In the words of U.S. National Sled Team head coach Jeff Sauer, “now the tournament starts for us.”
Coming off an 8-0 rout of Japan last night that saw 10 different Team USA members record a point, the U.S. squad is preparing to face a tough Canada team that is sure to be the biggest test yet for a youthful U.S. roster at the 2012 World Sledge Hockey Challenge.
“We had to win those first two games,” Sauer said of the U.S. victories over Norway and Japan. “Because now we play the big guys. We play our archrivals Canada on Wednesday night.”
Josh Pauls (Green Brook, N.Y.), is also aware of the importance of facing the Canadian team on their home ice.
“It was a good effort I thought, for the whole team. It was nice to come out and play a good game, the full 45 minutes,” he said. “It’s all leading up to the game against Canada and we just want to improve every game, every shift.
The U.S. will take full advantage of a day off after two games in as many days, looking to recover for the clash with rival Canada tomorrow (Dec. 5), at 9 p.m. EST, here at the WinSport Canada Ice Complex in Calgary, Alberta. Both teams remain undefeated in the tournament and are set to face off in what could be a preview of the championship game on Saturday (Dec. 8).
Pauls, who netted two goals last night and was named the player of the game for the United States, noted the significance of a full-team effort in preparation for the matchup with Canada.
“It was huge [to have so many players contribute] because Canada has a lot of depth too, and we have 17 guys that are capable of playing with anybody in the world,” Pauls said. “It was important, especially for the new guys, to get the experience internationally, and hopefully we can take it to them.”
Sauer agreed, noting that the team was built for success from top to bottom.
“I think it says a lot about how we’ve tried to put the guys together,” the former Colorado College and Wisconsin coach said. “We’ve got pretty good balance through all three lines, which is very, very important. We know we can score offensively from the point; we’ve got guys back there that are very mobile. But the key for us is to get the forwards moving the puck and taking quicker shots.”
Despite the high-pressure game looming head tomorrow night, Team USA remains confident in their ability.
“We just have to build on what we do. The whole key to our team is to move the puck and use our speed and when we do that we’re a pretty good hockey team,” Sauer said. “They [Canada] have four or five guys that are very dangerous and I’ll prepare a game plan for when those guys are on the ice. The bottom line is that if we play our game, use our speed and quickness and get some good opportunities, we’ll be ok.”
Pauls echoed his coach's sentiment.
“We just have to use our speed,” the right-winger said. “We’re a fast team, we’re young team. We have to not worry about making mistakes because that’s where we get in trouble. If we can fly down the ice, dump the puck in, work on our forecheck and play like we can, we’ll be fine.”
Most of all though, defenseman Nikko Landeros (Johnstown, Colo.) noted, it’s about relaxing, being confident and having fun while they’re out on the ice.
“We always love coming out here. It’s a beautiful arena and we have a beautiful locker room and it’s a blast playing hockey up in Canada,” he said. “We’re having a blast … and whenever we play Canada it adds to it. We’re excited for tomorrow.”
Tag(s): World Sledge Challenge