The USA Men's and Women's Ball hockey teams competed in the World Ball Hockey Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia in late June. The men's team finished fourth out of 18 teams, while the women finished fourth out of nine teams.
The men, with 13 players from Massachusetts (most from the Leominster/Fitchburg area), suffered a heartbreaking, 6-5 loss to Canada in the semifinals in what was perhaps the best game of the tournament.
Denny Schlegal of Buffalo led the U.S. with a pair of goals, while Doug Croteau of Leominster, Cody Warila of Shirley and Steve Zimmerman of New Jersey scored the other goals. Leominster's Bobby Housser and Steve Kendall also had assists.
The USA was unable to bounce back from that loss, dropping the bronze medal game to Slovakia. Schlegal, who led the tournament in scoring, had a goal, as did Leominster's Andrew Hildreth.
"We just did not have enough left after that great Canada game," Kendall, the team’s captain, said. "It was an emotional game that was played late on Saturday, and we had to face an excellent Slovakia team in front of 4,000 fans just a few hours later. We ran out of gas."
Housser was named the tournament's most outstanding forward. Other local players included defensemen Dan Richard (Leominster) and Mike Colcord (Gardner) and forwards Tim Richard and Tyson Lajoie (Leominster), Matt Levesque (Shirley), and Antonio Fortunato (Fitchburg). GM and Head Coach Chris Housser and Assistant Coach Tom Perla of Leominster staffed the team
Other members of the U.S. team included Billy Sullivan, Brandon Gazzo, Rick Zimmick, Joe Hadley, Steve Gregory, and Chris Liebers (Pittsburgh), Bill Allen (Buffalo), Jason Rocha (Fall River), and Steve Zimmerman (Bellmawr, NJ).
The Czech Republic won the gold with a 3-1 win over Canada.
The USA women dropped a 5-0 decision to Canada in the semifinals before falling, 3-2, to the Czech Republic in the third-place game. Sara Wilson and Fitchburg's Katie Newton scored for the U.S.
On the Womens Team Leominster's Callie Housser was named the tourney's most outstanding forward.