Czech Mate...Team USA Captures Gold
Sorry for the delay here but a looong travel day yesterday without wifi made things impossible for me to put this all together. Plus I needed a day to just breathe after ten long days full of so many mixed emotions. As the roller hockey world already knows, we have slayed the Czech dragon and Team USA once again sits on top as the greatest inline hockey team in the World (where we belong). For those that do not recognize the dominance of the Czechs I have added a pic of the last bunch of years results at world championships. The Czechs has won 5 of the last 8 gold medals, pretty impressive. Back in 2017 when we won, that was at the IIHF world championship which is not only different (run through the ice hockey federations) but as of now defunct.
Saturday night was wild in Barcelona. The rink was jammed packed, so much so that initially security wouldn’t allow our team in the building to watch the women’s final. Eventually we had to be snuck in through the basement door and up some back alley stair case, something out of Goodfellas for sure. Once we got in, we got to root on our ladies team and watch them defeat the Czech women’s team for the first of two golds given out that night. It was an impressive 3rd consecutive gold medal finish for our women and I can promise you no one dropped a flag or stood on one!
Our boys were so pumped in the locker room before the game. I don’t think I have ever seen a team so focused and excited at the same time. I reminded them of the comment I made to them nine days earlier when we had our first team meeting. “Only 14 players in the entire country were chosen to represent the United States on this team and it is all of you. I hope you recognize how incredible that is. Let’s make everyone back home proud”. This definitely hit them where it needed to. Assistant coach Greg Thompson who was a former captain of this team reminded some of the older guys that you never know when you might get to do this again. I thought that hit home big time too.
The place was jumping and there was a ton of energy in the building during warmups. There were three kinds of fans there. The Czech group which was large and loud. The USA contingent which consisted of our women's team, the amazing families that took the trip out to root us on and some teams that just love the way we play. And thirdly a ton of countries there to just watch the great action and not care who won. Either way it was really really LOUD and I know it got me more pumped up to win. The puck would drop and we would dominate and control the game early. But once again the Czech goalie was amazing, he truly is one of the best goalies I have ever seen play the game. Chance after chance would be turned away and the half would end 0-0 with us owning the puck for roughly 80% of the time.
Early in the second half we would finally get on the board. True story here, I looked down at the bench and yelled to #55 PJ Dimartino "PJ score a damn goal this shift!", and being the incredible player he is, he did just that. With an amazing solo effort he would beat two defenders and bury our first goal. He would later tell me that yelling that at him "got me so pumped up!". Later in the half, our other PJ would make two incredible plays that I will never forget. The first, which was no surprise to anyone that knows him, he would make an incredible poke check and break up an easy 2 on 1. But later, he would score possibly the biggest goal of his career, a one-timer off a great feed from billy Pascalli. That second goal was HUGE for us and gave us a little breathing room.
The Czechs however would not give up and played pretty great in the second as well. Even though we controlled the puck for much of the game, every chance they had would be a glorious one. Thankfully, Mike Maczynski (Chinny) was on top of his game and turned away each and every chance they had. In the end, Pascalli would shoot one down into an empty net and seal the 3-0 victory. The celebration after was just too amazing to put into words. You can see a great shot of coach Thompson leap frogging the pile, I didn't know he could jump like that!
It was great to see all of the smiles after the game and having a gold medal placed around your neck at any level is always amazing. Then being able to share the win with our women team was pretty special as well, as they are a terrific group. Coach Dave and Chalie did an amazing jon with them as well.
I would like to thank all of our equipment sponsors for this trip : Mission Hockey, Bauer Hockey, Labeda Hockey, Alkali Hockey and Monkey Sports. Then a HUGE thank you to some major financial donors that we had : CarShield, Messina Associates, RHA, the Lizards Kings Organization, Shaun McGrath, and Tammy O'Rourke. Then also to some amazing rinks and organizations that also made donations to the team : Farm Tough Hockey, Corona Inline, NERC, The Sportsplex, Dumars Fieldhouse, and the FCRHL league out of Virginia. Thank you to Killian from Slide Sports for all of your help and direction and to the 'Hockey Line Tucans' practice facility and staff. I also want to thank the hundreds of supports all over the country that purchased our Team USA fundraiser t-shirts, every cent raised helped so much. Much love also to all of our families of the coaches and players who sacrifice a lot during these long trips. Thank you to Greg Thompson, Dave Reskey, and Chalie Sgrillo for making things run so smooth behind the scenes, it was a huge part of this win. And my final thank you goes to #4, #9, #13, #14, #16, #17, #30, #37, #44, #55, #57, #79, #93, and #97...I may have referred to you as "Ice, Snipes and Hollywood" during the trip but in the end I call you all world class champions!
To re watch the championship game or any of the games, please go to http://rollergames.tv/channel/?channelId=265-inline-hockey.html