SOCHI, Russia – Josh Sweeney (Phoenix, Ariz.) scored the game-winning goal in the second period, allowing the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team to skate past Russia, 1-0, in the gold-medal game at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
With the victory, Team USA becomes the first team to win back-to-back gold medals in the Paralympics. The gold medal is the third for the U.S. since 2002.
"I've coached guys in the National Hockey League and guys that have won national championships, but the chemistry on this team with a 15-year-old and a 35-year old player is better than any team I've ever coached," said Jeff Sauer, head coach of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. "There's a bond there and I love them like sons."
The Americans struck for the contest’s only marker at 9:28 of the middle frame when Sweeney converted after forcing a turnover in the offensive zone. Following a collision by two Russian players, Sweeney picked up the loose puck just inside the blue line and streaked in on Russian goaltender Vladimir Kamantcev. Sweeney deked to his left before sliding the puck back to his right and placing a shot over Kamantcev’s glove and under the crossbar.
Team USA played a strong defensive game throughout, limiting Russia to just six shots on goal while killing both Russian power-play opportunities. Goaltender Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.) came up with a pair of quality saves on dangerous Russian chances in the final stanza to hold Russia off the board.
Sept. 1, 2015 | More than 40,000 spectators, plus a national television audience, watched the Little League World Series this past Sunday on a glorious afternoon in Pennsylvania. There were smiles, cheers, entertainment and the noticeable absence of demand for those 12- and 13-year-olds to pitch from 60 feet, six inches or run 90 feet between the bases like their professional baseball heroes.
Right-sized baseball and softball fields, along with age-appropriate rule modifications, have been accepted wisdom in youth baseball for more than 50 years.
Coincidentally, while Little League was paring to its finalists, U.S. Soccer announced a nationwide initiative to improve youth skill development. The centerpiece was a shift to small-sided game formats and field sizes to be phased in across the country by August 2017. As part of the new plan, American soccer at U6, U7 and U8 will be played 4v4 on a pitch approximately one-eighth the size of an adult soccer field. Nine- and 10-year-olds will play 7v7 on a one-quarter-scale pitch. Not until age 13 will players begin competing 11v11 on a regulation adult-sized pitch.
“Our number one goal is to improve our players down the road, and these initiatives will help us do that,” said Tab Ramos, U.S. Soccer’s youth technical director. “In general, we would like for players to be able to process information faster, and when they are in this (new) environment, they are going to learn to do that. Fast forward 10 years, and there are thousands of game situations added to a player’s development.”
With this change, American soccer will join sports like baseball, basketball, hockey and tennis, all of which have embraced the skill-development benefits of age-appropriate playing dimensions and competition formats (see chart below).
Those benefits are at the core of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which was recently praised by the Sports Business Journal as a “trailblazing program.”