Anatomy Of A Golden Moment

By: 
Pat Durant

 

Just keep pushing. That was the message echoed over and over from the U.S. bench. 

With Canada holding onto an early 1-0 lead and keeping the high-powered U.S. offense off the short chart in the first period, it was not time to push the panic button. Just keep pushing, as the two-time champions had done throughout the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games and good things would eventually come.

Despite peppering Canadian goaltender Dominic Larocque with eight shots in the second frame, the Americans couldn't draw even. Still, there was plenty of hockey left to be played.

The United States continued to push for the equalizer in the final stanza, with its best chance coming with just over seven minutes left. A loose puck squirted out of a net-front scramble to Declan Farmer, one of the deadliest shooters in the U.S. offensive arsenal, who just missed corralling the puck and putting a grade-A chance on goal. It was a puck he controls nine times out of 10, and a shot he finishes nine times out of 10. However, when the puck just missed Farmer's stick and Canada managed to clear the zone. 

And still Team USA's resolve never waivered. Just keep pushing. 

With the clock ticking down to 1:20 remaining and Canada still holding a slim lead, head coach Guy Gosselin pulled goaltender Steve Cash for the extra attacker in a final push to keep the gold streak alive. 

Team USA pulls its goalie with 80 seconds left in regulation. Will it pay off? Trying to win a third straight Paralympic gold medal, or can Canada spoil the party?

"It isn't very often that we're in a position to pull our goaltender," said Dan Brennan, the team's general manager. "Even though our backs were against the wall, we were confident we were going to find a way to get this game tied just based on how hard we were playing."

The hope of a third straight golden moment flashed before Team USA's eyes when Canada forward Rob Armstrong streaked into the U.S. zone and ripped a shot that rang off the post of the Cash-less USA goal. It was a scene that brought back memories of the classic women's gold-medal tilt in Sochi when Kelli Stack's long-range shot on an empty-net hit the post to keep Canada's golden hopes alive. 

Great chance here, Armstrong racing down, he'll shoot, and hits the post! The U.S. is still alive. McGregor plays it back, Canada has some players stuck in the defensive end, can the U.S. capitalize?

Josh Misiewicz picked up the loose puck and quickly moved it up to Jack Wallace, who got hit in the neutral zone as the puck came free again. Team captain Josh Pauls managed to gain possession at the Canadian blue line and slid the puck to a streaking Brody Roybal whose centering pass ricocheted to Farmer who made no mistake. In total, all six U.S. players touched the puck during that frantic 23-second rush up the ice. 

When Pauls saw Farmer with the game on his stick for the second time in seven minutes, he knew he wouldn't miss. 

"We were making hard plays and I was behind the net when Farmer came around the corner with the goalie down," he said. "I said to myself 'Yep here we go, this is Declan Farmer time' and I knew we were about to tie the game."

The captain was right. 

Roybal in front, it's loose, McKee, Farmer, scores! Team USA ties it in the final minute! Canada, pressing on the empty netter, gets burned and the U.S. gets the game tied. Declan Farmer with the great shot, just waits for Larocque to commit down low and roofs it over top of him top shelf. Declan Farmer had that puck roll off his stick earlier, an opportunity to get the game-tying goal then. Now he does it with about 38 seconds left in regulation.  

"They don't call Declan Farmer the best player in the world for nothing," said Roybal, who was named tournament MVP after netting 10 goals and adding seven assists. "Coming up big in clutch moments is what we expect out of Declan. He's a boss out there on the ice and we're lucky to have him wearing the red, white and blue." 

As Farmer admitted afterward, nervousness turned into confidence once the score was level with Team USA making an effort to calm its emotions heading into overtime.

"After tying it up we were just trying to settle it down for the final seconds," the 20-year-old Tampa, Fla., native said. "We got back to the locker room and calmed down a bit during the intermission. We knew we were going to win in overtime."

The U.S. coaching staff took a gamble by sticking with the hot hands for the duration of overtime, and Farmer cashed in 3:30 into the extra frame after an initial shot by Pauls was turned aside.

"Pauls, roaming in, the team captain for team USA, has his shot blocked away by Hickey. You can see just how patient he [Farmer] is with the puck, Farmer in front, shoots and scores!" 

"I was at the end of a long shift and was able to put the puck in the net to cap off a great team win," Farmer said. "The only confusing part was I initially started celebrating with Jack [Wallace] but  we had decided during the intermission that if we won we were going to start the dogpile with Cash. So we skated as hard as we could to join the pile at the other end of the ice and it was a moment you always dream of." 

Somewhere in the midst of the pile of tangled limbs and sleds, Cash had a special message for his teammate. 

"Declan Farmer, man, I told him after the game he was my hero," said Cash, now a three-time Paralympic gold medalist along with Pauls. "He proved that he can shine in those big moments. He's a talent that I hope stays with our group for a long time."  

Team USA gets it done, the three-peat is complete! Paralympic gold again! Great teams find ways to win, and great players find ways to impact the game. Declan Farmer is a great player, and this turned how to be a great team win.

Gosselin echoed the praise for Farmer's heroics, while not discounting the efforts up and down the roster for finding a way to overcome adversity and earn the victory. 

"Our team was resilient and kept pushing and pushing until the final minute," said Gosselin, who also helped Team USA win gold at the 2014 Paralympics as an assistant coach to the late Jeff Sauer. "The guys left it all on the ice and I couldn't be prouder of this group for coming together to win gold." 

The United states searching desperately for a goal, finding one in the final minute of regulation and then finding on in overtime to win the sled hockey title at the Paralympics for a fourth time, and the third time in a row."

Team USA kept pushing, and earned the right to pull a third consecutive Paralympic gold medal around its necks. 

"We came into this as brothers," Farmer said. "It's just a huge honor to help this group win gold and represent my country, my family and community on the Paralympic stage. We're just so happy to make all those people proud, including Coach Sauer."

Issue: 
2018-04

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