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Sweeney Edges U.S. Sled Team Past Norway

12/02/2012, 10:00am MST
By Brian Smith

The U.S. National Sled Team opened play at the 2012 World Sledge Challenge today at the WinSport Canada Ice Complex in Calgary, Alberta with a 3-1 victory over Norway. As the defending 2011 International Paralympic Committee Sledge Hockey World Champions and having won the last three major international tournaments, Team USA looked to continue their strong play on the biggest stage.

“We came out a little rusty, being the first game of the season,” said U.S. forward Josh Sweeney (Phoenix, Ariz.), who scored the game-winning goal. “By the third period I think we got what we need to do down and started to play our game.”

Led by captain Taylor Chace (Hampton Falls, N.H.), the U.S. came out strong, against a solid Norwegian squad. Despite controlling much of the play in the first period with a healthy dose of offensive firepower and physical play, Team USA fell behind Norway late in the first period. While applying pressure on a penalty kill, the U.S. found itself trapped deep in its offensive zone. Capitalizing on the positioning, Norway flipped the puck high off the boards to Loyd Riem Pallader, who had a clear breakaway on goaltender Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.). Pallader made no mistake, firing the puck low and beating Cash on his glove side.

“We started a bit slow in the first period,” said Jeff Sauer, head coach of the U.S. National Sled Team. “We don’t score goals as well as we should and that’s frustrating. I thought in the first period we did a good job of controlling things, but we just didn’t score.”

Playing in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, each period is reduced to 15 minutes from the usual 20. Sauer noted that this slight change could have a massive impact on the game.

“When you cut it down to 15 [minutes] it’s a lot different game,” Sauer said. “I double shifted a little bit to try to get some of our more experienced forwards on the ice and we were able to get back into the game. When you don’t have as much time as you normally do, it’s very important to score as quickly as you can.”

Kevin McKee (Davenport, Iowa), continued the U.S. pressure in the second period, getting multiple shots on net within the first few minutes of play. His persistency paid off at the 9:46 mark when he buried a rebound to tie the game at one goal apiece. From there, Team USA held Norway completely off the board, allowing zero shots on net in the second stanza.

“We definitely made all the right adjustments during the first intermission,” Sweeney said. “We learned from our mistakes and came out to play.”

In the final frame, Sweeney gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead after taking a pass from Rico Roman (San Antonio, Texas) and making a nifty move around Norwegian netminder Kristian Buen. Fifteen-year-old Declan Farmer (Tampa, Fla.) added an insurance goal with one second remaining to seal the victory. Roman picked up his second assist on the final goal and earned player of the game honors for his efforts.

“He came through for us in a big way with two assists,” said Sweeney. “He’s a playmaker. That’s just what he is.”

Team USA will take to the ice again tomorrow (Dec. 3) at 9 p.m. EST against Japan. 

“We just need to build on this momentum,” said Sauer. “If we do that, we’ll be successful.”

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08/25/2015, 3:30pm MDT
By USA Hockey

No one has ever said that officiating, and especially officiating ice hockey, was easy. Rule knowledge, communication skills, fitness, skating and a natural presence are just some of the skills necessary to be a successful official.  Some possess more of these skills and those are the officials who advance to higher levels. But regardless of the level achieved or the skill set the official possesses, the one quality that should be equal among every official is a high level of integrity.

The national official staff members, along with our volunteer referees-in-chief and local supervisors, have heard growing concerns over a decreasing level of integrity among our youth hockey officials. It’s sometimes said that no one is holding them accountable. A portion of this perception is likely a typical “blame the officials” mentality, but some anecdotal evidence suggests there is also some merit to this concern. That’s alarming to USA Hockey, as it affects the credibility of our entire program, along with every member it represents. The blunt truth is this: even one official who isn’t on the up and up can and will damage the credibility of all officials who do take pride in the integrity of their work.

Whether we like it or not, officials are under a microscope, and by the nature of the business, are held to a very high standard. When we signed up for this officiating gig, we committed ourselves to represent the game of hockey, USA Hockey, our local group of officials and ourselves as people of integrity who accept the responsibility and guardianship of enforcing the rules in a fair and consistent manner. Most importantly, we must remember that the game is bigger than all of us and that the game itself is what we serve. Those who lose sight of that not only compromise the competitive fairness of the games, they also make life more difficult for all of the officials by damaging the credibility of the officiating community.

An example of this type of unacceptable behavior occurred last season. A Level 2 adult official tended to work his games with a chip on his shoulder. He often created confrontation with coaches, alienated his younger partners with inaccurate advice and disregarded their help in attempting to get some calls and rule applications right. Even though the help they were providing was correct, he chose to maintain his incorrect position that affected the outcome of several games. He also tended to identify certain players and single them out for various infractions and/or on-ice lectures as a means of emphasizing his authority.

Once the trends were identified, concerns were voiced by several parents and coaches to the local assigner and supervisor, who acknowledged they had never seen the official’s work, but would keep throwing him out there working the same teams and levels that had expressed concerns regarding his attitude. This included intentionally assigning him a playoff game involving the coach who was the most vocal in expressing concerns. This official was then instructed to “throw the coach out if he says anything.”

That playoff game went without a hitch – a tight 2-1 game with a couple of close off-side plays and maybe an icing or two missed. In the post-game dressing room, the official in question, in the presence of his partners and the officials scheduled to work the next game, said, “It’s always a great day when you can make one or both of the coaches mad. It’s too bad the white team coach didn’t want to play along today.” The partners sat there in silence until finally a 12-year-old Level 1 official who was working the next game said, “I don’t think that’s right. We’re not supposed to bait coaches.”

The official got dressed quickly and left the room without saying another word. Kind of ironic that it was the innocent 12-year-old that seemed to “get it” and instill a sense of accountability among those in the room. Imagine how any 12-year-old player feels on the ice when they see the official(s) displaying an attitude that is simply not to the standard the game deserves. And yes, more often than not, they can see through those who do not have the level of integrity expected.

Fortunately, these types of officials are few and far between. But they do exist and to simply stick our heads in the sand and not address the concern is irresponsible. Each of us, as officials, has an obligation to behave in a professional manner at all times and take our role seriously. We have made a commitment to approach each game with the understanding that the game is about the players and we should be invisible until the players require us to appear as a result of infractions that occur. Respect is a two-way street and simply putting on the sweater with the USA Hockey crest suggests respect is warranted, but only if supported by your actions.

USA Hockey has an obligation to create a non-threatening environment that promotes respect for officials and an opportunity for officials to improve through education and evaluation. USA Hockey does this through playing rules, points of emphasis, zero tolerance policies and comprehensive education programs for officials, coaches, parents and players.

In return, the game expects USA Hockey officiating members to bring a professional image to every contest and an attitude that creates a positive environment and makes the game better. We realize everyone makes mistakes – it’s part of the game. However, laziness or unprofessional behavior is unacceptable and being creative in rule enforcement and not holding players/coaches accountable for infractions will only make the next team of officials’ jobs much more difficult and set them up for failure.

The reality is that the game official must always hold themselves to the highest level of integrity and behavior both on and off the ice. Maybe that’s fair, or maybe not, but it is the expectation we are required to meet.

As we head into the 2015-16 season, ask yourself if you are willing to meet that expectation. If the answer is yes, welcome back and we look forward to a great season.

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Tag(s): World Sled Challenge