Grand Rapids, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Sled Wings junior team captured its first youth sled hockey Division A National Championship on Sunday, taking a 4-2 win over the two-time defending champion Bennett Blazers at the 11th annual USA Disabled Hockey Festival in suburban Buffalo, N.Y.
The Sled Wings, comprised of West Michigan athletes with physical disabilities who range in age from 11 to 17, are sponsored by the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports in partnership with the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation.
Sweeping through the three-day Division A tournament, the Sled Wings compiled a 4-0 record while outscoring their opposition by a 27-8 count. With an average age of 13 in an 18-and-younger tournament, the Sled Wings were led by 12-year-old goalie Taggart VanderMolen and 16-year-old defenseman Tanner Gentry, whose 14 goals and 16 points paced all players. The weekend appearance marked the third consecutive time the team participated in a Division A title game.
The Sled Wings junior team also won the Division B national championship in 2012. They became the first junior-level sled hockey team in Michigan upon their founding in 2001, and they have gained a national reputation by winning prestigious tournaments and developing high-caliber players for U.S. National teams.
To honor this accomplishment, the Sled Wings will be recognized during the second period of Friday’s (April 17, 2015) American Hockey League game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Charlotte Checkers at Van Andel Arena. Game time is 7 p.m.
Sled hockey rules are virtually identical to traditional hockey, except participants sit on bladed sleds. Players use shortened hockey sticks with a blade on one end and a pick (similar to a toe-pick on a figure skate) on the other, which enables them to propel across the ice. As in traditional hockey, checking, penalties and hard slap shots are all abundant in sled hockey.
Sled hockey originated in Sweden in 1940 and was introduced in the United States in 1989, with the first team based in Minnesota. The sport made its Paralympic debut in 1994.
2015 Grand Rapids Jr. Sled Wings roster:
|# Player City Position Age|
|4 Braxton Kalkman Holland F 11|
|6 Shaun Doss Hudsonville F 11|
|8 Scott Stever Grand Rapids F 16|
|9 Taggart VanderMolen Fruitport G 12|
|12 Joshua Stapel Grand Rapids F 13|
|15 Jake Nelson Holland D 12|
|20 Christian Teachworth Lowell F 13|
|27 William Oberg Sparta F 11|
|29 Jarrett Reynolds-Meyers Stanton F 11|
|32 Philipe Hernandez Muskegon F 10|
|33 Caleb Janssen Mattawan D 17|
|36 Tanner Gentry Muskegon D 16|
|57 CJ Blackwell Kentwood F 14|
Head Coach: Steve Kozlowski
Assistant Coach: Tyler Anderson