U.S. Sled Hockey Cruises To Fourth Consecutive Gold-Medal Game With Win Over China
by Stuart Lieberman
Declan Farmer celebrates a goal scored by Joshua Misiewicz during the sled hockey semi finals match between Team USA and China during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 11, 2022 in Beijing.
BEIJING – Six days after breaking the record for most points by a U.S. skater in the Paralympic Winter Games, Declan Farmer became the all-time U.S. assists leader at the Paralympics on Friday.
Six-point performances by both 24-year-old Farmer and 23-year-old Brody Roybal vaulted the U.S. sled hockey team to an 11-0 victory over host nation China in the semifinals of the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, securing the squad a spot in its fourth consecutive Paralympic final. Team USA and Canada will meet Sunday in a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal game, which the U.S. won in overtime.
Farmer finished the game with two goals and four assists in the semifinal win, while Roybal tallied four goals and two assists.
“To date this was our best game in the tournament, but I think our best is still yet to come,” said Roybal, already a two-time Paralympic champ for Team USA. “It was really cool to play China in Beijing and have all those fans out there cheering. That was a really special opportunity for us.”
In its first-ever meeting with China in sled hockey, Team USA’s 11 goals on the night tied the record for the most ever by a team in a Paralympic sled hockey semifinal.
The U.S. struck first 5:23 into the game at the National Indoor Stadium as Roybal led an American charge into the crease, swatting the puck into the net off a helper from Farmer. Just 32 seconds later, Roybal found the net once again, again assisted by Farmer, to double Team USA’s lead. With the helper, Farmer surpassed Joe Howard’s U.S. Paralympic assists record (15).
Later in the period, Roybal’s fellow Chicagoan, former U.S. Marine Josh Misiewicz, added his third goal in Beijing, and then Roybal hit a rocket himself to the top shelf to wrap up his first-period hat trick. Farmer recorded assists on both scores.
Farmer, like Roybal, made his Paralympic debut as a teenager in 2014, and the two have developed into a dynamic offensive duo over the years.
“Brody and I have been really close for 10-plus years now, even before we made the national team,” said Farmer, a native of Tampa, Florida, “so we’ve built that chemistry over time and know where each other are on the ice.”
Josh Pauls is challenged by Zhidong Wang of Team China during the sled hockey semi finals match between Team USA and China during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 11, 2022 in Beijing.
The Americans poured it on in the second stanza with five more scores. Misiewicz added one three minutes in, and Farmer padded the lead with another two minutes after that. Rookie Malik Jones then found the net for the fourth time in three games off a shovel pass from Jack Wallace before Farmer lit the lamp again for his second goal of the period. Nashville’s Joseph Woodke extended the U.S. lead to nine heading into the final break with his first international goal.
In the third period, Roybal wasted no time, tallying his fourth goal of the game 1:57 into the frame. U.S. captain and four-time Paralympian Josh Pauls added his second score of the tournament a minute later. Earlier in the tournament, Pauls surpassed Howard’s previous record of 16 Paralympic games appearances. The U.S. captain has now hit the ice in 18 Paralympic matchups, the most of any player in Team USA history.
Goaltender Jen Lee recorded his third win and second shutout in Beijing, recording 17 saves in the game.
The U.S. is now 4-1 all-time in Paralympic semifinals and is the lone remaining undefeated team in Beijing. In the preliminary round, it blanked Canada 5-0 and beat South Korea 9-1 to earn a bye and automatically advance to the semifinals. The Americans only faced two opponents in the preliminary round after RPC athletes were denied participation by the International Paralympic Committee.
“I think we played a great game today,” Roybal said, “but our best is going to be on Sunday.”
Team USA will now face its archrivals from Canada in the gold-medal contest for the second straight time. The game takes place at 11:05 p.m. EST Saturday and will be televised live on USA Network.
The Americans will play for a record-extending fourth consecutive and fifth overall Paralympic title.
“Ultimately our goal is to get better every time we’re on the ice, and I think we did succeed in that,” Pauls said. “For us, I think we’re really looking ahead to Canada. We’ll celebrate this victory tonight, but tomorrow it needs to be all hands on deck to move forward because winning the gold medal is what our ultimate goal is. Sunday’s going to be a heck of a battle.”
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Paralympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.
Stuart Lieberman has covered Paralympic sports for more than 10 years, including for the International Paralympic Committee at the London 2012, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.