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Strong Summer Sets Up U.S. National Sled Team for Early Season Success

By Greg Bates, 10/18/23, 2:30PM EDT


Team USA now looking to build off IPH Cup title

When the stage is the biggest and the lights are the brightest, it’s Declan Farmer’s time to shine.

The veteran forward for the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team was magnificent in the championship game of the IPH Cup on Sunday, scoring a hat trick against Canada to secure a 4-1 win at the Ostravar Arena in Ostrava, Czechia.

In the first tournament of the season, the U.S. finished a perfect 5-0, outscoring its opponents 26-4.

“It was a great start to the season — all of our lines delivered offensively,and we generally defended hard,” Farmer said. “We’re looking to improve in our transitioning to defending. We didn’t allow many shots, but the ones we did allow were pretty high quality.”

Team USA, which also won the IPH Cup last year in the same arena, outshot its North American counterparts 32-6. U.S. captain Josh Pauls credits theimpressive performance to the hard work him and his teammates put in during the offseason.

“It’s the first tournament of the season, so it’s something that you’ve got to make sure you’re peaking at the right time,” Pauls said. “Our goal is going to be worlds at the end of this year. But it was hard work, it was dedication, it was making sure that guys were doing the right stuff during the summer.That really paid off.”

U.S. goalie Jen Lee was proud of the way his teammates played in front of him, limiting the scoring chances for the Canadians.

“I speak highly about our defensemen, Noah Grove, our captain Josh Pauls, Jack Wallace, Liam [Cunningham] as well — he’s one of the rookies that was able to play defensemen in the back — and Chris Douglas, another veteran,” Lee said. “These guys definitely know that just being there and having experience and playing with chemistry together, they just make us feel very comfortable as far as knowing that they’ve got our backs and we’ve got theirs.”

The U.S. played Canada five days earlier in the preliminary round and cruised to a 6-1 win. The championship game was a closer contest, which Pauls was grateful for. 

“They packed it in and played really well defensively. Their goalie played well, and we had over 30 shots on him,” Pauls said. “They gave us a great one and it was nice to be in a close one, especially with them pulling the goalie towards the end in a 3-1 game. It gave our young guys the experience of playing in a close hockey game and just kind of overcoming that adversity and getting through that.”

Farmer wasted little time in putting his team in front, as the 25-year-old notched a goal just 31 seconds into the opening period.

“This team goes as he goes,” Pauls said about Farmer. “He’s a leader on and off the ice. He does all the right stuff away from the rink that really transfers onto it. He always shows up in big games for us. Even when he isn’t able to or puck bounces don’t go that way, we have a team of 16 other guys that are ready to pick that up and help out.”

The Americans got plenty of help in this game from their depth as well. They made it a two-goal lead at 4:25 of the second period when Malik Jones, Pauls and Farmer broke away on an odd-man rush. Jones attempted a pass across the slot, but the puck was redirected off a Canadian defender and went into the back of the net.

Farmer gave the U.S. a 3-0 lead when he ripped a wrist shot from the right circle with 1:25 remaining in the second.

Canada got on the board via the power play when its captain, Tyler McGregor, scored 3:34 into the final period.

Late in the contest after Canada pulled its goalie for an extra skater, Farmer completed his hat trick with just 1:29 left on the clock.

The first line of Farmer, Jones and Evan Nichols finished the game +4 while on the ice.

“I felt like I was clicking well with Malik and Evan all week, so we just tried to keep building off of that tonight,” Farmer said. “We’re able to make quick passes to each other and seem to have a pretty good feel for spacing.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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