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

Bad Day on White Ice for Korea, Losing Twice to Team USA

 

            The first day of Paralympic competition saw the U.S. and Korea battle against each other in two sports, wheelchair curling and sled hockey, with Team USA getting the best of the Koreans in both matchups.  First came curling, which was far from the one-sided affair the sled hockey game proved to be.  It was back and forth the entire game, with neither squad able to pull ahead by taking advantage of the other’s missed opportunities.  The most consistent player on either side was almost certainly Team USA’s vice grip James Pierce.  He was nothing short of an assassin down the stretch of the game, making throw after clutch throw.  Thanks to Pierce’s sniper accuracy, the U.S. pulled ahead 8-6 in the 7th end, and didn’t relinquish their lead despite an all-out effort by Korea in the 8th end, winning the game by a final tally of 9 to 6. 

 

 

            Team USA and Korea faced off again, this time at the UBC Thunderbird Arena for sled hockey.  Excitement and anticipation pervaded the arena, encircling it and those within like a thick fog.  The game started with a penalty, as U.S. Forward Tim Jones was sent to the box for Interference a mere seven seconds into the game.  This was a sign of things to come, as the referees ended up calling a staggering total of eleven penalties in the contest.  This, however, did not mar the action, as both teams provided big hits and, for the most part, a high level of play for the majority of the game.  American Defenseman Taylor Chace got the scoring started for the U.S., scoring a first period goal three minutes and forty-five seconds into the match.  He got help from teammates Alexi Salamone and Taylor Lipsett, both of whom scored power play goals in the second period.  Team USA, however, essentially sleepwalked through the third period, making sloppy, lackadaisical passes and committing a whopping two Too Many Players on the Ice penalties in a matter of minutes.  They nevertheless were able to close out the victory thanks to the Taylors Chace and Lipsett, who each scored their second goals of the game in the third.  Despite the aggressive style of the Americans, Korea never seemed to fold under the intense pressure put on them by Team USA, and they deserve credit for not cowering before their immensely talented opponents.  The U.S. was victorious 5-0 before an overwhelmingly pro-Korean crowd, something that is to be expected given the rivalry between Team USA and the Canadians. This is something the U.S. Olympians had to contend with last month, and it is a trend that will surely continue through the Paralympics as well.  Team USA better get used to it.

 

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

 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 01:34
 
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