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Nat'l Sled Hockey Team a Mix of Veteran Experience, Promising Youngsters

09/27/2016, 2:00pm EDT
By Jeff Hawkins - Special to USAHockey.com

National team opens training camp Thursday in Nashville

Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.) has a new job and a new perspective.

Entering his 12th season, the former ESPY winner embarked on his post-college career and adopted a new training regime to prepare for his role as the number one goalie for the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team.

Team USA opens its 2016-17 campaign on Thursday with a four-day training camp in Nashville.

As one of the world’s most celebrated players, Cash has earned two Paralympic gold medals and a bronze. It was his shutout performance in all five U.S. games at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, that won him an ESPY award later that year.

During the 2015 International Paralympic Committee Sled Hockey World Championship in Buffalo, New York, Cash became the first goalie to capture wins in all five matches, including four shutouts.

Now 27 years old and a recent finance graduate, Cash will soon be starting his career as a commercial banker with FirstBank.

During the interview process, Cash said he was open about his level of commitment to the sled hockey program.

“They understand [Team USA] has been a part of my life [for the] last decade,” Cash said.

Plus, it appears that Team USA can count on him for a little while longer. Cash said he plans to remain with the program through at least the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But in regard to anything beyond that, Cash says that he won’t decide until that time comes.

For now, Cash is taking his offseason conditioning more seriously, being more consistent with his cardio and weight training. Part of that is in response to the ever-increasing quality of play at the international level.

“The competition is getting better every year,” Cash said. “I’m working harder this year than other years. The last thing you want to do is get complacent.”

He said physically and mentally he’s better prepared for the season-opening practices in Nashville.

“These camps allow us to stay on top of our game,” Cash said. “I will use it as a physical test to see where I am at.”

New Looks

One of the premiere international programs, Team USA added two teenage rookies for the upcoming season. One is a recent high school graduate who provides size and defensive depth, and the other is a high school junior with significant offensive upside.

Jack Wallace (Franklin Lakes, N.J.) spent the past two seasons with the developmental squad and graduated this summer to the national team. His presence allows coach Jeff Sauer the opportunity to rotate Josh Pauls from the blue line to forward in certain situations.

“We have more options with positional play,” said Sauer, who returns for a sixth season. He has compiled a 47-4-2-12 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record since 2011 and guided Team USA to five consecutive international championships.

The other rookie is forward Noah Grove (Frederick, Md.), a high school junior who Sauer says will be carefully into the lineup in order to provide the youngster with international experience.

Grove undoubtedly will look to players like Declan Farmer (Tampa, Fla.), who at 18 years old is already considered a “veteran” forward and one of the program’s top offensive threats.

Farmer equaled the Team USA record for scoring with six goals in the 2015 world championship. He finished 2014-15 as the team leader with 10 goals among 21 points.

Farmer has high expectations, entering this week’s season-opening camp.

“I think we are the team to beat,” he said.

Farmer expects he will remain on a top scoring line with Brody Roybal (Northlake, Ill.), “one of the best skaters on the team.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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