10 storylines for Russia-USA gold-medal game

The host nation will take on the reigning gold medallists in their Paralympic debut in ice sledge hockey. 15 Mar 2014
Brody Roybal and Alexey Amosov

The USA's Brody Roybal is tackled by Russia's Alexey Amosov during the two teams' preliminary round game on Day 4 of Sochi 2014. Russia won the game, 2-1.

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Russia have become one of the best teams in the world, winning a bronze medal at last year’s IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool in Goyang, South Korea.

1. Russia’s ice sledge hockey team are playing in the final in their Paralympic debut in the sport. Starting up their programme just five years ago, Russia have become one of the best teams in the world, winning a bronze medal at last year’s IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool in Goyang, South Korea. Team captain Vadim Selyukin, who lost both of his legs while serving in the military in Chechnya, built the team from scratch. He launched a sports club for people with an impairment, and from there an international programme grew.

2. The game will be broadcast live on NBC’s main channel, making it the first time ever a Paralympic sport event has been aired live on NBC in America. This means the sport has the potential to reach millions of new viewers.

3. American goaltender Steve Cash has nearly been a brick wall at the last two Paralympics. Until Russia defeated the USA 2-1 in the preliminary round earlier this week, Cash had gone 313 minutes of Paralympic play without allowing a single goal. That is why they nickname him “Money.”

4. After both Russia and USA failed to medal in the men’s ice hockey competition at the Olympics, both countries’ fans are hungry to earn the top spot on the podium in ice sledge hockey.

5. Dmitry Lisov was named Russia’s new team captain just prior to Sochi 2014 and has been one of the top forwards on the ice over the last year. If he is on his game in the final, Russia will be going places. At Sochi 2014, he leads his team with 10 shots on goal, and he has scored once and assisted on another score. At the 2013 World Championships, he recorded four goals and an assist.

6. Four members of the USA team heading to Sochi 2014 have military ties – Josh Sweeney (US Marine Corps), Paul Schaus (US Marine Corps), Rico Roman (US Army), and Jen Lee (US Army) – and all of their stories are worth telling.

7. Two American youngsters – 15-year-old Brody Roybal and 16-year-old Declan Farmer – have unexpectedly played out of their minds thus far in Sochi on the USA’s first line. They have played more than 67 and 71 minutes on the ice, respectively, with Farmer tied with Nikko Landeros to lead the team with five points (three goals, two assists).

8. Vladimir Kamantcev has been one of the biggest surprises of the Sochi 2014 ice sledge hockey competition so far, playing 135 minutes in the net for Russia and recording a save percentage of 97.37. He has racked up 37 saves, allowing the puck pasts the posts just once, and Russia have won all three games he has played in.

9. At the Lake Placid 1980 Winter Olympics, the Americans shocked the world by upsetting a Soviet team to move on to the gold-medal game, where they would defeat Finland. Known as the “Miracle on Ice,” this rivalry has quickly transferred over to ice sledge hockey in the lead-up to Sochi 2014 Paralympics.

10. Do not forget about the USA’s power forward, Josh Pauls, and his superstitions. He has five good-luck charms during major tournaments, with his most famous being facing his Mr. Potatohead figure toward his opponents’ locker room.