By Ross Forman – Team USA cruised past Canada on June 26 to capture the gold medal at the World Para Ice Hockey Championships, held in Ostrava, Czech Republic, marking the second consecutive and record-extending fifth overall world title.
The U.S. has now finished on the podium at the last nine World Championships dating back to 2004, and they will hold the No. 1 world ranking heading into the Beijing 2022 Winter Games as both the reigning Paralympic and world champions.
Team USA – 2021 World Para Ice Hockey Champion (Photo courtesy of USA Hockey)
But the road to this title was not easy.
In fact, the U.S. lost its first game of the eight-day event, as Canada stopped the Americans 2-1.
Revenge was sweet at the U.S. grabbed the gold with a 5-1 victory.
“It definitely was a team effort,” Kevin McKee said the gold medal. “Even during the pandemic, this team really stuck together, (at times) training on our own. For instance, 12 of us flew to Colorado twice (in preparation for the tournament) to train together and have fun.
“This gold medal really showed how hard this team has worked over the last year; we didn’t let the pandemic slow us down.”
Kevin McKee – Photos courtesy of USA Hockey
McKee, 31, who lives in Davenport, Iowa, after living in Chicago for 11 years, said the game one loss to Canada truly was “an eye-opener/shock,” he said. “It also was good for us, too. It made everyone lock down and focus.”
The Americans – with its “deepest team ever,” according to McKee – rebounded in game two on day two of the event to blank the host country, 4-0. On June 22, the U.S. silenced South Korea, 8-0.
“This definitely was the most dominant performance we’ve ever had in a gold medal game that I’ve been a part of,” said McKee, in his 12th year on the team.
Declan Farmer, from Tampa, Fla., was named the U.S. Player of the Game in the final.
Brody Roybal – now living in Smyrna, Tenn., though hailing from Northlake, Ill., and a 2016 graduate of West Leyden High School – was named the tournament MVP and the directorate award as Best Forward in the world championship.
“(Roybal) has been lights-out since joining the team. He just continues to get better and better.
He is a great player and a better person,” McKee said.
Josh Misiewicz – Photo courtesy of USA Hockey
Josh Misiewicz, 33, who grew up in LaGrange and has been living in Nashville since last September, made his return to the U.S. team after 3-plus years off the ice due to surgery and the pandemic.
“Losing that first game (to Canada) was kind of tough, (like) getting kicked in the teeth. But then we got into a groove,” he said. “There’s nothing like these national events; it’s a different level (of competition). The nerves are there; they are going.
“I’ve never seen our team clicking the way it did in that gold medal game; that was great to see, and we were dominant.”
Roybal, 23, said the championship was “such a cool experience.”
A learning experience, too.
“Our coach told us at the beginning of the tournament that he wanted us to get better every single time we got on the ice … and I think we did that,” said Roybal, who led the Americans with 7 goals and 4 assists in the tournament. “The last game, we were absolutely dominant.”
Brody Roybal – Photos courtesy of USA Hockey
Roybal said winning the MVP award “was pretty cool.”
“I’ll never forget that gold medal game. We’ve never played a game like that, as dominant as we were,” Roybal said, remembering that Canada had only 1 shot on goal all game. “Playing almost an entire game in our offensive zone was unlike any hockey game I’ve ever played in, and to do it against Canada was such a big moment for us.”
“This gold medal in the World Championships is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication by the players and the staff, USA Hockey, and the family, friends and fans,” said J.J. O’Connor USA Hockey Director Emeritus, who lives in Mount Prospect. “To return from a global pandemic is certainly difficult and the team got better and better with each game. Hopefully, this momentum will carry right through to next year’s Paralympics in Beijing.”