GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The sky outside Gangneung Hockey Centre was grey and green, bleek. The winds were strong. The rain was starting to come down in buckets. It was quite ugly. However, as bad as things were outside, inside for Team Italy, it was way worse. They had to meet up with a U.S. Sled Hockey Team that averaged over nine goals per game (9.333333 to be exact), and so far has allowed a meatball (that’s a big ol’ zero) into goal thanks to the play of Steve Cash and Jen Lee in goal along with the speed of the Team USA defense. The storm was brewing in the arena, and the forecast called for a trip to the finals with a chance of reign.
The first line was altered slightly for Team USA, as Declan Farmer was moved to the second line in place of Joshua Misiewicz, who scored two in the previous game against Korea. Team USA’s first line was again featured Brody Roybal, who in three games was had 8 goals in just 13 shots.
At 11:37, The United States put a “spicy meatball” in Italy’s basket making the score 1-0. It was #22 Noah Grove assisted by #15 Nikko Landeros at 3:23 into the first. Then there was another helping from Joshua Misiewicz at 3:53 and from Josh Pauls. Then moments later (4:09) Brody Roybal entered the stat sheet with Josh Pauls and Misiewicz on the assist. It was quickly 3-0.
Captain Pauls in the four games played at Gangneung Hockey Centre has 7 points, all assists.
“It’s great.” Said Josh Pauls, adding, “I’m happy to be contributing to the team, but i now that we have al ot of guys contributing whether it’s goals assists blocked shots, we are just hppy to have everyone contributing.”
Still in the first at 6:04, Italy’s Gian Lucia Cavaliere received a Teeing penalty and entered the box giving the United States a power play. Moments later, it became 4 on 4 with Joshua Misiewicz getting the interference call. Within 2 seconds of getting back to full strength it became 4-on-4 again when Andrea Macri of Italy got caught teeing his opponent. Team USA was on the Power play once again. After both teams were at full strength, Italy went back to the confines of the box. Euseblu Antochi whose offense was elbowing. Finally, the United States made them pay at the stick of Nikko Landeros who scored unassisted. And just because, Luke McDemott dotted the team’s metaphorical “I’s” and picked up a goal with 4.3 seconds left making it 5-0 and that’s how it stood at the end of one period.
With 8:00 to go in the 2nd period, Italy seemed to like the geography of the penalty box. And that was part of the game plan for Team Italy.
“After the first goal I said to the team that we have to play stronger,” said Italian head coach Massimo da Rin through an interpreter after the game. He continued, “When you play strong and ahrd you are going to have more penalties.”, adding,”We know that the USA has a strong team so we think that we have to play hard and start gettng penalties.”
Sandra Kalegaris was the next Italian sent for a short two minute vacation in the box for boarding. America was on the power play. Team USA and Brody Roybal (10) picked up the goal with 7:08 to play assisted by Joshua Misiewicz. Nikko Landeros (3) picked up his second of the day assisted by Tyler Carron and Declan Farmer. 7-0 USA. The score wouldn’t last as Declan Farmer added his first goal of the night and 9th overall with assists from Adam Page and Josh Pauls. 8-0 Team USA and that’s how it would end in the second period. Italy did not get a shot off in the period. After the 2nd, USA had 30 shots on goal compared to Italy’s 2.
The third period picked up right where the USA left off in the second with just over 11 minutes left in the match, Kevin McKee scored his second of the games with assists from Noah Grove and Adam Page. The score was 9 to nothing. Then it happened. The unexpected. With 6:30 left after a power play, Italy scored a goal on Jen Lee of The United States (Steve Cash had been relieved after period one of play). The umpires didn’t even believe it. They had to ask for official review. It was Italy’s Valeria Corino from Christopher Denapoli. The score was 9-1.
“I actually thought they were quite intense, they played hard and they were frustrated, obviously.” Coach Guy Gosselin said, praising the effort of the oppositional Italian Sled Team.
The goal did not phase the USA Team in the least, in fact, Team USA was not done scoring. Brody Roybal added one more (his second of the day) and leads all scorers in the tournament with 10 goals overall. The final score was 10-1,
“If i get a good pass in the slot, then i am going to put it in the back of the ne We’re just out here to have fun.” Said Roybal, following the win.
The United States will face Canada for their share of gold on Sunday at Noon Korea Time.This is the first time that the teams will collide in a gold medal match in the Paralympic Games.
Said Captain Josh Pauls on the matchup he’s expecting: “It’ll be a fast and physical game, just like all the other games that we played against them this year and in past years. I mean they are a really good team but so are we.”