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

It’s summer. It’s muggy. The Winter Olympics are six months away. So why are we talking Olympic hockey?

Vancouver 2010

Because for the last five days, 41 of the best women’s hockey players in the United States practiced and scrimmaged at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine for the Women’s National Festival, the final chance to impress U.S. Olympic coach Mark Johnson.

Today at 1 p.m., USA Hockey will announce the 23 players chosen for the Qwest Tour, the Olympic team’s 10-game run-up to Vancouver. The team will live and train here, and players who haven’t already relocated to the Twin Cities will have a busy couple of weeks finding places to live. Two more players will be cut in mid-December to reach the Olympic limit of 21.

Of the 41 hopefuls, 19 have Minnesota ties. That includes out-of-staters who relocated here last year for the Blaine Residency Program, established at Schwan for players who exhausted their college eligibility but needed a place to practice and train. Only eight of the 41 have Olympic experience, including forward Jenny Potter of Edina, who is trying to make her fourth Olympic team.

University of Minnesota products Gigi Marvin, Rachael Drazan, Anne Schleper and Erica McKenzie are in the mix, along with Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, who transferred from the U to North Dakota after the season.

Though Johnson offered few hints about who he might pick, we can confidently predict six we expect to make it: assistant captains Julie Chu, Angela Ruggiero and former Minnesota standout Natalie Darwitz; forward Hilary Knight and goalie Jessie Vetter of Wisconsin; and Potter. Evidence? These six have been invited to September’s Olympic Media Summit in Chicago. Stranger things have happened, but it seems silly to invite someone on the bubble.

“I’m sure media and players and family can look at people and say, ‘No, she’s a lock, she’s a lock, she’s a lock,” said Marvin, of Warroad, who is hoping to make her first Olympic team. “But if you ask them and talk to them, they say, ‘No, no, I’m working just as hard as everyone else.’ And I have the same mentality. So it’s kind of nice that way.”

We’ll pass along the 23 names as soon as we know.  For more about the National Festival, including a full roster, go here.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Beth Wright on 08/24/2009 - 12:49 pm.

    Thanks for continuing to cover women’s hockey in MinnPost. This is a highly talented group of athletes, and I wish other media in the Twin Cities would pay a little more attention to them.

    I enjoyed watching incredibly fast-paced hockey yesterday in Blaine. Everyone, including the players who are still in high school, looked world class. It’s going to be a terrific Olympic competition in 2010.

  2. Submitted by Tom Burke on 08/24/2009 - 07:45 pm.

    Looks like several women who competed on the bronze medal team at the Torino Games have made the cut. Unlike the men’s team that is likely not to carryover over more than 3 or 4 from the 8th place Torino squad. (Men’s team won’t be decided until December.)

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