The U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team, bolstered by four local players, has swept through the preliminary round into the semifinals, without ever having to fish a puck out of its net.
The team won all three games by shutouts, setting up its semifinal date against Norway at 7 o'clock tonight (10 p.m. Buffalo time) in Vancouver, British Columbia. In the other semifinal, Canada plays Japan at noon today (Vancouver time).
Both the United States and Canada finished 3-0 in the preliminary round, leading to mounting speculation that the two nations might face each other in the third such final in Vancouver this year. Both the men's and women's gold medal games in stand-up hockey featured the same two countries.
"The matchup is looming," said Norm Page of Lancaster, the national sled hockey representative for USA Hockey. "The feeling is that we may see the third match between the U.S. and Canada this year."
The U.S. sled hockey team's three victories were 5-0 against South Korea, 3-0 over the Czech Republic and 6-0 over Japan.
Alexi Salamone, of Grand Island, has had three goals and two assists in the first three games, while Adam Page of Lancaster, Norm's son, notched the first goal in Tuesday's victory over Japan.
Also playing for the United States are Brad Emmerson of Amherst and Mike Blabac of Buffalo, the backup goalie who played the third period of the Japan game.
The Buffalo-area group has relayed glowing reports about the whole Paralympic experience. "I am amazed how this city and this country have embraced these athletes," Norm Page said. "I never thought it was going to be like this.
". . . The only way I can describe [the Games' opening ceremony] is overwhelming. To see 60,000 people and have our athletes walk in, and there wasn't an empty seat in the house."
Page, with his wife, Sandy, is attending the games both as a USA Hockey representative and as the father of 18-year-old Adam, who is a senior at St. Mary's High School in Lancaster.
"The thrill of seeing your kid play in that atmosphere and realizing that he has accomplished his dream, it sends chills down our spine," he said.
The gold medal game will air on CTV at noon Saturday (3 p.m. Buffalo time). The U.S. semifinal may be available at www.paralympicsport.tv.