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U.S. Sled Team Advances to Final of World Sledge Hockey Challenge

12/06/2012, 10:15am MST
By Brian Smith

The U.S. National Sled Team scored a victory in the semifinals of the World Sledge Hockey Challenge to advance to what is almost sure to be a rematch of the heated United States vs. Canada rivalry. Team USA toppled Norway for the second time this tournament, with seven different players registering points and getting 40 shots on net.
 
“I was very pleased today,” said head coach Jeff Sauer. “Certainly offensively we were able to put the puck on the net. Their goaltender did an excellent job. I thought we were certainly very strong in net. His glove is very, very good and he had a great game. I was pleased with the win. Now we’re back playing for the gold medal and that’s what it’s all about.”
 
In a game that saw just two penalties, the U.S. took advantage of their youth and superior speed in a constantly flowing game. Provided the opportunity to move the puck up and down the ice, Team USA aggressively cycled the puck and creating a surplus of offensive opportunities.
 
“Five on five we can play with anybody and we can put pressure on,” said Sauer. “I was pleased with the way we rallied back [from the loss yesterday] and came hard and strong and kept the offensive pressure on.”
 
McCoy echoed his coaches sentiment, crediting an increased attention to scoring chances for his two-goal performance.
 
“We’re always taking about looking for the open guy and getting the wingers to crash the nets on the shots,” the winger said. “Anytime you have an open shot, just take that extra second to look for an opportunity and get the best shot you can.”
 
While the U.S. must wait for the outcome of the undefeated Canada versus the winless Japan, the team has begun to prepare for Saturday’s championship game expecting to see their neighbors to the north.
 
“It’s obviously going to be a tough game if it’s against Canada,” said Dan McCoy (Cheswick, Pa.), who scored two goals and was named player of the game for the U.S. “It’s always a fun game to play them. We just have to play like we did today. Play as a team, get our power play and penalty kill working well and just go out there and play as hard as we can.”
 
During their off day tomorrow, Sauer plans to focus on special team opportunities to be sure to capitalize on the greatest offensive chances his team will have, regardless of the opponent.
 
“We have had six or seven practices now that I’ve tried to work on situations on the power play where we move the puck,” the coach said. “I have yet to see that happen [this tournament]. So our practice tomorrow will be working on the power play.”

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A follow-up to Ian Walsh's NHL career-path article (see Stripes - February 2015)

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.

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Tag(s): World Sled Challenge