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Hockey on sleds returns to center ice USA, Canada vie in Amherst event

This week, the Northtown Center in Amherst once again will be the capital of the sled hockey universe, as the top two teams in the world will face off in a trio of exhibition games.

It will be Team USA against Team Canada, competing as always for bragging rights in the rugged world of international sled hockey.

The games will be played at 6 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday, and there's something a little different now about the venue, the Northtown Center's Olympic Rink.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony before the first game will celebrate the structural modifications to that rink, making it fully sled-accessible. Plexiglas replaces part of the white dasher boards, and the bench area is flush with the ice, so players can remain in their sleds and skate off the rink onto their own patch of "bench" ice.

That means that more sled hockey games, championships and world-class tournaments could be coming here.

"We've got an incredible facility now," said Norm Page, the national sled hockey representative for USA Hockey. "We'll be able to accommodate international play right here in Buffalo."

That's all part of a larger goal.

"We hope that, at some point, this could be the home for the national sled hockey team," Page said.

As always, Team USA will have a decidedly Western New York flavor, with three local players on the team: Alexi Salamone, of Grand Island; Brad Emmerson, of Amherst; and Adam Page, of Lancaster.

Tickets are available at the door for each game, at $5 apiece.