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."
Long days, great games and high intensity – it’s tournament time. Gary Cutler is the USA Hockey supervisor of officials in Western New York. He’s officiated countless tournaments at both the local and national levels. Cutler sat down with USA Hockey to discuss teamwork, tournament-time preparation and what officials can do to be selected as postseason officials next season.
USA Hockey: What does your current position entail? What are some key responsibilities?
Gary Cutler: My current volunteer position as supervisor of officials entails many different responsibilities throughout the season. It all starts immediately after national tournament week, with organizing local seminars in the fall, participating in summer camps, and solving any registration issues an official might have. We are also identifying those officials that potentially can work in postseason tournaments, the Junior Officiating Development Program or a USA Hockey summer camp. We also communicate with leagues about rule changes or rule interpretations and solve any issues that arise during the year with officials.
USA Hockey: What do you like most?
Gary Cutler: The most enjoyable part of my position is seeing officials improve their officiating skills from their very first seminar they attended up to the level they are presently officiating at, whether it is getting a postseason assignment, working in the Junior Officiating Development Program, college assignments, international assignments, or even working in professional leagues.
USA Hockey: Tournament time. What is your initial reaction when you hear those two words?
Gary Cutler: Long days. Most postseason tournaments consist of 12- to 14-hour days of being at the rink observing officials and making sure the officiating side of the tournament runs as smooth as possible.
USA Hockey: What are some unexpected duties or responsibilities that come with tournaments that officials might overlook or forget?
Gary Cutler: Throughout the entire tournament, the officiating program is a team more than ever. Every official should be helping their teammates so everyone can do the best job they are capable of. A lot of officials have more than one rulebook in their referee bag. An official should have complete knowledge and understanding of the rulebook that they are using, whether it is a regular-season game or a postseason assignment.
USA Hockey: Do officials tend to feel more pressure during tournaments, especially semifinal or championship games? How should they cope with that and stay focused on the task at hand?
Gary Cutler: Most definitely a semifinal or championship game brings a lot more pressure on the officials that have been selected to work these games. The officials that do these types of games generally have these attributes that give them the opportunity to succeed?
USA Hockey: Can you feel the intensity ramp up during tournaments, from the players, coaches, parents, etc.?
Gary Cutler: When tournament time comes around, everyone’s intensity level is increased. As each day of the tournament passes, the intensity level grows until the conclusion of the championship game.
USA Hockey: What can young officials do to position themselves for consideration as officials for next year’s tournaments?
Gary Cutler: It all starts in the summer. Start a physical fitness program over the summer, so when the season comes around, you are in the best physical shape you can be in. Go to summer development camps. When you attend a seminar, come with a positive learning attitude. Officials have the opportunity to be identified as potential candidates for tournaments at these seminars. During the regular season, work hard at every game, for the entire game. Constantly look into the rulebook/casebook so you have a complete understanding of the rules. Improve your officiating skills every game. This can be done by reading your manuals and reviewing the videos on USA Hockey’s website. If you are evaluated, listen, take notes and implement what the evaluator discussed with you when you are officiating games. The moment you enter the arena, put yourself in the proper position to make the proper call.