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Women's Team Eager for Semifinals

02/16/2014, 11:30am EST
By Cameron Eickmeyer - USAHockey.com

SOCHI, Russia - As usual, the pace at Sunday's U.S. Women's National Team practice at the Shayba Practice Rink was up-tempo with little downtime, which has been all Team USA has had for four days leading up to Monday's semifinal matchup against Sweden.

Goaltender Jessie Vetter, who earned the starting nod from head coach Katey Stone, said she isn't worried about the team developing any rust during their four days away from Olympic competition. Monday's game is at 7:30 a.m. ET and will air live on NBC Sports Network.

“As a team we’re excited,” she said, adding that the long stretches between games in the buildup to the Olympics helped the team refocus after losing their final game of the preliminary round against Canada. “Throughout the entire year we’ve done a good job keeping our practices sharp.”

The 3-2 loss to Canada last week was on the team's mind and led to what Stone called an introspective and team-wide push to learn from and to own their mistakes.

“There was some strong discussion on Friday,” she said. “You’re either going to take the moment or the moment is going to take you, so you have to make that decision.”

Captain Meghan Duggan said the 45-minute video session helped the players prepare for the final two games of their long season.

“No one’s taking (criticism) to heart," she said. "We have the luxury of having great coaches who show us our mistakes so that we never make them again. It was a great video session followed by a great practice."

What has come into full focus for the U.S. team is Sweden, which stunned rival Finland on Saturday to reach the semifinals. Stone credited Sweden's game-plan against the Finns for sparking the upset.

“They play a great game through the neutral zone,” she said. "They handle the puck well, are patient and their goaltender plays well behind them so we have to be ready.”

When asked about a potential rematch with Canada in the gold-medal game, Stone said her team has spent all season looking at only the moment ahead and isn't going to start looking ahead now.

“Everything we’ve done is to face what’s in front of us all along,” she said. “This is a big game for us tomorrow and we’re just going to do our best.”

Sweden upset the U.S. in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, and while Stone said she recognizes the correlation, she doesn't think it factors in to Monday's game.

“That stuff is in the past," she said. "These are totally different teams, [and a] totally different environment."

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