Declan Farmer picked the right time to score the two biggest goals of his career, sending the 2018 Paralympic gold medal game to overtime in the dying seconds before netting the winner midway through the extra frame.
Declan Farmer entered the gold medal game at the 2018 Paralympics with the opportunity to match two records, one for individual goal-scoring at the Games and one for scoring by a member of Team USA. What he couldn’t have known, though, was that his path to matching both marks would come in such an incredibly memorable fashion.
As has been come to be expected of any on-ice meeting between Team USA and Canada, the two sides battled in an instant classic on the game’s greatest stage. With gold on the line, Canada struck first against the two-time defending champions when Billy Bridges had his shot elude U.S. keeper Steve Cash, but the single goal is all either netminder would allow through the first and second frames despite the two teams trading chances. The narrow margin set up a frantic finish, though, and set the stage for Farmer to make magic.
As Canada pressed for the insurance marker with the American net empty, Rob Armstrong found himself with a clear path to the net and the game on his stick. His shot at tying a bow on the Paralympic victory for Canada came up inches short, however, as his shot thudded off the post and allowed Team USA a break the other way. On the counter, tournament MVP Brody Roybal sent a pass to the front of the Canadian goal where a broken play resulted in the puck finding Farmer, and the 20-year-old made no mistake in beating Canada’s Dominic Larocque over the shoulder with 37 seconds remaining in regulation to knot the game at one apiece.
“If it goes in, the game is pretty much over, the game is 2-0,” said Canadian coach Ken Babey post-game, according to paralympic.org. “They came back down the other way (and scored) and it was just a hockey play that happened. It was nobody’s fault.”
But Farmer wasn’t about to stop at the game-tying goal. In the extra frame, the American sniper put his name in the history books and became a Paralympic hero. Little more than eight minutes into the extra frame, Farmer cut into the middle off the ice off the left wing and faked a shot in order to get one Canadian defender to commit before he fired a perfectly placed wrister right over the blocker of Larocque. After the golden goal — his 11th of the competition and a tally that also saw him match tournament and Team USA records — Farmer was mobbed by his teammates as Team USA celebrated its third straight Paralympic gold.
“It was crazy. There are a lot of emotions now,” said Farmer post-game, according to Paralympic.org. “It was so close. (Canada) had so many chances this game but Steve (Cash) held us in there.”
No doubt, USA and Canada penned a new chapter in the storied rivalry with the thrilling contest. However, the 2018 Paralympic story reads eerily similar to a previous tale written by the two powerhouse hockey nations, although the roles were reversed this time around.
In the women’s hockey final of the 2014 Olympics, the Americans appeared to have the gold medal in their grasps as Canada pulled netminder Shannon Szabados for the extra attacker, but USA’s Kelli Stack hit the post as she attempted to ice the game by sailing the puck towards the open net from inside her own blueline. Moments later — roughly 30 seconds, to be exact — Marie-Philip Poulin scored the game-tying goal and sent the contest to overtime. In overtime, Poulin struck again, winning gold for Canada with a tally 8:10 into the extra frame. For ease of comparison, Canada’s Armstrong hit the post with one minute remaining, Farmer scored 22 seconds later and then proceeded to fire home the golden goal 8:30 into overtime.
Beyond the stunning victory, though, the gold at the 2018 Games carried slightly more significance for Team USA. In February 2017, sled hockey coach Jeff Sauer, who had led USA to gold at the 2010 and 2014 Paralympics, passed away at 73 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Longtime assistant coach Guy Gosselin, who headed the staff at the 2017 World Championship, took over behind the American bench after Sauer’s passing, but Farmer said Sauer was there with Team USA at the tournament.
“I love all the guys on the team and they played so well,” Farmer said, according to paralympic.org. “Coach Sauer is watching over us and we love him and we appreciate everything he had done for us.”
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.