2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Two Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   

Czechmate: Team USA Overcomes a Wall in Net, Skating Past Czech Republic to Remain Unbeaten


            In what was a nasty, hit-happy game, Team USA attempted to go into their day off tomorrow with a perfect record of two wins and zero losses.  Their opponents, the Czech Republic, did everything in their power to put a blemish on that record.  The Czechs got a superb performance out of their goalie Michal Vapenka, whose efforts almost gave them the victory.  Alas, his brilliance was not enough, as his teammates had trouble getting off shots all night long, and once they got the puck near the net, U.S. goalkeeper Steve Cash ably turned their shots aside.  The Czechs fell to the Americans, 3-0, and Team USA, who still need to work out some kinks, are starting to look like the bona-fide gold medal threat they were initially slated to be.


            From the start, this looked like a different U.S. sled hockey team from yesterday.  Not even 24 hours had elapsed since their 5-0 victory against Korea, and yet today’s effort was a far more focused and consistent one.  Taylor Lipsett scored his third goal of these Paralympics halfway through the first, going coast-to-coast and putting the puck top shelf to open the game’s scoring. Later on in the period, in what became one of their very few scoring chances, the Czechs worked their way up the ice toward the U.S. zone with a series of precise passes and graceful moves, only to be greeted rudely by a clean but vicious hit by American Defenseman Nikko Landeros, who had a very strong game despite not showing up on the stat sheet.  Alexi Salamone and Jim Connelly added goals in the second and third periods, respectively, as the shot output was consistent throughout.  The Czech Republic did not seem able to recover from Landeros’ mammoth blow, for while they did not lie down for the Americans, they mustered only six shots on goal, all of which were stopped by U.S. goalie Steve Cash, who recorded his second consecutive shutout.  Indeed, the Czechs must be sick to their collective stomachs, given that they had nothing to show for the remarkable performance put forth by Vapenka.  His play between the pipes was the best I’ve ever seen in a sled hockey game, and even though he let in three and took the loss in the process, it would be nothing short of criminal if his 20 saves—nearly all of which were of the acrobatic, spectacular kind—went overlooked.  Conversely, the U.S. players deserve credit for refusing to allow the dynamic Czech to get into their heads.  They kept the pressure on him throughout the contest, adopting a kind of gatling gun approach to the game, continuously firing shots from all angles and figuring that some were bound to find the back of the net.  They did, and Team USA prevailed. After a day off tomorrow, the U.S. will face Japan on Tuesday, while the Czech Republic will play yesterday’s fallen foe, Korea.


            For more coverage of the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, please visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org





Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 01:36