Sledge hockey’s ‘big two’ turns into ‘big three’

The USA’s Declan Farmer believes Russia’s rise in ice sledge hockey is no longer a secret; the Russians are now serious contenders for the world title. 25 Apr 2015
Russian ice sledge hockey player Dmitry Lisov takes his silver medal in stride on the ice at the Sochi 2014 Paralympics.

Russian ice sledge hockey captain Dmitry Lisov celebrates his silver medal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

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By Stuart Lieberman | For the IPC

“It’s great to see that there are three teams near the top now.”

For the better part of the past two decades, two ice sledge hockey teams have reigned supreme.

Canada and the USA have been talked about as the sport’s two super powers, combining to win the last four world titles, and five of eight World Championships since the event began in 1996.

Norway (2004) and Sweden (1996) are the only other countries to have won a world title in the sport at the A-Pool or top level.

But heading into the start of the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool, the USA’s 17-year-old forward Declan Farmer insists the North American dominance in the sport could be challenged.

Russia, bronze medallists at the last World Championships and silver medallists at the Sochi 2014 Paralympics, are strong contenders for gold at the Championships, which will be hosted by the USA from 26 April-3 May in Buffalo, New York.

“It’s great to see that there are three teams near the top now,” Farmer said. “Russia plays a very different game with fast breaks and a very physical brand that goes all out, and Canada are a more conservative team in passing, their hockey sense and experience.”

Here is a closer look at the three teams:

1. Canada enter Buffalo 2015 as the defending world champions, having won gold at the last edition of the event in 2013 in Goyang, South Korea. Led by veteran forwards Greg Westlake and Brad Bowden, and defenceman Adam Dixon, the red and white have three world titles and one Paralympic title to their name and have always been in the medal mix. The question is, can the Canadians bounce back from bronze-medal finishes at Sochi 2014 and 2015 World Sledge Hockey Challenge to claim silver or gold in Buffalo?

2. The USA are looking to reclaim the world title they once held in 2009 and 2012, and should be favoured to make the gold-medal game on their home ice. As the sport’s reigning back-to-back Paralympic champions, the US are a powerhouse in the sport, and have been among the top tier of teams in the world since they formed a team. With young rising stars in Brody Roybal and Declan Farmer, and the veteran leadership of Josh Sweeney and Steve Cash, the USA will continue to be in it to win it.

3. Russia have been the sport’s most-improved team over the last decade, winning Paralympic silver at Sochi 2014 and bronze at the last World Championships after just starting their national programme in 2009. Sergey Samoylov proved their Sochi performance was no fluke, coaching his team to silver at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge earlier this year. If Dmitry Lisov shoots the puck well, the Russians might just be the dark horse to win it all.

In addition to the aforementioned three countries, there will be five other teams trying to make their way onto the podium in Buffalo, including the Czech Republic, Norway and Japan in Group A alongside Canada and Germany and Italy in Group B with Russia and the USA.

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