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After Winter Classic introduction, Bozek is ready for Sochi

01/09/2014, 1:30pm EST
By Justin A. Rice - Special to USAHockey.com

As a Chicago native, Megan Bozek found it difficult to pick a side during the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“It’s never easy to root for Detroit,” Bozek, who grew up a Blackhawks fan in Buffalo Grove, Ill., said a few days after the Toronto Maple Leaf’s defeated the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout. “I think I was going more or less for Toronto. I like a few players on that team. But I was more of a fair weather fan depending on who scored. I cheered either way.”

Bozek was in Ann Arbor, where she was introduced as one of 21 players who will make up the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women’s Team. But standing on the podium in front of more than 100,000 fans, Bozek said the U.S. players got a rude reminder of their place on the podium at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The Canadian fans started shouting: “Silver, silver, silver.”

“Yeah it didn’t help that we walked up on the Toronto side, but Canada, their sport is hockey,” said the defenseman who scored three goals and added six assists during Team USA’s pre-Olympic tour.

“That was tough, but just more motivation for us. We know what our team is capable of; if we play the best we can play on any given day the results should be in our favor.”

After Canada took gold in the last three Winter Games, the Canadians beat Team USA three straight times in this year’s pre-Olympic tour before the Americans won four straight games to close out the series. Bozek said those four wins not only give them momentum as a team going into the Olympics but she said they helped her individual confidence as well. Bozek’s power play goal put Team USA up 3-0 before Canada got two goals back in the last meeting between the rivals on Dec. 30 in Toronto.

“We have a lot of emphasis on shooting on our power play,” Bozek said. “We had won the puck back, and their forward didn’t come up to take my lane away. I saw Hilary Knight near the net and I took a slap shot and it tipped in off one of their players.

“That’s a big momentum turner for us. It’s definitely good to always score on a power play, and our power play has been strong this year. “

The previous victory against Canada on Dec. 28 in St. Paul, Minn. marked the first time Bozek played in front of the Minnesota faithful since winning back-to-back NCAA championships with the University of Minnesota the last two springs.

“That was awesome, I had lot of family and friends there and old teammates,” Bozek said of the 3-2 shootout victory. “The fans definitely got a run for their money watching us win in a shootout.”

Bozek said there are many lessons that she learned from winning back-to-back titles at Minnesota that she will draw on when playing in her first Olympics, including knowing how to check her emotions and not feeling the pressure.

“Because we will be on the world stage and at Minnesota we were on the national stage,” she said. “You kind of have to roll with the punches. Everything is not going to go your way, but as long as you put 100 percent effort into everything you’re doing you’re going to get the results you want.

“It’s definitely helps to play in front of a big crowd and that atmosphere. But we played in front of big crowds [during the bring the pre-Olympic tour]; there were 17,000 fans in Toronto, and Burlington and Ottawa were sold out.”

Among the fans in the stands at the game in St. Paul, Bozek’s parents and brothers were among the very few people who knew she made the Olympic team.

The players were told who made the Olympic team after a 4-1 victory against Canada on Dec. 20 in Grand Forks, N.D. So there was about a week and a half between that moment and when the team was publicly announced in the Big House on Jan. 1.

“I told my family,” Bozek said. “It was really hard to lie to other people. I just said tune in to Winter Classic and you’ll see our team.”

And now that she doesn’t have to keep the secret anymore, Bozek just has to wait for the big news to fully sink in.

“Yeah it’s so exciting, I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet,” she said. “The Winter Classic definitely helped with that. Playing with the 20 best girls in the nation and potentially the world is awesome. It’s so exciting. I’m just thrilled to be sharing it with them and the coaching staff.

“It doesn’t stop here. We have a lot of work to do. I’m definitely looking forward to February. I’m not sure what to expect, just mayhem and chaos. I’m so excited. It’s going to be the best two and a half weeks of my life. But we have remember we are there for one reason and just to keep our focus and minds right.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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