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.”
For the last 15 years, Ian Walsh has crisscrossed the United States as an NHL official. In this Part 2 of our conversation with Walsh, the 42-year-old Philadelphia native fielded a series of questions discussing life on the road, his conditioning schedule, mentors, on-ice struggles, the evolution of the game and advice for aspiring officials.
USA Hockey: How do you think you've been able to maintain all of the officiating success you've had over the last 15 years?
Ian Walsh: I believe one of my strengths as an official is my work ethic. I come to the rink every night ready to work hard and give 100 percent. I also believe I am very coachable, and when I'm offered a suggestion for improvement, I try very hard to implement that advice into my game.
USAH: What is your conditioning schedule like during the NHL season? How about during the off-season?
Walsh: During the season, conditioning work is more about maintaining what you built up over the summer. The workouts aren't as intense but you must continue to take good care of your body. Game-day workouts usually include a 30-minute bike ride or a couple miles run at the hotel gym. I also like to do some core work and light strength training on top of that.
The weather in Portland is amazing in the summer, and I prefer to be outside and on my road bike. I usually get in about four days a week of riding outdoors to help build my endurance and strength. I try to play hockey a few days a week as well to help work on my skating.
USAH: When did you realize you finally had cemented your career as an official? What was that feeling like?
Walsh: I don't know if you ever get that feeling. Every night is a different challenge in our league. It is a hard, hard league to officiate. The scrutiny of every call, every goal, ever non-call is such a challenge for all of us. The best players and coaches in the world expect us to perform at such a high level every night, and we have to be ready for anything that comes our way. It’s a privilege to be on the ice in the NHL, and I think that is something no official takes for granted.
USAH: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date as an official?
Walsh: Being chosen to participate in four Stanley Cup playoffs is what I'm most proud of. It’s an incredible honor to be selected and that’s the goal for every official each year. Also, being part of the team that was chosen to represent the NHL at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a phenomenal experience and a great opportunity.
USAH: What has been the biggest hurdle/obstacle you've had to overcome in your officiating career?
Walsh: I’ve been lucky so far, knock on wood, that I haven’t had any serious injuries. Other than some bumps and bruises, I’ve been relatively injury-free in my career. The biggest challenge is to be able to bounce back from calls you made that aren't correct. In this day and age, we usually know within minutes after the game if we made a wrong decision. When you make a call that impacts the game, it’s hard on the mind. Unfortunately, we make mistakes and what most people don't understand is that nobody takes it harder than the official making that mistake. Being able to bounce back from a mistake is something all officials must learn to do.
USAH: Who has had the most impact on your officiating career over the past 15 years? What has that person or those people taught you?
Walsh: Nobody has helped me more over my NHL career than fellow referee Paul Devorski. I've worked a lot of games with Paul and we’ve had the opportunity to travel together on the road. As an elite, veteran referee, he has been able to pass down some of his knowledge to me to help me become a better official. Paul is retiring this year, and our staff will sorely miss him.
USAH: How has the game changed, besides speed, since you started in the early 2000s?
Walsh: I would say the biggest change besides the speed of the game would be the use of technology. It is amazing what you see at rink – teams have iPads on the bench, super slo-motion video replays, hi-def video scoreboards, etc. With all that technology, it makes the officials job appear easy. People forget that the official on the ice sees a play one time, in real time, and must make a split-second decision on that play. It often appears quite different when you see a replay in super slo-mo on hi-def after a game.
USAH: What advice can you give aspiring NHL/professional league officials as they progress in their career?
Walsh: I would say make sure you have a backup plan. Making it to the NHL is everyone’s goal, but there are very few jobs available. There are so many factors that go into hiring an official and a lot of those are out of your control. Go and work the highest level available to you. Don't worry about other officials, if you are good enough, the NHL will find you. Also, control what you can control – always work on your skating, know your rules and come to the rink every night with a strong work ethic and a great attitude.
Tag(s): World Sled Challenge