For head coach Guy Gosselin, the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team’s performance last week at the 2018 Turin Para Ice Hockey International Tournament went about as well as he could’ve hoped.
In its last major international tournament ahead of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, the U.S. won five games without conceding a single goal to claim the team’s eighth title in its last nine major international competitions, a streak that began at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
“The tournament went really well,” said Gosselin, who aims to lead the U.S. to a gold medal next March after serving as an assistant coach for the gold-medal winning U.S. Team in Sochi. “I would say that no game is perfect, but we were pleased. It was good our guys came out prepared to play and didn’t take anything for granted. We worked on some things but also found some areas where we still need to improve."
After opening the tournament with a 6-0 win over host Italy, the U.S. shut out both Japan and Norway by identical 8-0 scores to secure a semifinal round rematch with Japan. There, Team USA blanked Japan, 9-0, to reach its 11th straight championship game, where it shut out Italy again, 6-0, to secure the win.
Pacing Team USA’s torrid offense was forward Brody Roybal (Northlake, Ill.), who collected 18 points, including 10 goals and eight assists to earn Best Forward of the Tournament honors.
Forward Brody Roybal in action at 2018 Turin Tournament. Photo credit: Marco Romero
“I think the tournament went great,” said Roybal. “We didn’t let in a goal and we only gave up 15 shots on net. The team really rolled great together and the lines really clicked."
With a roster turnover that includes seven new faces compared to the U.S. team Gosselin helped guide to gold in Sochi four years ago, Gosselin credits the team’s skill depth for its scoring prowess.
“We have a group of guys this year with a high set of skills,” Gosselin added. “But, you have to keep it on an even keel and not have lapses on the ice. Even in a creative group, we have to have some structure on defense, and we can always improve.”
The top two lines are a smattering of veteran and new players. On one line, Roybal is joined by fellow Chicago-area natives Kevin McKee (Chicago, Ill.), a 2014 Paralympic gold medalist, and Josh Misiewicz (La Grange, Ill.), who’s set to make his Paralympic debut in March. The other line includes Declan Farmer (Tampa, Fla.), whose performance in Sochi earned him the IPC’s Best Male Athlete award, centering Paralympic newcomers Noah Grove (Frederick, Md.) and Jack Wallace (Franklin Lakes, N.J.).
Together, the lines combined for 59 points in five games.
“With those two lines, it’s not like first line and second line,” Gosselin noted. “I’ll call one ‘red’ and the other ‘blue.’ Declan and Brody were the young kids in Sochi and actually still are: Declan’s 20, Brody’s 19. Then there’s Noah and Jack, who are just 18 and 19.”
Team USA has claimed eight of the last nine major international tournaments
Despite helping the U.S. to eight tournament titles in his five seasons with the team, at 19 years old Roybal hardly considers himself a veteran. After all, it was only four years ago he was a 15-year-old traveling to Sochi not only as the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team, but the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic athlete delegation as a whole.
Now, four years later, he’s poised to help the United States make a similar run at success next March in PyeongChang, South Korea and sees the team’s performance in Italy as a positive development.
“I think we really worked well as a team this tournament, better than we have before,” Roybal noted. “Our passing was great, everyone got the puck and I think everyone had a point. It was cool seeing everyone get to work the puck around. We work better when we all touch the puck.”
That chemistry – both on and off the ice – is one of the biggest focal points within the U.S. locker room now that the Paralympics sits just a month away on the calendar.
“We’re working on things we want to do in games to develop those skills on the ice,” Roybal said.
Team USA will get another chance to see exactly how it measures up when it faces Canada at the Border Series in Buffalo, New York and Port Colborne, Ontario, from Feb. 7-11. The home-and-home series will be the final competition for both teams before the Paralympic tournament, which runs March 8-18 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
The month of February is recognized by the NHL as Hockey Is For Everyone Month, which reaffirms that the official policy of the sport is one of inclusion on the ice, in the locker rooms and in the stands. Around the hockey community, leagues and teams will celebrate the game's diversity and commitment to respect for all.
|Dec. 1-10, 2017||2017 World Sled Hockey Challenge||Charlottetown, P.E.I.|
|Jan. 22-27, 2018||2018 Para Ice Hockey International Tournament||Turin, Italy|
|Feb. 7-11, 2018||2018 Border Series||Buffalo, N.Y. & Pt. Colborne, Ont.|
|March 8-18, 2018||2018 Paralympic Games||PyeongChang, South Korea|