The U.S. women's Olympic hockey team is leaning on 13 newcomers as the Americans head to the Pyeongchang Games trying to end a 20-year gold medal drought.
USA Hockey announced the 23-woman roster Monday during the second intermission of the Winter Classic in New York. Captain Meghan Duggan is one of six two-time silver medalists, and there are four other returning players from 2014.
The roster includes seven Minnesotans, three Wisconsinites and two North Dakotans.
"Things look really good for our team," U.S. coach and Minnesotan Robb Stauber said. "We caution our players day in and day out it's one game at a time. You don't go to the Olympics and just get to go to the gold medal game. That would be a mistake on our part. We focus day in and day out as a group that's going to use each day to get better. When we get to the Olympics, we're going to take it one game at a time."
Forward Alex Carpenter and defenseman Megan Bozek also won silver in 2014, but they did not make the cut from the national team that had been training since September in Florida. Forward Haley Skarupa and defenseman Sidney Morin (Minnetonka, Minn.) are on the roster after they were called up to the national team just after Thanksgiving. Morin was playing with MODO Hockey in the Swedish Women's Hockey League before joining the American squad.
Stauber said it's never easy to let veterans go, especially with Carpenter and Bozek. Carpenter is a former Patty Kazmaier award winner.
"At the end of the day we have to go to South Korea with what we feel most comfortable with. And that's a very difficult decision," Stauber said.
"On our end we just have to focus and make sure we get the best team there. Like I said, take it day by day."
Each of Team USA's three goaltenders — Alex Rigsby (Delafield, Wis.), Maddie Rooney (Andover, Minn.) and Nicole Hensley — will be making their Olympic debut.
Joining Duggan on a third Olympic roster are Kacey Bellamy, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson (Grand Forks, N.D.), Monique Lamoureux-Morando (Grand Forks, N.D.) and Gigi Marvin (Warroad, Minn.). Kendall Coyne, Lee Stecklein (Roseville, Minn.), Brianna Decker (Dousman, Wis.) and Amanda Kessel (Madison, Wis.) made their second Olympic team.
Three other Minnesotans on the team are making their Olympic debut: Kelly Panek (Plymouth, Minn.), Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights, Minn.) and Dani Cameranesi (Plymouth, Minn.).
The Americans lost the gold medal game in Sochi to Canada in overtime.
"Obviously after that we had to figure out what we're made of, what we wanted to accomplish over these last couple of years and really put ourselves in a position to achieve the goal we want to achieve as a program and as a team and as a country going into the next Olympics," Duggan said. "We're excited. We have the right group. We've been training really hard and looking forward to getting over there."
The U.S. women open Olympic play Feb. 11 against Finland. First, the Americans will play another five or six games tuning up for Pyeongchang. Stauber said they plan to work on some schemes that they haven't shown yet. Speed and skill is the focus for Stauber and the U.S. team, which is why speedy defenseman Cayla Barnes was called up in late October from her freshman year at Boston College.
"We feel if we do that effectively for 60 minutes, that's our game and that's going to give us the best chance to win every game," Stauber said. "That is definitely our focus."
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