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Josh Pauls Hopes Silver Medal at the World Championship Will Motivate the U.S. National Sled Team

By Bob Reinert, 05/13/24, 4:15PM EDT


Canada defeated the U.S., 2-1, in the gold-medal game of the World Championship on Sunday.

U.S. captain Josh Pauls sounded anything but deflated not long after the Americans had lost the 2024 World Para Ice Hockey Championship gold-medal game, 2-1, to host Canada in Calgary, Alberta, on Sunday, 

If anything, he seemed motivated by it.

“It had to happen eventually, right?” said Pauls, a Green Brook New Jersey, native. “It’s been so long since we’ve lost, you kind of forget what it’s like, and you forget the sting of defeat. 

“I’ve always said it’s much easier to get motivated for an upcoming season, or even the rest of the season, after a loss as opposed to a win. And this is really going to light a fire under us. It’s really going to show us we’re vulnerable and other teams are catching up.”

The U.S., which was seeking a fourth straight world title, hadn’t lost a game since October 2021 and had a 23-game winning streak against Canada. The Americans fell behind 35 seconds into the gold-medal game on a goal by Dominic Cozzolino. The U.S. then dominated the rest of the first period. 

“Obviously, we gave up a goal the first shift of the game, which put us behind 1-0 right away, which isn’t a normal spot for us to be in,” said David Hoff, head coach of the U.S. National Sled Team. “But I thought we settled in after that. We had a lot of offensive zone time.

“I liked how we settled in. Their goaltender played well. I thought they really clogged the middle of the ice well, which made it really, really hard on us, but we hung in there. It was not for lack of effort.”

A second-period goal by Canada’s Anton Jacobs-Webb gave the U.S. an unfamiliar 2-0 deficit. Still, the Americans mostly had control of the puckthroughout the game. The difference was the sterling play of Canadian goaltender Adam Kingsmill, who made 24 saves.

“It’s tough to play a game where you control 42 or 43 minutes of game play and then they capitalize on some chances that we just, you know, we weren’t around for,” Pauls said. 

Declan Farmer finally cut the lead to 2-1 with his goal at 11:19 of the third period, but it proved to be too little too late. 

That goal did give Farmer 20 points, which set a record for most points by an American in a single World Championship. 

Pauls gave Canada full credit for taking the world title.

“They really shoved their game down our throat,” Pauls said. “They played an excellent game. They played almost a perfect one.

“Good for them, and their goalie was really hot. At the end of the day, this is going to be motivation for us, motivation to realize we are vulnerable. We can lose.”

That was evident in the tournament semifinals, where the U.S. survived a challenge from Czechia to claim a 3-1 win, while Canada squeaked past China, 2-1. 

“It’s a four-team race now,” Pauls said. “There aren’t going to be any easy games.”

Pauls acknowledged that the advancement of other teams has made playing in a tournament like the World Championship more compelling for the players.

“Nobody likes going into a game knowing they’re going to win, even if we don’t play our best,” Pauls said. “It really showed us that these teams are coming. They’re using our own game against us, and we’re really helping other teams out, but we really need to make sure that we’re going to end up being the best versions of ourselves.

“I want to make sure I’m being my best so that I can lead the team, and I don’t think I played my best here.”

Perhaps, but Pauls was named the Tournament’s Best Defender and Team USA’s Player of the Game in the final. 

“Josh is our captain and just so deserving,” Hoff said. “He played his 200th game while we were up here, which is really cool. To play 200 games in a career is amazing. To be recognized as the outstanding defenseman of the tournament says a lot about Josh.

“We wouldn’t be where we’re at without him, not just what he does on the ice for us, but he’s definitely our leader off the ice, as well. Just the fact we have him on our side is a big bonus and benefit to us.”

Pauls said individual accomplishments are nice, but his focus is on team success. He hopes to look back on this loss and remember it as a moment that propelled the U.S. team to greater heights. 

This is an especially new experience for some of the younger players on the team, which is something Pauls hopes they learn from. 

“We got the winning streak over with. It’s done, and it’s time to start anew,” he said. “That’s going to help everybody relax a little bit. Some of the guys on the team haven’t ever lost. You have to learn how to lose in the right way, be classy when you do, and have it motivate you to be better next time.”

Pauls, a four-time Paralympic gold medalist and six-time world champion, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The 31-year-old will hang up that silver medal somewhere and feed off of it.

“Hey, this is what happens when we aren’t at our best,” Pauls said. “I’ve been on the team for a while, and I want to be a leader, and I want to make sure [I] leave the team better than when [I] found it. This horse still has a few more races to run before I call it quits.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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