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U.S. Ready to Build Upon First Win

By Kyle Huson, 03/05/22, 8:00PM EST


Win against South Korea would clinch the top spot in Group A

BEIJING - When the International Paralympic Committee made the decision to deny the entries of athletes from the Russian Paralympic Committee, the schedule for the sled hockey participants in Group A was changed.

While the schedule change is a blip compared to what is going on in the world off the ice, for the U.S. participants who are trying to focus on what they can control on the ice, it suddenly made the game against South Korea even more important. After defeating Canada, 5-0, in its preliminary round opener, the team wants to make sure they are firing on all cylinders with an opportunity to clinch the top spot in the group with a win.

2022 U.S. Paralympic Team

“Number one, I said to the guys, same schedule tomorrow, you don't win this pool with one win, you win it with two,” said head coach David Hoff. “So we're coming to win a hockey game tomorrow. We've got to get everyone in in these first two games so we get everyone moving in the right direction and all hands on deck.”

Despite the large margin of victory, U.S. captain Josh Pauls did not feel like the U.S. played its best game against Canada. The team is always looking to improve, and with the short turnaround playing back-to-back games, the team will need to look quickly at what it can improve upon and build upon heading into the second and final preliminary round matchup.

“There's a lot of things that we can kind of fix and either go back and watch video or work together and work on some X's and O's stuff. But for us to be able to to play Korea and make sure that we're sharp, it's going to be a test.

“We can't take anybody for granted. They've always played us really strong and we want to make sure we have a good showing against them and make sure we give ourselves the best chance at a semifinal spot.”

Paralympic Roster

U.S. alternate captain Rico Roman concurred with that sentiment. A now three-time Paralympian, Roman always makes sure that he goes into games with the same mindset, no matter the opponent.

“I feel like that with every team here, we don't take any team lightly. Whoever it is, you know, and we're just going to take one game at a time. And whoever's out there to play, we're going to be ready to play them.”

There are certainly things for the U.S. to build upon. You don’t defeat one of the top teams in the world 5-0 by accident. Hoff loved his team’s “grittiness.” He said when you look at the goals the team scored, there was a lot of grit. It was guys getting to the net, guys putting pucks toward the net, and the ability to finish was key.

2022 Paralympic Notebook

“I don't know that we had a goal that was necessarily really, really pretty. We had some really gritty goals down there that said something about our guys, too. So I really liked that.”

But the other alternate captain for the U.S., Declan Farmer, who amassed four points in the victory, still feels like there are things to improve upon and clean up.

“We got a lot of good bounces against Canada,” said Farmer. “We got some good saves and were able to bury the puck which is something we have struggled with against Canada, so we’re proud of ourselves for that.

“I think we were maybe a little bit sloppy in the neutral zone and defensively at points. We’ve gotta get the puck in deep, get rolling on them and we’ve got to play hard. We have the opportunity to win the pool tomorrow, so we’re going to get after it.”

South Korea is a team that found the podium in the bronze medal position in the their home country in 2018. With RPC now out of the tournament, they are looking to make it back-to-back podiums.

The U.S. defeated the host country, 8-0, in 2018 and faced them again during this past World Para Ice Hockey Championship. Hoff knows that it will be a tough task against an always-formidable opponent.

“They are obviously a team that plays hard, always competitive. The last time we played against them, they got outstanding goaltending against us. I mean, that happens in the sport of hockey.

“We're coming here to to get better as a team, but also just to try to get a win and seal this pool.”

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