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2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Six Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   
 
 Team USA Fulfills Their End of the Bargain, but Canada Does Not: U.S. to Face Japan on Saturday for Paralympic Gold

            Upset looked to be the order of the day after the 1st period of the U.S. versus Norway sled hockey game on Thursday night.  Team Japan had stunned the host country earlier on, beating Canada in their signature sport to earn a place in the 2010 Paralympic Sled Hockey Finals on Saturday.  Some might say that the Canadians went into the game looking past Japan, and of course the emphasis will be placed on how Canada blew it rather than how Team Japan won it in what U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Forward Tim Jones called “one of the best games I’ve ever seen [a team play].”  Truth be told, Team Japan simply outplayed Canada, which is remarkable considering they had endured a 6-0 trouncing on Tuesday night against Team USA.

            Norway looked as if they could continue the trend and ensure that everyone would get the matchup they’ve been dying for, but with the Bronze rather than the Gold at stake.  The U.S. looked tight as a drum in the 1st period.  They were being pushed around and making poor passes.  Ray Maluta, head coach of Team USA, said after the game that his team was “nervous” in the 1st period, and that they were “pressing” rather than playing their game.   They, like Canada, looked ripe for an upset.  Things changed, however, in the 2nd period.  About eight minutes into the period, American Forward Greg Shaw made a slick move near the Norway net, fooling Norway’s goalie Roger Johansen and putting the puck past him.  Shaw’s goal opened the floodgates, not in the form of a torrent of goals, but in a surge of confidence.  Amid chants of “Let’s Go Norway” that easily drowned out the cheers of “USA,” Team USA took over the game after Shaw’s goal, one which may very well go down as the most important goal scored in recent U.S. Sled Hockey history.  Not to be overlooked, however, was the contribution of goalie Steve Cash, who has been simply magnificent during the Paralympics.  “Money,” as he is known on the squad, has not allowed a goal in 165 consecutive minutes of Paralympic play.  Just minutes after Shaw scored, Norway had a breakaway chance that could’ve resulted in an equalizing goal and a swift momentum shift back to the Norwegians.  Cash, however, made a great save, protecting the lead and maintaining the momentum.  The U.S. scored twice after Cash’s save, a power play goal by Taylor Chace in the 2nd and a late 3rd period goal by Joe Howard, which essentially put a bow on Team USA’s 3-0 win.

 

            When asked how he feels about his players, Coach Maluta replied, “I love our team.”  Team USA gave him good reason to feel that way on Thursday night.  They showed determination and grit, battling a tough team in Norway with nothing to lose, and recovering from a very shaky first 20 minutes.  They, in short, proved they can take a punch; Team Canada cannot make the same claim.  The Canadians will play Team Norway on Friday night for the Bronze.  (Norway lost to Canada 5-0 earlier in the Paralympics.)  For the U.S., they will have a chance to win their second Paralympic Gold Medal in Sled Hockey on Saturday against Japan at 12:00 PM local time.

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

 
 
 
All photos are by Carter Farmer.
Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2010 18:59
 
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
 
2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Three Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   

Canada and Germany Win Four of the Six Medals Awarded at Whistler Creekside for the Men’s and Women’s Standing Slalom

 

 

            After a seemingly endless string of delays at Whistler Creekside, site of the Alpine Skiing events at the 2010 Winter Paralympics, action got under way Monday the 15th for the Men’s and Women’s Standing Slalom event.  It was an unexpectedly warm day in Whistler, but neither the competitors nor the crowd who packed the place seemed to mind.  Both the Men’s and Women’s classes were dominated by Canada, who took home two medals in the Women’s Slalom, and Germany, who won Silver in both the Men’s and Women’s events.  For the Men, New Zealander Adam Hall ran the table, leading after his first run by over two full seconds and edging past Germany’s Gerd Schonfelder for the overall time.  Schonfelder’s excellent second run put him only half a second behind Gold Medalist Hall.  In the Women’s Standing Slalom, Canada reigned supreme, occupying two of the three places on the Medal podium.  Canadian Gold Medalist Lauren Woolstencroft dominated the event, winning by an enormous margin of 6.38 seconds.  Teammate Karolina Wisniewska narrowly missed Silver, as German Andrea Rothfuss’ time bested Wisniewska’s by a margin of 49 seconds, forcing the latter to settle for the Bronze.  American skier Allison Jones recovered from a 7th place position after her first run thanks to a very strong second run.  In fact, when she crossed the finish line her second time down the course, the time she posted put her in first.  Unfortunately, her time didn’t hold up, as she wound up finishing in 5thplace overall.  Allison’s finishing slot, however, was the best among all American skiers that day, both Men and Women.  The best American performance in the Men’s class belonged to Monte Meier, who finished 8th.

 

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

 

 

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Last Updated on Thursday, 18 March 2010 15:32
 
NBC TODAY Show Sled Hockey Demonstration 3-12-2010 Print E-mail
Written by John Hamre   

 

Sled Hockey players from the New Jersey and New York area joined Al Roker on the the TODAY Show on Friday March 12, 2010 to help promote the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver.  Click on the following link to view 

 http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/35834327#35834327 

 

For information about the games, please go to www.usparalympics.org and check out NBC Sports for the TV Schedule.

Opening Ceremony highlights – Saturday, March 13, 1-2 p.m.
Paralympics recap – Saturday, April 10, 3-5 p.m.

Universal Sports
Monday, March 15 – Tuesday March 23, 7 p.m. (re-air at 11 p.m.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 01:32
 
2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Two Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   
 

Czechmate: Team USA Overcomes a Wall in Net, Skating Past Czech Republic to Remain Unbeaten

  

            In what was a nasty, hit-happy game, Team USA attempted to go into their day off tomorrow with a perfect record of two wins and zero losses.  Their opponents, the Czech Republic, did everything in their power to put a blemish on that record.  The Czechs got a superb performance out of their goalie Michal Vapenka, whose efforts almost gave them the victory.  Alas, his brilliance was not enough, as his teammates had trouble getting off shots all night long, and once they got the puck near the net, U.S. goalkeeper Steve Cash ably turned their shots aside.  The Czechs fell to the Americans, 3-0, and Team USA, who still need to work out some kinks, are starting to look like the bona-fide gold medal threat they were initially slated to be.

 

            From the start, this looked like a different U.S. sled hockey team from yesterday.  Not even 24 hours had elapsed since their 5-0 victory against Korea, and yet today’s effort was a far more focused and consistent one.  Taylor Lipsett scored his third goal of these Paralympics halfway through the first, going coast-to-coast and putting the puck top shelf to open the game’s scoring. Later on in the period, in what became one of their very few scoring chances, the Czechs worked their way up the ice toward the U.S. zone with a series of precise passes and graceful moves, only to be greeted rudely by a clean but vicious hit by American Defenseman Nikko Landeros, who had a very strong game despite not showing up on the stat sheet.  Alexi Salamone and Jim Connelly added goals in the second and third periods, respectively, as the shot output was consistent throughout.  The Czech Republic did not seem able to recover from Landeros’ mammoth blow, for while they did not lie down for the Americans, they mustered only six shots on goal, all of which were stopped by U.S. goalie Steve Cash, who recorded his second consecutive shutout.  Indeed, the Czechs must be sick to their collective stomachs, given that they had nothing to show for the remarkable performance put forth by Vapenka.  His play between the pipes was the best I’ve ever seen in a sled hockey game, and even though he let in three and took the loss in the process, it would be nothing short of criminal if his 20 saves—nearly all of which were of the acrobatic, spectacular kind—went overlooked.  Conversely, the U.S. players deserve credit for refusing to allow the dynamic Czech to get into their heads.  They kept the pressure on him throughout the contest, adopting a kind of gatling gun approach to the game, continuously firing shots from all angles and figuring that some were bound to find the back of the net.  They did, and Team USA prevailed. After a day off tomorrow, the U.S. will face Japan on Tuesday, while the Czech Republic will play yesterday’s fallen foe, Korea.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 01:36
 
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