|My locker before the game|
|The frozen Rideau Canal|
|The view from my hotel room (Parliament Building)|
Adversity is no doubt a part of everyone’s lives, especially Paralympians, who overcome adversity on a daily basis just to make it through the day. But adversity is also extremely prevalent in the world of sports. This season, thus far, Team USA has seen more adversity than any other year since I have been a part of the team! We have yet to have a full team at any of our training camps or competitions – players have been out due to work-related issues, school, injuries, you name it – but despite the constant onslaught of adversity, Team USA has yet to miss a beat this season, and the team is playing extremely well! A couple of weekends ago, Team USA had our last competition before the World Championships which we will be leaving for on April 7.
In our last tune up event of the season, we traveled up to Ottawa, Ontario, to face off against Canada in a three-game exhibition series. The week was again filled with adversity, with multiple players being out. Taylor Chace missed the whole series, while Alexi Salamone missed the first game, and I had to leave to return home early and missed the second and third games. So with three of the team’s top scorers missing games, we had to have players step up and fill in the gaps. And once again, we had a number of players who were up to the challenge!
The first game was a classic USA vs. Canada game, which consisted of an extremely high-tempo, hard-hitting affair. Adam Page scored the game winner about halfway through first period, and we secured the 2-0 victory when Declan Farmer scored an empty net goal late in the third period. We started out pretty slow, but after Adam’s goal, we started playing Team USA style hockey and began to dominate the flow of the game until the final buzzer. On the second night, we came out flat and Team Canada came out for redemption after the previous night’s shutout. Canada scored two goals in the first period, and Team USA was never able to put the puck in the net. After splitting the first two games, the rubber match was to be played the following afternoon. This would no doubt be another high-tempo, hard-hitting game between the two sled hockey powerhouses. Canada struck first just five minutes into the game, but Declan Farmer netted the equalizer just 2:30 later when he pulled the puck right to left and shot the puck, top shelf over the goalie’s blocker! Then four minutes later, Josh Sweeney, who was named captain for the game, curled the puck, from basically behind the goal line, just under the Canadian goalie’s sled for what would turn out to be the game winner. Team USA would win the series and end the final competition of the season before worlds on a very high note!
The resiliency to continuously perform at a high level, despite constant adversity, shows how much heart and dedication the guys on the team have. The fact that all of our guys show up in shape and are constantly improving proves how much work each player is putting in at home. At each tournament this season, we have had different guys stepping up to fill in for the missing pieces. Our team’s ability to have a different guy step up each and every night exemplifies the depth and character our team has, and illustrates the unbelievable job our staff has done in picking and choosing players to be a part of the team. Their goal has always been to develop a team with 15 captains, and I think we are well on our way. The fact that we don’t have to rely on one guy day-in and day-out, to carry the team is not only priceless, but scary…for the rest of the world. I can only imagine the high tempo and dynamic play of the team once everyone is all together and healthy. At that point, the only team that can stand in our way is our own! With failure not being an option, the thing we keep telling ourselves to stay motivated in the midst of all of the adversity is that, “Great teams find a way to win!” And these last two wins were two more key steps toward this season’s ultimate goal of defending our world title!