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Pauls seeks gold with U.S. Paralympic team

Thursday, 03.18.2010 / 5:15 PM / Hockey is for Everyone

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Pauls seeks gold with U.S. Paralympic team
The U.S. and Norway sled hockey teams have developed quite a rivalry over the years. Their next meeting will determine a Paralympic medal.
Canada beat the U.S. in the Olympic gold-medal games for men's and women's ice hockey last month in Vancouver.

There was the opportunity for a three-peat meeting at the ongoing 2010 Paralympics Sled Hockey tournament, but while the U.S. will have a chance for gold, Canada came up short in its semifinal.

The No. 1-seeded U.S. team beat Norway, 3-0, on Thursday, but Canada was upset by Japan, 3-1. The championship game between the U.S. and Japan will be played Sunday at noon PT (CTV).

Canada and Norway will meet for the bronze medal at 7 p.m. PT (CTV).

The United States defeated Japan, 6-0, in a preliminary-round game last Tuesday.

U.S. second-line center Josh Pauls, 17, from South Plainfield, N.J., is a member of the New York Rangers Sled Hockey, playing out of the Rangers' practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. Pauls is the youngest member of the team.

Paul's hard forecheck led to an offensive-zone turnover and Greg Shaw, of Park City, Utah, gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead at 9:00 of the first period. Veterans Taylor Chace and Joe Howard also scored for Team USA, and goalie Steve Cash, who has not been scored upon in this tournament, made 12 saves.

Pauls said the Paralympic games are "a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I'm having a blast.

"It's amazing and it all started with the spectacular opening ceremonies. What they did there was beyond belief and beyond words. Then, the tournament started and we came hard against the Koreans, we beat the Czechs and we beat Japan."

The U.S. is the reigning World Champions, having defeated Norway, 1-0, in 2009 at Ostrava, Czech Republic, when captain Andy Yohe scored with 11 seconds left in regulation.

"It's amazing and it all started with the spectacular opening ceremonies. What they did there was beyond belief and beyond words. Then the tournament started and we came hard against the Koreans, we beat the Czechs and we beat Japan. We're improving our game and hopefully that will continue against Norway." -- Josh Pauls

Pauls plays right wing on a line with Shaw at center and left wing Taylor Lipsett. Lipsett had scored in every game before the semifinal and adds veteran leadership.

"Taylor is a great scorer and great puckhandler who can do some amazing moves," Pauls said. "Greg Shaw is fast and he has a great reach. He always seems to score when we need a goal. He takes big hits and he kills penalties, a great all-around player."

Pauls said sled hockey is no different than able-bodied hockey when it comes to key players, citing the goaltending.

"Steve Cash is the best in the world," Pauls said. "When we need a big save, he comes up with it. We back him up and we haven't given up too many good opportunities but as the competition gets tougher, we need to help him more and we know he is up to the challenge."

The 2010 team was made stronger when coach Ray Maluta moved Chace and Yohe back to defense last year.

"Taylor Chace is a great puckhandler and a great scorer," Pauls said. "The coaches moved him back to get the rush started and get more offense from the back end. He's a very good player who can lead us to a gold medal."

Pauls was born without tibia bones in his legs and underwent bilateral amputation at 10 months. He was 10 years old when he saw his first sled-hockey game.

"My mom found a flier that said a sled team would be playing an able-bodied team that would play on sleds," Pauls said. "We went but I didn't like it at first. Then a program (Woodbridge Spinal Rangers) opened in my area and I started with them. I started with the Youth Rangers and coach Kevin Fee. We played at the rink in the Woodbridge Community Center."

He said sled hockey has proven to be one of the best things in his life.

"As disabled people, it gives us freedom to do what we want and go as fast as we want," Pauls said. "It's a high-tempo game with lots of hitting, big goals and big saves, just like hockey and gives people a chance to see what we can do. It gives us a chance to try it out and have the time of our lives."

The National Hockey League supports the 2010 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team through its Hockey Is For Everyone Initiative.

Other members of the team are goalie Mike Blabac, defensemen Jimmy Connelly and Nikko Landeros, and forwards Brad Emmerson, Joe Howard, Tim Jones, Adam Page, Alexi Salamone and Bubba Torres.
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