LEDUC, Alberta – Josh Pauls (Green Brook, N.J.) scored 19 seconds into overtime and the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team defeated Russia, 2-1, to win the 2015 World Sled Hockey Challenge for the second time in three years.
"It's always fun to win," said Jeff Sauer, head coach of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. "With this being only our fifth game of the season, it's great for our young players to defeat a team like Russia in a meaningful game like this."
Both teams exchanged chances early in the first period. Team USA nearly opened the scoring with five minutes remaining when Adam Page (Lancaster, N.Y.) chased down a loose puck and fired a shot on net that was turned aside by Russia’s Evgeny Plotnikov. Two minutes later, Ivan Berdnik scored off a rebound to give Russia the 1-0 lead, ending Steve Cash’s (Overland, Mo.) shutout streak at 101:42 minutes.
The United States evened the score midway through the second frame when Kevin McKee (Chicago, Ill.) collected the puck behind Russia’s net, wrapped around the net and got the puck past Russia’s goaltender. Tyler Carron (Fort Collins, Colo.) was credited with an assist on the play.
Team USA continued to apply pressure throughout the third stanza. Pauls nearly set up the game-winner in the final 45 seconds when he found McKee in the slot for a tip-in that forced Russia’s goaltender to make a sprawling save. Despite outshooting Russia 19-9 through regulation and 15-3 over the final two periods, the United States and Russia headed to overtime with the score knotted, 1-1.
Just 19 seconds into overtime, Brody Roybal (Northlake, Ill.) entered Russia’s zone and dropped the puck back to Pauls who beat Russia’s goalie with a wrist shot to give the United States the victory.
This was the second consecutive international tournament that featured the United States and Russia in the championship game. The United States defeated Russia, 1-0, to win the gold medal at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The U.S. National Sled Hockey Team will be off until it resumes play with a series against Canada March 24-29 in Indian Trails, North Carolina.
NOTES: Josh Pauls was named U.S. Player of the Game … Team USA outshot Russia, 20-9 … For full game statistics, click here …. Declan Farmer (3-6--9) finished with a tournament-best nine points while Nikko Landeros (3-4--7) led all defensemen with seven … Brody Roybal (3-3--6) had points in all five games … The United States finished a perfect 5-0-0-0 (W-OTW-OTL-L) for the first time in tournament play … For complete Team USA coverage, click here.