page contents
skip navigation
Home Players & Parents Coaches Officials Team USA Membership Safety About Help

Fresh Faces Fuel U.S. Sled Team

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

The U.S. National Sled Team may be missing one of the major players in its tournament victories at the last three major international events in Taylor Lipsett (Plano, Texas) but the team is in no way short on talent. Boasting veterans such as captain Taylor Chace (Hampton Falls, N.H.) and goaltender Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.), Team USA has plenty of leadership. However, four fresh faces are injecting new blood into the U.S. squad, giving the team more depth than ever before; Craig Brady (Norwood, Mass.), Declan Farmer (Tampa, Fla.), Billy Hanning (Festus, Mo.), and Paul Shaus (Buffalo, N.Y.) are all making their international debuts.
 
            “This team is much improved,” said Josh Pauls (Green Brook, N.Y.), a three-year member of the national team. “That’s not a knock to the guys on the old team, but this team has a lot of talent, a lot of youth and a lot of speed.”
 
            As defending champions of the last three major international tournaments, including the 2009 International Paralympic Committee World Sledge Hockey Championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic; the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver; and the 2012 IPC World Sledge Hockey Championship in Hamar, Norway, Team USA has only added to their talent pool for the 2012 World Sledge Hockey Challenge. The newcomers quickly became a valuable part of the team, helping the U.S. to a 3-1 win over Norway in the first game of the tournament.
 
            “We’re making them feel part of the team and comfortable, like they’ve been around for a long time and not that they are the new guys,” said Chace. “They’re obviously going to be excited, but we have some great leaders and great teammates on this team so I don’t think they should be worried about anything.”
 
            Among the rookies is 15-year-old Farmer. Although born in 1997 and in his first campaign with the national team, he has demonstrated skills and maturity beyond his years, notching his first career goal in his first career game.
 
“He’s a great player. He plays just as well as any of us,” said defenseman Joshua Sweeney (Phoenix, Ariz.). “He’s very dedicated; work hard on and off the ice and when he come out he does what he needs to do to win.”
 
Farmer credits guidance from coaches Jeff Sauer and Guy Gosselin, as well as team leaders, for his success on the ice at such a young age. He also mentioned that his off-ice experience and friendships have helped him improve immensely.
 
“Being 15 and playing here is awesome, to play with a bunch of older guys, everyone knows what they’re doing,” the forward said. “It’s been a great experience so far. I’ve gotten a lot of great coaching and playing and have had a lot of fun off the ice.”
 
Brady, a military veteran, has made an impact during his first tour with the senior sled team, after having played last season with the U.S. Developmental Sled Team. The Norwood, Mass. native grew up playing hockey and never imagined he would represent his country on the international stage.
 
“It’s a great experience,” said Brady. “It’s very humbling, I would say.”
 
His transition to sled hockey, however, continues to be a work in progress despite his success.
 
“It took me about six months to learn how to skate, honestly,” the burly defenseman said. “Learning how to use my hands, I’m still working on that. But last year was my first year playing professionally and this is my first time being here. It’s awesome.”
 
Brady also credited his time spent with the developmental team for his quick ascension within the sport.
“The speed of everything has helped me improve so much since last year when I was with the developmental team,” he said. “I’ve really come great lengths since then.”
 
Team USA will look to its youngsters again when it takes to the ice tonight (Dec. 3) against Japan at the WinSport Canada Ice Complex.

Related News

Most Popular Articles

Video Quantifies Cross-Ice Advantages

09/04/2015, 5:00am MDT
By USAHockey.com

NHL analytics team uses tracking technology to compare cross-ice to full-ice for 8U players

Segmenting Your Season

08/25/2015, 1:15pm MDT
By Michael Caples

SZKOLA TRADES TOE-PICK FOR WORLD-WIDE WHISTLE

08/27/2015, 9:00am MDT
By Kelly Erickson

When it comes to women’s hockey, there is no argument that USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have the two premier programs in the world. Earlier this month, their young talent took to the ice in Lake Placid, New York, as a part of the U18 and U22 Select Series.

While there were several athletes on both teams who competed for their country in such an event for the first time, it also marked a special occasion for Melissa Szkola. An experienced official who has worked a handful of International Ice Hockey Federation events, Lake Placid marked her first USA-Canada affair. USA Hockey caught up with the Michigan native to talk about the amazing international experience and her evolving officiating career.


USA Hockey: What was it like to be a part of the U22 and U18 Select Series’

Melissa Szkola: The experience was wonderful. It was fantastic. We’ve essentially got the two best teams in the world competing against each other, so the learning experience, working with the officials that we have, is always amazing. You leave here a better person, a better official; that’s what we’re here for. That’s what I look forward to the most at these big-time events: the level of hockey and what you get out of it as a whole.

USAH: How did you first get into officiating?

Szkola: It’s been nine years since I got my start. I was a competitive figure skater and my older brother played hockey, so I’ve always been around the game, but it was my husband who actually got me into the officiating side of it. When we started dating, he was a roller and ice hockey official. He asked me to come with one time and I said ‘okay.’ That’s how I got started. It’s something he and I have in common and he is my biggest supporter. I wouldn’t be here without him.

USAH: So nine years under your belt, how would you describe some of your past IIHF events?

Szkola: I’ve had a handful of experiences with international tournaments. Each one has brought a new set of skills to my plate. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot from your supervisors from different countries as well. To get out and work with other female officials and learn from them and your supervisors is amazing.

Being in another country, where sometimes there aren’t people who even speak English, is a really unique experience as well. The communication that you learn to speak with non-English speaking officials really makes you appreciate what you have in common – hockey.

USAH: How did the Select Series compare to those events?

Szkola: The level of play, it’s definitely much higher at the Select Series than any of the championships that I’ve been to. I wouldn’t say that the intensity is much different, because at each level they are competing for their highest achievement. The intensity is the same, the importance is the same, but the level of play is definitely much better; it’s faster, it’s crisper. Your awareness just has to be that much higher.

USAH: Did calling a game with high-caliber players like those at the Select Series shake up any nerves?

Szkola: I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous before we got on the ice. I’ve watched Team USA and Team Canada compete before, so you know the level at which they intend to play. Being out there with it, you just know where the emotions can go sometimes. It was a little nerve-wracking before the start, but as soon as that puck drops, you have a job to do. USA Hockey does a fantastic job developing us; I feel like they wouldn’t put you out there if you weren’t ready. Once that puck drops, you’re kind of at home.

USAH: What’s next for your officiating future?

Szkola: The support that I have, not only from my hometown in Michigan, but also the support and development USA Hockey has given really sets you up for success if you want to take it in that direction. That is my goal. I do want to skate in the Olympics. Moving forward I am going to continue to improve upon each experience that I have, because you can always be better. Mistakes do get made, so you learn from those and improve yourself. 

Tag(s): World Sled Challenge