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Bravo Delta Line Ready for Action

03/06/2014, 9:30am MST
By Paralympic News Service

SOCHI, Russia - Team USA forward Rico Roman has done his best to suppress the horrific memories of a catastrophic injury he suffered while serving in the military in Iraq, but as the seventh anniversary of an explosion in which he lost his left leg approached, his sleeping troubles persisted.

Fortunately for Roman, the third-year USA forward had his best friend and former U.S. Marine Josh Sweeney to confide in.

When USA attempts to defend its Vancouver 2010 gold medal at Sochi 2014, the team will depend heavily on a line dubbed 'Bravo Delta', featuring Roman, Sweeney and Paul Schaus.

The trio share more than just a military background: all three lost legs after being struck by an improvised explosive device while on active service.

Roman's accident occurred on Feb. 22, 2007, when he became trapped under a truck.

"The more I talk about my accident, the more I think about my brothers who are not with me anymore," Roman said. "I'm so happy there's someone here to talk about it with. Imagine if I didn't have that? I'm really fortunate."

Sweeney, who leads the San Antonio Rampage of the Midwest Sled Hockey League in points, provides the offensive firepower for the line.

It is a significant accomplishment considering Sweeney also lost partial feeling in his left hand and constantly battles to find the proper grip on his stick. An explosion in Afghanistan in 2009 also caused nerve damage to his right hand and fractured a bone in his left hand, which now contains a metal plate.

"Playing is really hard on your hand, it requires a lot of grip strength," Sweeney said. "I'm always out here gripping these sticks and I don't want to screw up the play, so it forced me to become stronger."

Besides sharing a Marine background, Schaus and Sweeney also both excelled as players in high school. Like Sweeney, Schaus had little optimism he would ever return to the ice in the weeks following his accident.

"I didn't really think it would be the same, but once I got out there smelling the rink again, being on the ice again, it really got me back to doing something I love," said Schaus, who also served in Afghanistan.

USA coach Jeff Sauer considers Schaus, the line's enforcer, one of the hardest workers on the team.

In a victory over the Rampage at the USA Hockey Sled Classic Championships, Schaus sliced his chin on his mask, receiving several stitches before promptly returning to the game for the Buffalo Sabres sled team.

"Tell me what other Paralympic sports you know where guys will do that," Roman said. "It's brutal, but that's the best part of it because we have tough guys. You're not going to get us quitting, ever -- maybe when we're dead."

While Roman said he loves all of his teammates like brothers, he readily admits his bond with his linemates is even stronger.

"There's a different mindset when you're in the military, being in that environment and going through those hardships, we all get it," Roman said. "I think that's what makes it such a strong line."

Notes: Team USA ventured outside the Olympic Village on Wednesday to check out neighboring Adler. T-shirts and shorts were the preferred dress code as the team walked along the boardwalk of the Black Sea and then enjoyed pizza at an Italian restaurant.

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Thurs., March 13 W, 3-0 Canada (Semifinals)
Sat., March 15 W, 1-0 Russia
(Gold Medal Game)

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