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Teenage duo of Farmer and Roybal lead USA with their hockey sense

All Declan Farmer was trying to do was clear the puck toward the end of a penalty kill. But his shot from center ice ended up in the back of the net.

“I kinda got a little lucky there,” Farmer said of his goal Monday night. His shorthanded tally opened the scoring for Team USA in its 7-0 win over Germany in the preliminary round.

Still, it was a pretty fun goal. And the Americans have been enjoying some fun on offense in their first two wins at the IPC Sledge Hockey World Championships at HarborCenter this week.

The United States has 13 goals in its first two games with their final preliminary round contest set for 2 p.m. Wednesday against Italy. Farmer has two goals and one assist. So, too does linemate Brody Roybal.

Together, Farmer and Roybal are a dynamic teenage duo for Team USA. Farmer was the youngest member of the national team at age 17 until Roybal, age 16, came on board.

“Brody and Declan are like this,” coach Jeff Sauer said holding up two crossed fingers. “And they press each other. If you watch the drills, whenever there’s a one-on-one situation they go head-to-head with each other and it makes each one of them better.”

What’s most impressive to Sauer, who was one of the winningest coaches in college hockey with Wisconsin before retiring and joining USA Hockey, is the way Farmer and Roybal think the game.

Many players come to sled hockey after injury or illness takes away their ability to use both legs. Many had played hockey before becoming disabled. Both Farmer and Roybal were born with congenital conditions. They came to sled hockey without prior hockey experience. But they may be the best hockey minds on the team.

“The biggest thing about those two guys, they’re two of the youngest sled hockey players in the world at this level. They’re two of the smartest and if I had to pick the top four forwards in the world, those two are both picked,” Sauer said. “It’s really interesting because neither one of them had played hockey before. They both have been disabled since birth so it’s a different ball of wax. They never had an opportunity to be an athlete before their disabilities and that’s unusual in this sport in relation to how they develop mentally, not so much physically but mentally.

“They both pick things up really quickly and they understand the game. They’re really students of the game and they just have a lot of fun not only challenging each other but challenging the other players on the team as well. It makes the whole team better. Really the older guys look up to those two because they’re so talented.”

About that chemistry: Farmer lives in Florida and whenever he can he travels to Chicago to skate with Roybal and their other linemate, Kevin McKee. The chemistry of their line is impressive and the chemistry of the entire team has elevated the program.

“I think it’s the most important thing,” Farmer said. “Even if you’re far less talented than another team, if you have better chemistry you’re a better team.”

Working both hands: Since he started playing sled hockey at age 12, Farmer knew the importance of becoming strong with both hands. Since sled hockey players use two sticks, they work to shoot both ways and Farmer has a hard shot. Naturally righthanded, he has improved the quality of his lefthanded shot and it’s noticeable.

“Still, I favor my right hand a little bit, especially with puck handling but I’m trying to get those even,” Farmer said. “It’s like everything else with your game, the more you practice and the longer you play, the better my left hand gets.”

Goal scoring: The United States didn't score in the third period against Germany and that was a bit by design. Sauer wanted his team to score goals this tournament, no doubt about it. But he also wants to see the sport grow.

Monday's "game we held back," Sauer said. "We’re trying to build the sport across the world. It doesn’t do any good to score a lot of goals. We want to make sure people understand some of these countries are just developing countires when it comes to sled hockey. But the bottom line is, yes, offensively it’s be fun."

Day off: The tournament had a day off Tuesday and the U.S. team got a tour of Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Tournament update: The preliminary rounds close out Wednesday. The top two teams in each group advance to Friday’s semifinals. The third and fourth place finishers in each group advance to the classification rounds. The two nations which finish in last place are relegated to the B Pool international play.

Group A
Canada 2-0 6 points
Norway 1-1 3 points
Czech Republic 1-1 3 points
Japan 0-2 0 points

Group B
USA 2-0 6 points
Russia 1-1 3 points
Italy 1-1 3 points
Germany 0-2 0 points





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