BY TAYLOR LIPSETT
The 2014 Paralympic Winter Games are underway, and we are off to a great start! Everything was finally put into perspective and the feeling was finally real when we walked out during Opening Ceremony to 40,000+ screaming fans! It was the best Opening Ceremony I have experienced in my 10-year, three-Paralympic-Games career! The show was amazing, the venue was spectacular, and the lighting of the cauldron and firework show was breathtaking! All the moments we had been waiting for were finally here! The village is amazing, with basically everything we could imagine at our disposal. Unlimited food and drinks, a state of the art workout facility, a recreation center with arcade games, pool, ping-pong, and movie rooms. It’s like living in a dream, where all your needs are met, no matter what it might be. It’s definitely easy to get caught up in the amenities, but we know are here to accomplish a goal!
After the Opening Ceremony concluded, it was down to business for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. We played Italy the next day, and knew we needed to come out strong and get the first-game jitters out quickly. The first period was filled with passes that were just off and way too many turnovers for our liking. We finally put one in the net towards the end of the period, which really helped calm guys down. The second period was much better, and we finally started to play our game. The second period was fast-paced, hard-hitting and full of scoring chances. We again scored towards the end of the period to give us a two-goal lead heading into the third and a little breathing room. Our focus every game and every tournament is to get better each shift, each period and each game. In the third period, we did just that. We came out and scored three goals in the third, and went home with a 5-1 victory. Our young guns played great and led the team to victory! Brody Roybal had two goals and Declan Farmer had a goal and an assist in the game. It was a great way to start the tournament, but the celebration was short, as we had to start preparing for South Korea, who we played less than 24 hours later!
The match-up against South Korea was going to be a great test for our team! South Korea was coming off a huge victory of host Russia from the night before. We had to make sure we came out fast and strong the first period, as we knew South Korea would probably still be riding the high of their previous win. And we did just that! Assistant Captain Taylor Chace paved the way and set the tone just a minute in by ripping a shot just under the South Korean goalie’s sled for a 1-0 lead right off the bat! The rest of the team followed Chace’s strong start, and we dominated much of the play in the South Korean zone. Adam Page put us up 2-0 about 11 minutes in with a nice shot off of a rebound in front of the South Korean net! Adam struck again late in the second period for his second goal of the game after a great pass from U.S. goalie Steve Cash up to Dan McCoy, who then found Adam flying across center ice. It was a great showing for our third line, and you really couldn’t have asked for a better game from the three (Adam Page, Dan McCoy and Greg Shaw). We had lots of chances throughout the game, but the South Korean goalies held us to three goals, and the game ended with a 3-0 victory for the U.S. It was a great team effort, and we played much stronger than we did against Italy in the first game, which is exactly what we wanted.
And now the tournament really gets down to business! Tomorrow night we play the host country, Russia, and the winner will go into the semifinals as the No. 1 seed, while the loser will crossover as No. 2. I expect an extremely fast-paced, hard-hitting affair. It should be a great game between two very good teams! We will practice today, go over some film, and mentally prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. It has been a great experience thus far, but the real tournament is just beginning. It’s always good to get off to a great start, but it is most important to peak at the end! We are treating every game as if it was a gold-medal game, and we are focused on the task at hand. Bring on the Russians!