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USA Hockey Paralympic team working hard, enjoying time in Mitchell

Jan. 19—MITCHELL — Throughout the week, the USA Hockey Paralympic team has taken in what the city of Mitchell has to offer.

They have also been hard at work on the ice as well.

For the past few days, the U.S. national sled hockey team has been calling the Mitchell Activities Center home, holding open practices both in the morning and evening to showcase the game of sled hockey. However, with the city and the state's recent run of winter weather, not every member of the team arrived at once.

"Because of the weather, we had team members stuck in Tennessee and in Buffalo," said Dave Tronnes, who helped organize the four-day event with USAH Disabled Section Director Dan Brennan. "So it was a bit of a nightmare getting them here, but we're glad they all made it out here."

Despite the cold, the team has showcased their athletic abilities during practices. Sled hockey is played 5-on-5 like regular ice hockey. It's the hope that others are able to see how dedicated the players are as well as the opportunity to celebrate their hard work over the years.

"They play fast and they play hard," head coach David Hoff said. "I'm fortunate to work with this outstanding team, and I hope that's what people are able to see with us. How hard we work, and the effort they all display."

The U.S. sled hockey team has also taken in numerous attractions around the city. For many of the players, it was their first time visiting Mitchell. Though surprised at the size of the city, everyone involved on the team has enjoyed their stay and the people they've met.

"There's a lot here," team captain Josh Pauls said. "It's been a fun experience. We've met some good people that are excited we're here, and we've enjoyed our time here as well."

During practices, the team has stopped to answer questions from kids in attendance, who are mainly hockey players themselves and have for them alongside the ice. The players have also given autographs to the kids, such as signing pucks and sticks.

Spending time talking about ice hockey as well as showcasing the sport has been the main goal of the U.S. sled hockey team throughout their visits to different cities. It also presents others with disabilities an option for them to get involved in competitive sports.

"I always look forward to growing the game," Hoff said. "This team has never dwelled on their own accomplishments. We always give our best effort as a collective unit, and the same goes for bringing people into the game. It's an opportunity we're always ready for."

Above all else, the team is looking forward to scrimmaging with the Siouxland Sled Hockey team, being able to share their own experiences of starting the sport, and helping it continue to grow.

"I'm looking forward to it," Pauls said of Saturday's scrimmage. "They're very excited about the opportunity to play with us, and we're looking forward to helping them out and talk hockey."

The USA Hockey Paralympic team will be practicing from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Mitchell Activities Center, and again from 4 p.m. until 5:15 p.m. Both practices are open to the public, along with an opportunity for members of the public to try out sled hockey from 1 to 2 p.m.

The U.S. sled hockey team will cap their time in Mitchell by holding a friendly scrimmage with the Siouxland Sled Hockey team beginning at 5 p.m.