto ©Getty Images

Bowden is also excited to be playing in front of a home crowd before he and his teammates board the plane for Russia in March.

"It's huge because it's the last time anybody is really going to get to see what kind of team this is, that is headed off to represent everybody in Canada [at the Paralympic Games]," he explained.

While the Canadians have dominated the event, last year saw them lose out to great rivals the US in the final, but the Vancouver 2010 gold medal winners will be looking to exact some revenge over the Maple Leafs following this year's World Championships which saw them go down 1-0 to their North American neighbours in the final.

Russia come into the tournament on the back of a solid showing at the Sochi test event, which saw them overcoming the Czech Republic in the bronze medal match.

The Russians will begin the tournament against the US, while Canada will take on South Korea first time out.

The South Koreans will also be arriving in Toronto in a confident mood after securing their place at next year's Paralympic Games, along with Sweden and hosts Italy, at the Sochi 2014 Qualification Tournament in Turin last month.

In a dramatic final, the South Koreans defeated Italy in a shoot-out to take the gold medal, with Seung-Hwan Jung proving the star man bagging eight goals and four assists during the tournament.

The USA and South Korea will be looking to fine tune preparations for Sochi with some good performances in Toronto © Getty Images The US and South Korea will be looking to fine tune preparations for Sochi with some good performances in Toronto ©Getty Images

Sharpshooter Jung is looking forward to the challenge of competing against the world's best in Toronto, where he is likely to be one of the stars of the competition.

"It's a great chance to compete with the best teams in the world prior to the Sochi Games," he said.

"I know they've also practised so hard for the Sochi Paralympics.

"I'd like to show off our skill by competing with the great teams at this tournament."

The World Sledge Hockey Challenge runs from December 1 to 7.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related Stories
October 2013: 
South Korean shoot-out success denies hosts gold at Ice Sledge Hockey Qualification Tournament
October 2013: South Korea, Italy and Sweden secure Sochi 2014 ice sledge hockey places
September 2013: Canadian victory brings Sochi 2014 Paralympics test event to a close
July 2013: US holds Sochi 2014 ice sledge hockey tryouts
pril 2013: Canada defeat USA to claim title at Sledge Hockey World Championships