As the No. 1 goaltender for the U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team, Steve Cash, 20, has high expectations for his second Paralympic Games in Vancouver next year.
In May Cash helped his team win its first gold medal at the 2009 International Paralympic Committee Sledge Hockey World Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. He played all 235 minutes in net for the U.S. Cash allowed four goals in five games, posting shutouts against Italy and Norway in the final. He finished with a .940 save percentage and a 0.80 goals-against average with 63 saves.
Last year the U.S. won a bronze medal at the IPC worlds.
Cash, a Missouri native, had his right leg amputated at the age of 3 after battling cancer in his knee.
USA TODAY's Jill Shatzen caught up with Cash during a break in his offseason training.
How is your training going?
Since it's the offseason right now most of my training has been just working out and getting back into the routine. It's kind of hard to get ice time, so I'm just going to the gym four times a week and practicing about two or three times a week. It's not really strenuous right now because I'm not trying to max out or anything. But I'm just trying to get myself back into shape to prepare for tryouts on July 1 and 2. That's the first thing. They're only taking two goalies, so pretty much if I make that cut then I'll go (to Vancouver). They're making two more cuts on skaters in January.
When did you realize that going to the Paralympics was a reality?
It started to become a reality the year I went to Torino because that's when the starting goalie (Manuel Guerra Jr.) retired. I've been the starting goalie ever since, so it was probably the year after that. It was probably eight months prior to Torino because I had just started playing in September of 2004, and national tryouts were in June of 2005. I came into the tryouts not expecting anything, hoping for the best but expecting the worst and sure enough, I made the team. That was my major realization.
What are your goals in Vancouver?
Definitely a gold medal is in my sights. It's my main priority, but some side goals would be to go undefeated and to prove to everyone that we're the best in the world and we're not going to give up the gold medal we just won in the Czech Republic.
Who do you look up to?
I'd say my biggest idol or hero would be my brothers because they're the ones who got me into hockey in the first place. They still play so I still get advice from them and go to them when I need help with anything. (Mike, 21, plays forward in recreational leagues. James, 25, is a goalie and plays professional roller hockey). The funny thing is, my two oldest brothers started out just playing in the backyard. We were never a big hockey family, it just kind of came to us.
What is the hardest part of your job?
The worst part of being a sled hockey goalie is you're lower to the ice and the main target is your head. It gets a little scary when you have a puck coming at your head at 60 mph. The best part, though, is that I like the pressure. Everyone says the most important player is the goalie. I like being the backbone of the team. I have the confidence in myself and in my team that they'll do their part.
What are your goals for the future?
I'd definitely like to make it at least to (the Paralympics) in 2014 in Russia, if not further than that. As far as personal goals, I'm pursuing a degree in business administration at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.
What's on your iPod?
A lot of game music which would be, you know, some Breaking Benjamin songs. I like HIM, and I like Johnny Cash, too. I kind of grew up with everyone joking that I'm his grandson or something.
What would someone find you doing an hour before a game?
A lot of people would see me as standoffish; I don't really like to talk a lot before a big game. There are the guys who do the joking or they're the leaders doing the talking. I just sit back in the shadows and think about what I have to do and let everyone else be themselves. And I listen to my iPod.
Who is an athlete you admire?
In my eyes I've always liked (Norwegian sled hockey player) Rolf Pedersen. I've always looked up to him, and my teammate Taylor Lipsett (center) because there's just some amazing moves that he can pull off.
What is your favorite sport to watch?
Hockey, plain and simple.