SOCHI, Russia– Brody Roybal (Northlake, Ill.) had a pair of goals, Declan Farmer (Tampa, Fla.) collected a single tally and added an assist, and defenseman Nikko Landeros (Johnstown, Colo.) notched three assists to help the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team begin the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games with a 5-1 victory over Italy today at Shayba Arena.
Late in a tightly contested opening stanza— one that saw both teams generate chances early— Team USA was able to break through for the game's first goal. While on the power play, Farmer gathered the puck on the left side of the slot and beat Italian goaltender Santino Stillitano with a quick shot at 13:45 to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net again until Roybal and Josh Sweeney (Phoenix, Ariz.) collected back-to-back goals in the middle period to boost Team USA's lead to 3-0. Roybal made it 2-0 at 11:12 when he grabbed a rebound and tucked it into the top corner. Then, just 58 seconds later, Sweeney picked up a puck and wheeled in on a semi-breakaway before making a strong move to beat Stillitano.
“Once you get that first goal you want that next one. Before you even get your first goal you want that next one. You strive to get more and more goals," said Roybal.
An Italian goal in the final stanza was sandwiched between a pair of U.S. markers. Roybal buried his second of the game after Team USA exited its own end with speed and made a nice passing play on the rush. Then, with just five seconds left in the contest, Paul Schaus (Buffalo, N.Y.) batted home a rebound to close the scoring.
"Three of our five goals were scored by 15 or 16 year old kids, so you have to be impressed with that," said U.S. Head Coach Jeff Sauer.
Goaltenders Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.) and Jen Lee (San Francisco, Calif.) split time in goal, with Cash getting the start and making nine saves in 40:18 before Lee entered the game. The duo combined for 11 stops in all.
The U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team will play its next preliminary-round game tomorrow (March 9) when it squares off against South Korea at 8:30 a.m. ET.