SOCHI, Russia - Everything off the ice, from time zone to jersey crest, has changed for the 2014 U.S. Women's Olympic Team, but head coach Katey Stone has delivered a message to her team in practice this week: Nothing has changed on the ice.
Looking to ride a wave of pre-Olympic exhibition game victories, Team USA's head coach kept her team's collective foot on the gas pedal in the second to last team practice before Saturday's opening game against Finland.
"The last three sessions have been really good," Stone said. "The kids are getting plenty of rest and are excited. They're ready to get this thing going."
The high-tempo practice has become the norm for the U.S. players and Lyndsey Fry said the team doesn't see any reason to change the plan now that they are in Sochi.
"It's what we've been doing for the last couple months," she said. "We're going to stay consistent with how we've been practicing. (Small area games) are great and it's what we're going to keep doing."
Stone utilized two cross-ice games in Thursday's practice, continuing a trend that she says she started in the fall as a way to spark her team.
"We went to condensing what we were doing," she said. "It's made a huge difference in our communication. You have to talk, you just have to. It's allowed our kids to use each other and rely on each other."
Russia President Vladimir Putin toured the Olympic facilities here this week and twice encountered U.S. women's players and staff.
Captain Meghan Duggan met Putin in the athlete village recreation center and said the quick meet and greet was memorable.
"He shook our hands and said ‘Nice to meet you,'" she said. "It kind of caught us off guard. It was one of those right place, right time kind of things."
Duggan said Putin asked athletes in the area in what sport they were competing and from what country the came.
"He walked in with his entourage and a bunch of media people. We got to shake his hand. It’s not every day that you get to meet the president of any country, so we were lucky to be there," she said.
USAHockey.com will produce a series of webisodes during the Olympics that will feature post-game analysis, Q&As and other video features from around Sochi.
The first episode is live and embedded below. Check back often for new episodes and tweet to the show with your feedback and questions using #USAHPostgame.
Harry Thompson is running a blog from Sochi and he kicked things off with an update on the travels from Colorado to Russia. Check back often for exclusive updates and coverage