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Yankee Doodle Dandies: U.S. Paralympic gold revisited

by John McGourty /
When it comes to monumental accomplishments, the milestones most cited are Tiger Woods' 15-stroke victory in the 2000 U.S. Open; the 1972 Super Bowl-champion Miami Dolphins' 17-0 record; and Secretariat's 31-length victory in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

Add to the list the United States Paralympic Sled Hockey Team that won the gold medal in March at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver by going 5-0 and outscoring its opponents, 19-0. Japan, which upset 2006 winner Canada in the semifinal, won silver and Norway beat Canada for the bronze.

"We had a great defensive effort and we could put the puck in the nets," defenseman Taylor Chace said. "Everyone was on the same page and (goaltender) Steve (Cash) was lights out when he needed to be. It wasn't easy but I couldn't ask to be part of a better group of guys."

The NHL was back in full swing in March after the 2010 Winter Olympics, also in Vancouver, and the U.S. Paralympic victory got only passing attention, so today, on the Fourth of July, salutes the team, its coaches and the USA Hockey staff that runs the program that has now won two Paralympic hockey gold medals.

Cash stopped all 33 shots against him in the tournament and Taylor Lipsett was the leading scorer. Andy Yohe captained the champions, the youngest team in the tournament. However, it was veteran Joe Howard who set up Lipsett's goal that gave the U.S. their second goal in the 2-0 championship victory over Japan. Alexi Salamone scored first.

Yohe set Cash up for his greatest moment when Yohe interfered with Japan captain Takayuki Endo and a penalty shot was called with the U.S. leading, 1-0. Endo attempted to go top-shelf, right corner but Cash gloved the shot to keep the Americans unscored upon.

"I could not be more proud of our players," U.S. head coach Ray Maluta said. "These guys have given us so much over the last few years to get to this point. They've grown as athletes, players and men, and I'm lucky to have been a part of this ride."

Honors quickly poured in on the gold medalists. The United States Olympic Committee named the hockey Paralympians their USOC Team of the Month, while Cash was named the USOC Male Athlete of the Month.

"Our gold medal was the result of hard work by each and every one of our players over the last several years," Maluta said. "Everyone, including Steve, sacrificed time and personal commitments in pursuit of one goal. I know that we're all very proud to have represented our country."

"My teammates worked very hard throughout the season," Cash said. "About half the team moved to Buffalo to train together. We had ice time 5-to-6 times a week. The victory resulted from the preparation leading up to it. The whole tournament fell into place and the team played great in front of me. They were the best I've ever seen and that was the key to our huge success."

President Obama welcomed Olympic and Paralympic athletes to the White House on April 21 and all 15 members of the gold-medal team attended, meeting the President and First Lady Michelle Obama. They were joined by Maluta, General Manager J.J. O'Connor and Director of Player Personnel Dan Brennan.

Chace joined Olympic athletes on NBC's Today show earlier that day to unveil the new Olympic and Paralympic logos.

"We are really pleased and happy for them. They really worked hard for it," USA Hockey President Ron DeGregorio said. "They're a good team with good bunch of people. That's the kind of excellence we are seeking from all our teams, men, women, and disabled. We want excellence, and this team epitomized the kind of preparation and commitment necessary to have these kinds of results."

The U.S. Sled Hockey team, which also won gold in 2002 at Salt Lake City, has now won the last four international championships. Cash said that gave the team a lot of confidence and the tournament schedule also helped.

"We had won the world champ which put us in the No. 1 seed," Cash said. "The biggest thing was the games were always at 5 p.m. That helped us keep a set schedule and maintain a routine."

Chace summed up the experience in a way Stanley Cup winners would understand.

"This is a great experience and I'll always be buddies with my teammates for the rest of my life," he said.

Four other countries contested the A division: the Czech Republic, Korea, Italy and Sweden. Five other countries have iced sled-hockey teams at Paralympic B World Championships: Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Estonia and the Netherlands. The 2014 Paralympics will be held at Sochi, Russia. It's not known if the host country will have a sled hockey team in the event.

Tryouts for the 2010-11 U.S. National Sled Hockey Team will be held July 22-23 at The Sports Center at Monroe County College in Rochester, N.Y. Interested applicants should go the USA Hockey site for more information:

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