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Four Nations Cup roster has Coach Stone optimistic about future

11/06/2012, 1:15pm EST
By Jim Hague

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- As she instructed her team through the last preparations prior to heading to Finland this week for the Four Nations Cup, U.S. Women’s National Team coach Katey Stone said she likes the way her team is shaping up.

“We’re excited about going to Finland,” said Stone, whose team held a four-day training camp at the New York Rangers’ practice facility in the northern suburbs of New York City, an area ravaged recently by Hurricane Sandy. “Ever since we started [in August of 2010], everything has been one step closer to the 2014 Olympics. You realize how critical every step is, and this is another big step.”

The United States will compete in the Four Nations Cup with Canada, Sweden and host Finland in a round-robin fashion beginning Tuesday at the Tikkurila Valttie Arena in Kerava, Finland. A championship and third-place game will be held Saturday.

Stone said she likes the makeup of the team, which features 12 players from the 2010 Olympic team that captured the silver medal in Vancouver, as well as a crop of talented newcomers.

“I’m excited about this group we’re bringing to Finland,” said Stone, who doubles as the women’s hockey coach at Harvard. “It’s good to be experienced and it’s good to be young, and I think we have a little bit of both. We’re getting a great chance to evaluate some players as we still implement our system.”

Stone said that it was tough to conduct the camp in an area that was hurt severely by the killer storm. The camp was actually delayed one day as players made travel arrangements to arrive in the New York area after the hurricane had passed.

“I think you have to keep it all in perspective,” Stone said. “We were very fortunate to be able to have our camp here at this tremendous facility, but we still can’t lose sight of the bigger picture. So many people lost so much. Our hearts go out to those who are suffering. The damage caused has been unbelievable.”

Stone was glad to have veteran forward Meghan Duggan back on the ice. The 25-year-old Duggan, a native of Danvers, Mass., has missed most of the past year dealing with a serious head injury, but she returned to skate at the camp and will see action in Finland.

“Meghan is such a great, dynamic person and a great team leader,” Stone said. “We definitely felt her loss when she was not with us. She brings a lot to the table, and that’s going to help us as we move forward. Things looked bleak for Meghan for a while, but having her back has been great.”

Three-time Olympic medalist Julie Chu, having won silver medals in 2002 and 2010 and bronze in the 2006 Games, also returns. The 30-year-old Chu, a native of Fairfield, Conn., is the most experienced member of the U.S. squad headed to Finland. Chu has tallied 64 goals and collected 112 assists in her international career that has now spanned 13 years and encompassed an astounding 216 games.

Stone was pleased to also have a solid group of the U-18 National Team players to participate in the camp in New York.

“I was really encouraged with how much they developed in just three days,” Stone said. “Just seeing the way they shoot the puck even with the game being played an accelerated pace. I always think development is a great thing. You never know. Some of these girls may find their way onto the Olympic roster. The door is always open. It’s up to them to step inside of the door.”

Stone also liked the camaraderie that filtered down between the older and younger players.

“They all had a great, positive energy,” Stone said. “It’s not by accident that we have such quality people here. You can have all the skill in the world, but if you can’t get along with anyone, it’s going to be a long haul. It starts with the coaching staff on down. The good feeling becomes contagious. We have some good leadership on this team. It’s a good feeling all around.”

While they took part in the training camp, some of the players got to mingle with New York Knicks guard Baron Davis, who is rehabilitating a torn knee ligament he suffered in the NBA playoffs last spring. Davis presented many of the team members with Knicks’ ski caps, while the team gave Davis a USA Hockey baseball cap. Davis cordially posed for pictures with the Team USA players as they had breaks in action.

“I told the girls that the goal isn’t to just be on the roster,” Stone said. “The goal is to win a gold medal at the Olympics. We all have that goal in mind.”

Stone said that she plans on taking about 35 to 40 players to the tryout camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. in June.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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