Local athletes help USA Sled Hockey Team earn another gold medal
Editor's note: Two hockey players with Illinois connections helped Team USA win another gold medal in Sled Hockey at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in South Korea. The two athletes, forward Brody Roybal and goalie Jen Lee, are also members of the Chicago Blackhawks Sled Hockey Team, and train and work under the DICK's Sporting Goods contenders program in Arlington Heights. Roybal is a West Leyden High School grad from Northlake, and Lee is from San Francisco. This story on their victory is reprinted here with permission of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- It looked like it was over for the U.S. sled hockey team.
With one minute left in the gold-medal game at the Paralympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018, Canada had a 1-0 lead and Team USA had an empty net after pulling goalie Steve Cash for an extra skater.
But when a Canadian shot on goal hit the post and harmlessly bounced wide, one minute remaining meant one more minute of life.
That life ended up on the stick of Brody Roybal. In the Canadian end, a cross-ice pass left the fate of Team USA in the hands of Declan Farmer. With 37.8 seconds remaining, Farmer took his shot and, at long last, found the back of the net.
Tie game and overtime.
That was the spark that Team USA needed, as Farmer scored the winner with 11:30 remaining in overtime to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.
"It's incredible," Farmer said after the win. "Especially to go to overtime. That's what kids dream of."
"It's an absolutely unbelievable feeling," said captain Josh Pauls. "To win a gold medal with such great guys and fight back the way we did is just something that we're always going to remember."
Of all players in the tournament to find the puck on his stick with the game on the line, Team USA was fortunate that it was Farmer. He wrapped up the Paralympics as the leading goal-scorer with 11, while his 17 total points also led all players. Fittingly, he was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Roybal had 10 goals and 6 assists and was named Best Forward.
"I'll just throw it out there. Declan Farmer, in my eyes, is the greatest player alive," said starting goalie Steve Cash. "He's the best overall sled hockey player to ever play the game."
For Team USA, the gold is its third consecutive at the Paralympic Winter Games, proving the U.S. sled hockey team has indeed become the ultimate team. No other country has been able to win more than one Paralympic gold medal since the sport debuted in 1994, while the U.S. now has four golds total.
The latest win comes just over a year after the passing of longtime head coach Jeff Sauer, who guided the U.S. to its previous Paralympic title. The players celebrated their win on the ice with a banner with the initials "JS" emblazoned on it and many dedicated their win to their former coach.
"I've felt coach Sauer's presence with me for the last year, since he passed away," said Cash, a four-time Paralympian. "It kind of chokes me up just thinking about him up there watching down on us. So I'm proud of the way everyone played for him. And that's what we said in the locker room before the game, is we're going to play for him because he's looking down on us today."
Canada, limited to bronze in 2014 and held off the podium in 2010, was looking for its first gold since 2006 after winning the 2017 world title. The two sled hockey powers and archrivals had never faced off in the gold-medal final at the Paralympics before.
• Darci Miller is a writer for the U.S. Olympic Committee. For more on this story, visit Teamusa.org.