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."
March 27, 2017 | When USA Hockey implemented its American Development Model in 2009, one element of the nationwide age-appropriate training blueprint sparked more debate than any other: cross-ice hockey for 8U players. In the years since, an abundance of evidence, both data-driven and anecdotal, has proven the developmental advantages of cross-ice hockey.
This week, Hockey Canada announced that it too will introduce its players to the game through cross-ice play beginning in 2017-18.
“Re-sizing the playing surface to cross-ice or half-ice means more puck touches, which result in more chances to practice puck control and shooting, as well as overall more movement and motor skill-development – twisting, turning, balance, coordination, agility,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of membership development for Hockey Canada, in a release today. “Their field-of-play matches their size, and these players hone in on their skill-development in a way that larger ice surfaces just aren’t conducive to.”
The Grassroots Show on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 weighed in on the decision. Click the audio link below to hear how Canada is embracing cross-ice hockey for the coming season and beyond.
Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, appeared on the Grassroots Show to discuss the nationwide shift to cross-ice hockey, beginning this fall for 5- and 6-year-olds and expanding to all of Canada's Novice (8U) level in 2018-19.
“When you see 10 or 12 or 14 or 16 kids out on the ice in between periods and they’re playing 200-by-85 and 3 or 4 kids touch the puck in that whole six minutes, yet there’s people in the stands clapping and thinking it’s wonderful, I just can’t help but think about the 95 percent of the children that didn’t even touch the puck or get from one end of the rink to the other and I ask myself what are we doing when the opportunity is certainly there to have 30 kids on the ice playing cross-ice and everyone is having a much better opportunity to touch the puck, skate a shorter distance and really play. It just boggles my mind,” said Renney.
“We completely embrace, at the Initiation level and the Novice level, cross-ice hockey and we have mandated that in the Initiation program and we will mandate it across the country in Novice hockey.
“This is about the pure enjoyment of the game, and your first connection with it has to be something that’s pure fun, on a surface of play that is conducive to much more participation and joy.”