Written by Mike Doyle
The stage was set. Team Canada had not played Team USA on the big Paralympic stage since Team USA defeated Canada on American soil in the Salt Lake City games in 2002. Those games featured American skaters sitting on top of 1” wide skate blades when everyone else had 3” or wider separation. Technology alone did not win the event, but it sure might have helped. Everyone now uses ¾” or narrower separation on those blade holders. Those with no legs have a distant advantage as all their weight is situated above the skate blades to facilitate quick turning and maneuverability. The only advantage legs have is in the checking aspects of the game. Those with legs are more stable and can overcome violent hits and don’t topple as easily. The Canadian roster boasts seasoned veterans of the game while the American team is chuck full of new fast and smart skaters sometimes called the “youth line” and “soldier line”. Only one leg available among the six aforementioned players on those two lines.
Attendance was less than the USA vs. Russia contest at 5,150; of special interest were the 17 spectators sitting together. The entire Russian squad was in the building to see which team would be playing them Saturday for the Gold Medal game.
The American soldiers started the game as for Team USA, with #23 Rico Roman as center with #13 Josh Sweeney and #28 Paul Schaus as his wingers. Early hitting set the tone for things to come. The first nine-minutes were uneventful statistically, and the Canadians were able to get more shots on net than their southern neighbors. At the 9 minute mark and starting in their defensive left corner #15 Nikko Landeros chipped the puck up to their blue line and in turn #27 Josh Pauls got the pass to youngster #6 Declan Farmer. Farmer skated through two defenders and cut across the high slot left to right; shooting the puck back across at Canada’s netminder Corbin Watson, who almost trapped the puck between his left arm and body. Five minutes later #19 Taylor Chase stopped a Canadian clearing attempt at his left point and feathered the puck to Declan Farmer who threaded the into the top short side corner of the net without Watson’s notice. Not to be forgotten, #4 Brody Roybal, one year younger than sixteen-year-old Farmer, and the youngest American to play the game on the Paralympic surface, was on the ice wreaking havoc for both tallies. To finish out the period Team USA ended with a penalty to Chase for interference.
Mr. Chase must have had fun in the “box” as he convinced Rico to spend two minutes in there himself for the same infraction just 26-seconds after Taylor got out. Mr. Roman would have had a goal himself, on a breakaway, but he ended up in the net with the Canadian goal tender, leaving the puck outside the twine. The American penalty kill was very effective with all the speed and energy. Less than a minute later the Canadians pass to the point went un-received and ended up below their own goal line, where Farmer picked it up. He carried it behind the Canadian net and heard Pauls yelling for the puck; in turn Pauls lifted it over the surprised netminder on a terrific one-timer. The Canadians frustration was seen when penalties were assessed to them at the end of the second period and near the beginning of the third period for slashing and elbowing respectively. At the end of the third the American squad was caught with too many players and Canada had some good power play time and the netminder pulled, but interfered with the US netminder skating through his crease to negate the attempt. #34 Steve Cash achieved his usual shout-out status.
The Canadian Paralympic team faces Norway for the Bronze and Team USA will duke it out with Russia for the “Top Dog” Prize, Paralympic Gold on Saturday. The Americans look to buck the trend of no repeats on Paralympic Gold in Ice Sledge Hockey history.