2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Four Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   

Undefeated And Perhaps Untested, Team USA Skates Into the Paralympic Semifinals

 

            There were smiles on the faces of the U.S. players after they thrashed Japan 6-0 and earned themselves a place in the 2010 Paralympic Semifinals on Tuesday night, but you could sense that they expected to make it this far.  There was no prolonged celebration, and frankly, there shouldn’t have been.  There are simply too many terrific players on this team to accept anything less than a Paralympic Medal, and some would argue anything less than a Gold would be a disappointment.  The way several members of Team USA are playing certainly give them a very good shot at winning Gold, but there are serious concerns that I’m sure more than solely myself have about this team.

            Americans Taylor Lipsett and Alexi Salamone continued their fantastic play against Team Japan, with Taylor scoring his fourth goal in three games and Alexi scoring his third of these Paralympics.  The remaining four goals were firsts for each of the scorers: Forward Greg Shaw, Forward Adam Page, Defenseman Nikko Landeros, and four-time Paralympian, the great Joe Howard.  As with their previous victories, the U.S. scored in each of the three periods, distributing their six goals equally: two in the first, two in the second, and two in the third.  Penalties were a problem once again for Team USA, but they did not commit any truly egregious errors on the ice last night. 

            In truth, this game was nearly identical to the two games that preceded it.  Japan, like Korea and the Czech Republic before them, lacked the defense to stop the quick and tirelessly aggressive U.S. attack, leading to way too many shots on goal for Japan’s goalie to handle.  From the offensive perspective, Team Japan could not sustain possessions long enough to mount a real attack.  Instead, they relied on poor U.S. passing and turnovers to create scoring chances, a strategy that rarely results in goals and even more rarely results in victories.  Their best offensive opportunity was a breakaway that was stopped with relative ease by the excellent U.S. goalie Steve Cash, who has not allowed a goal in 75 consecutive minutes of Paralympic play.  Team USA simply overwhelmed Japan, doing pretty much whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

            The biggest worry Team USA has going into the semis and hopefully beyond is that their play has not consistently been at the level they’re capable of.  Tom Brake, who has years of sled hockey coaching experience and has even coached several members of Team USA, said it best: “They’re playing to the level of their competition.”  Rather than just blowing out their far inferior foes, they have instead kept them at a safe distance with three and four goal leads.  Their wins have been comfortable affairs, not out-and-out beatdowns, which they should’ve been.  In short, they have dominated their competition without being truly dominant, and perhaps this is because they haven’t had to be so yet.  They haven’t been truly tested.  Their play, while it has lead to an impressive three victories and a combined goal differential of +17, seems lackluster at times, and despite their immense talent, they struggle with the so-called “little things.”  Sloppy line changes, lax passing, dumb penalties.  These are not the marks of a Gold Medal winning team, and it is something Team USA needs to remedy if they want to find themselves hearing The Star Spangled Banner play as they stand atop the victory podium on Saturday afternoon.

 

            For more coverage of the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, please visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org

 
 
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 March 2010 22:44