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CINCINNATI – Some Cincinnati Cyclones got more fun and spills than they bargained for when they took on a team of young sled hockey players this week.
The Cincinnati IceBreakers program offers adaptive ice hockey – also known as sled hockey - to youth and adults who are unable to skate in a standing position due to a physical disability.
For all of their hockey skills, the Cyclones had trouble keeping their balance in the sleds and repeatedly fell on the ice.
"They get knocked over easily," said IceBreaker Rachel Steffen, a member of the all-girl “Ponytail Line.” The girls picked the name because of their long ponytails.
"Literally when she's in the sled, you don't even see her number. That's how long her ponytail is!"
Cyclones defenseman Anthony Florentino lasted about 20 seconds on his sled before he fell. The Cyclones were good sports throughout.
“It’s a lot more physical than I thought,” Florentino said. “You think you have time, and then you have a ponytail slapping you in the face.”
The Ponytail Line sticks together on and off the ice, the girls said. There's plenty of laughter and silliness off the ice, but on the ice they’re all business.
"I feel like everybody knows the struggles here," said Makayla Meece. "I just feel like it's very hard for people to understand, but here they understand me 100 percent."
The Cyclones scored the only goal, but it’s not all about winning for the IceBreakers. It’s about playing hockey, having fun and meeting their challenges.
The IceBreakers, formed in 2008 under Ohio Sled Hockey, practice once a week at Sports Plus from October through March, according to their website. Players pay a nominal fee and are loaned a sled, hockey sticks and protective gear. They participate in scrimmages, games and tournaments supervised by volunteers with hockey experience.
Most sled players are able to propel their manual wheelchair and sit upright with minimal to no external support, according to the IceBreakers website. If a player is unable to propel the sled, a pusher bar is placed on the back and an able-bodied skater pushes that player.