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Landeros Leads U.S. Win over Japan

12/03/2012, 10:15am MST
By Brian Smith

In a game that featured 10 U.S. National Sled Team members record a point in an 8-0 win over Japan, one goal stood out among them all. Late in the first period, defenseman Nikko Landeros (Johnstown, Colo.) swung around the net of Japanese goaltender Mitsuru Nagase, lifted the puck up onto his blade and threw the puck, lacrosse style, into the top corner of the net, giving the U.S. a 3-0 lead at the time.

“I was coming around the net and they were giving me a little bit of the slot,” Landeros said postgame. “I was looking for someone to pass to and no one was open, so I kind of picked the puck up and put it in the top corner of the net.”

Although he hadn’t planned on unleashing his nifty offensive attack, Landeros admitted that he had always wanted to showcase his puck handling skills in the heat of game action.

“You know, I practice it every once in a while, but it felt good to put it in in a real game,” the big defenseman said. “I won’t do it too often, because I don’t like to showboat, but that was the only way the puck was going to go in at that point so I did what I had to do.”

The highlight goal was just the tip of the iceberg on a night when the U.S. controlled the tempo of the game in each zone. Goaltender Jen Yung Lee (San Francisco, Calif.) stopped each shot he faces to record a shut out to compliment the 10 point scorers for the U.S. Josh Pauls (Green Brook, N.Y.) and Kevin McKee (Davenport, Iowa) each notched two goals while Alex Salamone (Buffalo, N.Y.) added two assists on the night.

“It says a lot about how we’ve tried to put the guys together,” said head coach Jeff Sauer. “We’ve got pretty good balance through all three lines, which is very important. We know we can score offensively from the point; we’ve got guys back there that are very mobile. The key for us is to get our forwards moving the puck and taking quicker shots and I thought tonight we did that.”

Despite the comfortable win over Japan, the U.S. has already begun looking ahead to their matchup with rival Canada on Wednesday night. The two teams will meet to determine who finishes the preliminary round of the World Sledge Challenge undefeated heading into the semifinals.

“It was important that we came out and played the full 45 minutes tonight,” said Pauls. “Canada has a lot of depth, and we have 17 guys that are capable of playing on the international level. We just need to not worry about making mistakes … and play like we can, and we’ll be fine.”

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