Men's national sledge hockey goalies in Cape Breton to fine-tune skills

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SYDNEY  — Two members of Canada’s men's sledge hockey team are in Cape Breton this week as they prepare to battle for gold at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games.


Paralympic goaltenders Benoit St-Amand and Corbin Watson will be in Sydney until Saturday to practise with Cape Breton Screaming Eagles goaltending coach Scott Gouthro.

Gouthro was first introduced to the pair last February and subsequently helped the team capture gold at the 2013 IPC World Sledge Ice Hockey Championship in Goyang, South Korea.

“He’s challenging us all the time,” said St-Amand, a 10-year member of the national sledge team. “Every practice we're going to have is just going to get harder and harder.”

Having already won a gold medal at the 2006 Paralympics in Torino, Italy, the 35-year-old Montreal native said representing the country has its pressures.

“We can’t take a minute off before Sochi, so everything is about being ready,” he said. “We have to work extra, extra hard to be able to make that happen because nobody’s going to give us that gold medal.”

St-Amand said he began playing sledge hockey immediately after watching Canada compete at the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City.

"I found the passion of playing hockey again. I played hockey all my life before I lost my leg to cancer, and to be able to play hockey and eventually being able to make it to the national team, it's a dream come true for me."

As for Watson, he said representing his country on the world stage is one of the “best moments a person can ask for.”

A fourth-year national player, the 26-year-old from Kingsville, Ont., lost his leg six years ago in a car accident.

Prior to his sledge hockey career, Watson played hockey for 16 years.

“A lot of the upper body stuff is still the same as normal but the biggest thing to get used to is the change into the sled,” Watson said. “I know that's the hardest part, trying to figure out how to move in it, how to get position in it. But once you start getting used to it, it's just like regular hockey all over again, just sitting down a bit.”

As part of Wednesday's training session, Gouthro enlisted the help of some of his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League players to shoot pucks to help the goalies.

"These guys want to learn and want to get better," said Gouthro. "By the three of us working together with on-ice stuff and video, it's really neat how we can break down the game and see how we can make each guy better."

Gouthro said there has been a slight learning curve in polishing the sledge hockey goalies compared to ice hockey goalies.

"There is a difference," said Gouthro. "But the same concepts apply, in terms of good habits in your practices — rebound control, tracking pucks — all those details of goaltending are still the same principles in sledge hockey goaltending."

The Paralympic Winter Games will be held in Sochi, Russia, in March.

To view video CLICK HERE

 

Organizations: Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Geographic location: Cape Breton, Sochi, Sydney Goyang South Korea Torino Italy Montreal Canada Salt Lake City Kingsville Russia

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