March 15, 2014 (ISN) – Josh Sweeney’s second period goal was the difference maker on Saturday (15 March), as the USA repeated as Paralympic champions in ice sledge hockey after a 1-0 gold medal victory over Russia at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
With the win, the USA become the first-ever nation to win back-to-back Paralympic gold medals.
“We have worked hard all year and this is a great group of guys. We’re pretty excited and so we should be,” USA captain Andy Yohe said.
After a fast-paced first period that saw lots of great chances at both ends of the ice, the teams were scoreless after 15 minutes.
The fast-paced game would continue in the second period with the USA dominating the flow of play. Finally, almost 10 minutes into the period, Sweeney, playing in his first Paralympic Winter Games, would steal the puck from Russia’s Aleksei Lysov at the hashmarks and beat goaltender Vladimir Kamantcev.
That would be all the offence the USA needed to repeat their success from Vancouver 2010 and win their third gold medal in four Games.
With one goal, Sweeney turned from a war hero to a Paralympic hero. In 2009, Sweeny stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan as a member of the US Marine Corps, losing both of his legs.
In 2014, he led a Paralympic gold-medal winning team as an assistant captain.
“I saw the defender, and he had the puck and I just went after him and I got the puck from him and took it down and did a little fake because that’s what you want to do when you’re going up against a goalie that good and just put it in the net,” Sweeney said of his goal.
“It wasn’t anything that any of my other teammates couldn’t have done, I just did it.”
For Russia, the loss came after a rise in the sport over the last five years when the team first began training for their Paralympic debut. Since then, they have become the second best team in the world.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” Kamantcev said. “We played well. It’s a dignified finish for Russia and for ourselves. We showed a good game, a battle, intellect, will and character.”
USA goaltender Steve Cash was brilliant when needed once again in net for his team, making six saves for the shutout, his second straight and third in the tournament.
Cash finished Sochi 2014 as the top goaltender, with a 4-1 record 0.41 goals against average and 95.56 save percentage.
His counterpart in the game, Kamantcev finished the tournament as Russia’s No. 1 goaltender and was a standout performer in net. In the gold medal game he made three saves on four shots but finished the tournament behind Cash with a 95.24 save percentage.