Three NJ players on the US sledge hockey team in Beijing


Declan Farmer has always wanted to make sledge hockey his profession. After graduating from Princeton University in 2020, Farmer finally got her opportunity.

When the United States sledge hockey team gathered in Nashville for a six-week residency camp before the Paralympics, Farmer was already there.

He, Franklin Lakes defenseman Jack Wallace, and forwards Brody Roybal and Kevin McKee had already moved to Music City a few years ago, sharing a house and training full-time. Wallace, 23, had a similar plan to Farmer after finishing the College of New Jersey, but also training for the summer Paralympic sport of paracanoe.

Forward Travis Dodson and defenseman Joseph Woodke, both affiliated with the Nashville Sled Preds, also live in the area.

The rest of the team joined them on January 12, with eight other teammates sharing an AirBnB.

Green Brook team captain Josh Pauls outfitted the kitchen with a smoothie blender and a salvage station in the living room stocked with lacrosse balls, foam rollers, massage guns, a Normatec that helps eliminate lactic acid and Game Ready compression. tool.

Pauls did much of the cooking — homemade ramen in bone broth is a specialty — with help from forward Malik Jones and goaltender Griffin LaMarre’s homemade guacamole.

“We’re here for a reason, to be as prepared as possible before the Games,” Pauls said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a tighter team. There’s not a single thing nobody would do for someone in this team. It comes from everyone buying. Everyone doing the good things we have to do to be where we want to be: in this gold medal game.”

Four years ago, Farmer scored both goals as the Americans beat Canada, 2-1 in overtime to win the gold medal. He tied the game with 38 seconds left and won it 3:30 into extra time with an assist from Pauls.

This winter, the United States will open against arch-rival Canada on March 5. The preliminaries were organized according to the perceived strength of the teams, to avoid the lopsided scores that have plagued past competitions. The Americans continue against South Korea on March 6, and Russia two days later.

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The quarter-finals will take place on March 9, followed by the semi-finals on March 11. The gold medal will be decided on March 13.

The United States is the first sledge hockey team to win three consecutive gold medals. The Americans have 22 victories in 31 games at the Paralympic Games and have won four gold medals and one bronze.

“It really behooves us to want to give up that status and to give up that memory that we’re the best in the world and try to make it go away, like we’re newcomers to the sport again,” Wallace said. , who moved to defense the morning of the 2018 gold medal game and has maintained that position for the past four years.

“But we also understand that each country is going to give us their best because we are the champions and have reigned supreme for a few years now. We have to take it as it comes and be ready to do what it takes. should.” to win every game.”

Sledge hockey is similar to standing game, but each player has two sticks. One end is pointed and used for momentum, while the other has a traditional blade for playing the puck.

Pauls, who was born without shins, started playing sledge hockey with the Woodbridge Warriors at age 10. at the age of 3, he switched to sledding a year after having to have his right leg amputated following a water-skiing accident.

Pauls, heading to his fourth Paralympic Games, connects the three Jersey guys. He coached Farmer at a Team USA development camp and was one of Wallace’s first teammates at Woodbridge. It was the same year that Pauls was part of the gold medal-winning American team at the Paralympic Games in Vancouver.

The US team traveled to Los Angeles for treatment on February 20, then to Beijing earlier this week.

Pauls said they would “get to grips with the ice and put on some skates” before the Paralympic Games start on March 4. He had also watched men’s and women’s Olympic hockey to get his first glimpse of the indoor National Stadium. Both Pauls and Wallace joked that the Olympics were the Paralympics’ test event, allowing organizers to iron out issues before the next wave of athletes arrived.

“It’s more than you can ever dream of coming out of an Olympics with that kind of result. It’s something we’ll always have,” Farmer said. “Now it’s over. Moving forward, we’re trying to create another memory like this in these Games, hopefully less dramatic. Hopefully we can get the job done sooner than that. … We’re all lucky to have this job of representing our country at the Paralympic Games. It’s easy work and it’s easy to stay focused. I always wanted to do this after college. Always balancing between school and hockey, I wanted to give my all to hockey at some point. It was a blast.”

Jane Havsy is a storyteller for the Daily Record and, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis, subscribe today.

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