By Alex Abrams | Dec. 14, 2018, 3:38 p.m. (ET)

The U.S. women's hockey team celebrate after defeating Canada at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018  on Feb. 22, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.

 

Each month, Team USA Awards presented by Dow celebrates outstanding achievements of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. The U.S. women’s hockey team took home Team of the Month honors for November 2018 after claiming the Four Nations Cup title for the fourth year in a row. In this Diamond Club feature, veteran Kendall Coyne Schofield and newcomer Sydney Brodt share how conditioning and chemistry are key to the team’s success.

 

While looking through some of her old belongings, Kendall Coyne Schofield found a scouting report on her from more than a decade ago when she was a 15-year-old rising hockey star.

Coyne Schofield’s game was broken down into different categories on the scouting report, with a possible rating in each category ranging from “excellent” and “very good” to “neutral” and “poor.”

Eleven years before Coyne Schofield helped lead the U.S. women’s hockey team to a gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 as a high-scoring winger with ankle-breaking speed, she was considered small at 5-foot-2.

She also had “poor” strength — at least according to the old scouting report.

“That’s something I was obviously not proud of, and as a competitor you want to make poor excellent,” Coyne Schofield said. “So over the years I feel like I’ve done that, and strength and conditioning is something I take very seriously.

“In my eyes, I think I’ve become excellent in that category.”

The U.S. women’s hockey team has relied on its combination of strength developed in the weight room and team chemistry created on and off the ice during its historic run over the past year.

Beginning in PyeongChang, the U.S. women avenged a 2-1 loss to Canada in a preliminary round game to edge the reigning four-time Olympic champions in a final shootout to capture the gold with a 3-2 victory on Feb. 22.

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Nine months later, in late November, Coyne Schofield assisted teammate Brianna Decker on an early goal and then scored the final goal in a 5-2 win over Canada in the championship game of the Four Nations Cup in Saskatchewan.

The Americans outscored their opponents 17-5 in winning all four of their games at the Four Nations Cup. 

“Getting the opportunity to play with Kendall and Brianna Decker was awesome. They’re such good hockey players that just getting the chance to skate with them (was great),” said Sydney Brodt, a newcomer to Team USA who scored the game-winner in a 2-1 round-robin win over Canada at the Four Nations Cup. 

“They have such good hockey sense, and as long as I was in the right place at the right time they’re going to get you the puck. They’re also great mentors to me.”

Brodt, a forward who plays collegiately at the University of Minnesota Duluth, was admittedly nervous when she arrived at her first training camp with Team USA in September in preparation for the Four Nations Cup.

The 20-year-old Brodt was star-struck practicing alongside veterans she had watched in the Olympics. However, after a day or so, her nerves subsided and she blended in with the team’s deep pool of young talent and experienced world champions.

Of course, it helped that Brodt got to share a room with Decker, a dominant scorer who won a gold medal with the U.S. national team in PyeongChang and earned a silver at the Sochi 2014 Games.

The two forwards, born nearly seven years apart, bonded in their room and every day when Decker drove Brodt to the rink for practice.

“At the September camp, she was actually my roommate, so that was super cool,” Brodt said. “I couldn’t believe I was actually getting to hang out with her because I’ve looked up to her for so long. 

“I could say, yeah, she took me under her wing.”

Brodt returned to college this winter realizing she needed to get stronger in the weight room and improve her conditioning if she wanted to match her older Team USA teammates on the ice.

It’s a feeling Coyne Schofield also had several years earlier.

Coyne Schofield recalled a particularly disastrous experience when she was a young player taking part in a training camp with the U.S. national team in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Coyne Schofield stood in a circle with her teammates and waited her turn to pass a 45-pound plate over her head to the player beside her. 

When the 45-pound weight made its way around the circle and reached Coyne Schofield, she struggled to lift it over her head. She immediately let Julie Chu, one of the most decorated hockey players in American history, know that she didn’t think she could hold the plate much longer.

Chu quickly grabbed the plate from Coyne Schofield.

“And it’s something as simple as that (to make me think) like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,’” Coyne Schofield said. “I can’t even do something as simple as this, and these guys are throwing it over their heads 100 times.”

Coyne Schofield has since transformed her small frame into what she hopes to be a “125 pounds of muscle.” She trains five days a week in the weight room, developing enough strength to compete over the summer on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”

Coyne Schofield has also improved her quickness on the ice by working in the weight room on small, fast-twitch muscles that help her agility and conditioning.

After going their separate ways following the Four Nations Cup in November, Coyne Schofield and Brodt will come together with the rest of the U.S. women’s hockey team at a training camp that begins Dec. 16 in Plymouth, Michigan.

“Obviously everyone has a lot going on, but as soon as you step off that plane and you’re heading to Plymouth, your focus is 100 percent with USA hockey,” said Coyne Schofield, a Chicago native who splits her time between Minnesota, where she plays for the NWHL’s Whitecaps, and Southern California, where her husband Michael Schofield plays offensive guard for the Los Angeles Chargers.

“You never take for granted the opportunity you get to put on a USA jersey, and I think it makes it pretty easy to focus in (for) whatever duration we are with the team.”

Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.