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U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team roster goes with youth movement

One thing to take away from USA Hockey’s announcement of the pre-Olympic women’s roster: Think young. Way young.

Vancouver 2010

Thirteen of the 23 players announced for the women’s national team today played college hockey last season, while the other 10 came through the Blaine Residency Program. Five of the collegians, plus three post-grads, played for Olympic Coach Mark Johnson at the University of Wisconsin.

Five Minnesotans made it — Olympic veterans Jenny Potter and Natalie Darwitz, plus first-timers Gigi Marvin and Rachael Drazan from the University of Minnesota, and St. Louis Park product Angie Keseley of the Badgers. The Lamoureux twins, Jocelyne and Monique, also earned spots; they played last season at Minnesota but transferred to North Dakota.

The biggest surprise: Johnson cut three 2006 Olympians, goalie Chandra Gunn (the starter in Torino), forward Sarah Parsons, and defenseman Helen Resor. So, only six players have Olympic experience.

Teams can only take 21 players to Vancouver, so two more players will be cut in December.

Here’s the roster:

GOAL: Brianne McLaughlin (Sheffield Village, Ohio), Molly Schaus (Natick, Mass.), Jessie Vetter (Cottage Grove, Wis.)

DEFENSE: Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass./New Hampshire) Caitlin Cahow (Branford, Conn.), Lisa Chesson (Plainfield, Ill.), Rachael Drazan (Orono, Minn.), Molly Engstrom (Siren, Wis.), Angela Ruggiero (Simi Valley, Calif.), Kerry Weiland (Palmer, Alaska)

Julie Chu (Fairfield, Conn.), Natalie Darwitz (Eagan, Minn.), Meghan Duggan (Danvers, Mass.), Angie Keseley (St. Louis Park, Minn.), Hilary Knight (Hanover, N.H.), Jocelyne Lamoureux (Grand Forks, N.D.), Monique Lamoureux (Grand Forks, N.D.), Erika Lawler (Fitchburg, Mass.), Gigi Marvin (Warroad, Minn.), Jenny Potter (Edina, Minn.), Kelli Stack (Brooklyn Heights, Ohio), Karen Thatcher (Blaine, Wash.), Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej (Eagle River, Wis.)
The announcement followed five days of National Festival practices and scrimmages at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine. The National/Olympic team will be based there, at Rink 6, through the fall and winter. The team’s 10-game Qwest Tour, the lead-up to Vancouver, begins with a Sept. 25 date against the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) All-Stars at the Xcel Energy Center.

Players found out at an 8 a.m. team meeting today, with all 41 National Festival hopefuls present. Those who made the team called it about as nerve-wracking as you can imagine, even for someone like two-time Olympian Darwitz. “If you’re not nervous,” she said, “you’ve got a very big ego.”

Drazan felt mixed emotions — happy for herself, but sad for friends and teammates whose names were not called. “I heard my name, took a deep breath, and just tried to compose myself,” she said. When the meeting broke up she first texted her father, Mike, who coached her in youth hockey. “He was going to get the first one, good news or bad,” she said. Then she called her mother, Mary.

Jocelyne Lamoureux called their father, Jean-Pierre, at work.  Monique called their mother, Linda, who was working out. “She almost fell off the treadmill,” said Monique, who also checked in with her fiancé, Taylor Kolls, a Marine stationed in Hawaii who will be deployed to Afghanistan in November.

The Lamoureuxs, both 20, are the second-youngest players on the roster. Knight, of Wisconsin, is the youngest by nine days. Potter, 30, is the oldest. But 21 of the 23 have national team experience. Twenty earned gold medals for Team USA in at least one of the last two world championship tournaments; most played in both.

Johnson said he wanted a young, energetic team. “Maybe we’re a little younger that we anticipated, but on the positive side,” he said. “The youngness is what really excites me.” 

Vetter, one of the Wisconsin products, may be the key to success in Vancouver. The Patty Kazmaier Award winner as the top player in women’s college hockey last year, Vetter helped Wisconsin win three NCAA titles in four years, and was the primary goalie for Team USA’s back-to-back world titles.

“You say Vetter is young, but for the last three years, she’s all I’ve known,” Darwitz said. “In my mind, she’s one of the leaders and an integral part of our team. Just because they haven’t been to the Olympics doesn’t mean they don’t have good international experience under their belt.”

Earlier: With Winter Olympics six months away, today is a key day for shaping U.S. women’s hockey team

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