2010 ending 'still haunts' U.S. team

AP Photo/Scott Gardner/The Canadian Press

The U.S. women's team has not won Olympic gold since the 1998 Nagano Games.

PARK CITY, Utah -- When a team leaves something on the table at the Olympics, it stares at them for the next four years like a stack of dirty dishes waiting to be cleared. That's the way the U.S. women's national hockey team feels about losing the gold-medal game in Vancouver.

"We had to lick our wounds pretty quickly and know we were going to do it differently," said forward Hilary Knight. "We were missing something that one day. It still haunts us."

Added forward Monique Lamoureux: "We had that feeling of coming up short."

The U.S. team won its first and only Olympic gold medal in 1998, the year the sport debuted at the Winter Games. That's not exactly ancient history now, but it's receding. Elder statesman Julie Chu was a freshman in high school at the time. Knight wears No. 21 in honor of the '98 team's transcendent star, Cammi Granato. Since then, the U.S. has prevailed on both of the sport's other main stages -- five of the last world championships and three of the last Four Nations tournaments, all against archrival Canada.

But Canada has solved the equation in each of the past three Olympics, while the U.S. has gone home with two silvers (2002, 2010) and a bronze (2006).

So it's no secret what's on the team's plate in Sochi. The players aren't defensive about that, just determined.

"Hearing the question is what motivates us," said goaltender Jessie Vetter. "It's about playing your best at the right time, and we found the secret to that at worlds and Four Nations. Now we have to find a way to play our best next February."

And coach Katey Stone said there's no reason to shy away from the obvious. "We're training for gold," she said.

The team is based in the Boston area for the season as Stone takes a year off from her coaching duties at Harvard. A pool of 25 players -- many of whom are living with host families as they train -- will be cut to 21 and announced during the second intermission of the NHL Winter Classic in in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Jan. 1.

The final roster will feature a mix of holdovers from the last Olympic team and fresh talent from the college ranks, led by 22-year-old Amanda Kessel, whose sensational junior season was a major factor in the University of Minnesota's 41-0 run to the 2013 NCAA title.

On tap for the U.S. team before the Olympics are three exhibition games against Canada (Oct. 12 in Burlington, Vt., Dec. 20 in Grand Forks, N.D. and Dec. 28 in St. Paul, Minn.) and the Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Nov. 5-9 along with Canada, Sweden and Finland.

Stone said she expects quality from the usual suspects, but said other teams around the world are investing resources and can't be underestimated. "There's a greater commitment off the ice," she said.

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