Star players Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal are among the 17 players who were named to the 2022 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team this month, though they'll have plenty of help in their quest to bring Team USA a fourth consecutive gold medal at the upcoming 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing.
Within the group that was named to the squad during the intermission of a recent Nashville Predators game were 11 returning Paralympians and six ready to make their mark on the sport's biggest stage.
With the range of experience and high expectations inside the group, the players have been focused on continued improvement as they work through their Nashville training camp ahead of the Winter Games in March.
“Just to be able to look to my left and right and know who I’m going to battle with is great,” said defenseman Ralph DeQuebec, who is returning for his second Winter Games. “We have a lot of young players and veterans who are fighting for these spots, so just to have everything solidified and our team announced is great. It’s an absolute honor to be part of a team like this.”
Evan Nichols of Haymarket, Virginia, is one of three players making their first international appearance with Team USA. At 17, he’s the youngest player on the roster.
“This is a really big deal and it’s the peak of any sled hockey career,” Nichols said. “Traveling with the team is cool, they’re all great guys and it’s a great brotherhood that we all have. The announcement was really big for me.”
Josh Misiewicz, a native of La Grange, Illinois, is among those making their second Paralympic appearance after representing Team USA in 2018.
“I was on the team in 2018, but the competition since then has gotten even more fierce,” Misiewicz said. “There are a lot of athletes fighting for these 17 spots and I’m honored to be one of those 17.”
Misiewicz scored three goals and amassed 10 points during the 2018 Paralympic Games. He underwent major surgery — a lengthening on his right leg — following the event, which caused him to miss two years of action.
“Making the team was a huge boost of confidence after taking two years off,” Misiewicz said. “It’s a tough sport and getting the flow back, training and getting up to speed with the other guys took the longest.”
DeQuebec, of San Pedro, California, had three assists in five games during the 2018 Paralympics. He hopes to be able to take in the experience a little more the second time around.
“Everything was moving so fast (in 2018), I just tried to soak it all in and play hockey,” DeQuebec said. “Maybe this time it will be a lot slower so I can actually enjoy it. It’s the second-largest sporting event besides the Olympics, so experiencing it for the first time can be overwhelming. I remember parts of it, but I don’t remember it in its entirety.”
The U.S. enters the Paralympics after winning an unprecedented third consecutive gold medal during the 2018 Games. The U.S. has won sled hockey medals in all five Paralympic Games held since 2002, with four of them being gold.
“When you’re on top of the mountain, everyone is trying to knock you off,” DeQuebec said. “The ultimate goal is to get better every day and continue to push each other. That’s what makes us a great team. Even though we’re the best team in the world, we’re still out there working like we’re not.”
The U.S. defeated Japan, the Czech Republic, South Korea and Italy by a combined 38-1 margin before edging out Canada 2-1 in overtime to claim the Paralympic gold medal in 2018.
The most recent world championships provided a little more drama. Team USA suffered a preliminary-round 2-1 loss against Canada but rebounded to shut out the Czech Republic and South Korea in consecutive wins by a 21-0 margin before beating Canada 5-1 in the gold-medal game.
The Paralympic Winter Games are set to run from March 4-13 in Beijing.
“There are some good teams this year, so the pressure is on,” Misiewicz said. “We’re the ones being hunted and we need to stay ahead of the pack. We’re still in our residency program in Nashville and we’re still looking for that camaraderie and chemistry. Once we get to Beijing, it’s all about competing for that gold medal.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.