Andersen strikes gold: BHS D-man helps USA win gold at World Deaf Championships
Nothing gets much bigger in hockey than USA vs. Canada with a gold medal on the line.
Bemidji’s Taylor Andersen found himself in the middle of that rivalry last Saturday, April 29, in the championship game of the World Deaf Ice Hockey Championships in Buffalo, N.Y.
Despite a 5-2 loss to Canada earlier in the tournament, a goal by the Lumberjacks defenseman helped lift the U.S. to its first gold medal in the WDIHC with a 6-3 victory over Canada.
“I couldn’t really believe it,” said Andersen, a Bemidji High School junior. “We lost to Canada in the first game we played against them so we were kind of the underdogs going into the gold medal game.”
Andersen was born hearing impaired and has worn hearing aids since he was about 2 years old. Though he wears hearing aids while skating for the Jacks, Andersen and other athletes at the WDIHC are not allowed to use such devices in games.
Bemidji’s blueliner tallied eight points in five tournament games, scoring three goals to go along with five assists. His second-period goal in the gold medal game gave Team USA a 3-1 lead.
“I could see it from my stick to the net,” Andersen said. “It was above the pad, below the blocker. Just right where I always try to shoot.”
The U.S. team was provided extra motivation by the death of former Wisconsin Badgers coach Jeff Sauer, who had long been involved with the deaf hockey program. He died from pancreatic cancer in February.
“It was really cool that we had the determination to follow through and do it for our coach who passed away,” Andersen said. “His wife was at the game and we kind of decided that we were going to do it for him.”
The stands inside the arena were packed for a border battle that was taking place a stone’s throw from Canada.
“We had really strong support from both countries,” Andersen said. “It was pretty full, I would say, looking up into the stands.”
As one of the youngest members of the team, Andersen said he learned about the physicality of playing against older players.
“Just because I’m a younger player, it taught me a lot about the physical aspect of the game,” he said.
Andersen “absolutely” would be interested in suiting up for Team USA if they came knocking again. The next such opportunity would be at the 2019 Winter Deaflympics in Torino, Italy.
“It was a great experience to represent the country and be challenged by not having to wear my hearing aids and play against other countries,” Andersen said. “It was a really fun and engaging experience.”