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Pieces Assembled, USA Women’s Ice Hockey Works To Put Olympic Puzzle Together

By Scott Charles | Jan. 04, 2022, 1:27 p.m. (ET)

Brianna Decker shoots against Canada during the women's gold-medal game at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 22, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.

 

A jigsaw puzzle provides all parts required to create a finished product but the task of selecting which pieces to include presents a different set of challenges. 

General manager Katie Million and head coach Joel Johnson had the honor of attempting to solve this riddle that won’t have a result until mid-February after the gold-medal game of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. 

The final 23-player roster was announced Saturday night at the second intermission of the NHL’s Winter Classic game at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn. 

“When you look at our lineup, we have some youthful talent that brings a skillset that’s unmatched, we also have some veteran leadership,” Johnson said. “If we put the right puzzle together and combine the two, it should lead to some fun times.” 

On paper, the United States has found that balance with 13 players returning from the 2018 gold medal-winning roster coupled with eight skaters looking to build on that tradition. In addition, defenseman Megan Bozek and forward Alex Carpenter will return. They were part of the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 team but were among the final cuts prior to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. 

While an infusion of new energy is welcomed and needed every Olympic cycle, Johnson is expecting his veterans to lead from within. 

“You are going to go as your leaders go,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t always mean they are going to score, lead the tournament in points but they are going to lead. They are going to lead in the room, in the hotel, in the video room, they are going to lead everywhere. That allows the younger players that might have a special talent to jump up into the spotlight.” 

Caroline Harvey, who turned 19 in October and is the youngest member on the roster, is one player equipped with a special talent and could provide an enormous boost to the United States’ blueline.

(L-R) Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight celebrate after the women's gold-medal game at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 22, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.

 

“Her mobility as a defenseman is incredible to watch. It is very fun to play with as an offensive player,” Brianna Decker said of Harvey. “I look at our youth and they play like they are veterans. They play like they have been around the program five or six years. For people who are going to be watching our team compete at the Olympics, I think they are not going to notice who has been around for their fourth time or their first time and that is something special about this team.” 

Leaders on the team such as captain Kendall Coyne Schofield and presumed alternate captains Decker, Hilary Knight and Lee Stecklein have taken it upon themselves to foster an environment that allows the next generation to not only feel comfortable, but to succeed. 

“Our team does a really good job of mentoring,” Knight said. “That’s one of the things we have prided ourselves on over the last few years. Developing a culture where it doesn’t matter if it’s your first Olympics, your fourth or your 100th. It’s wonderful to have younger faces in the mix that are just taking the world by storm. I am really excited for them to take the world stage and don the red, white and blue and represent us.”

“When you get in the big spotlight, sometimes experience is the winning attribute, sometimes youthful energy is the attribute,” Johnson added. “That’s the gamble you take as a coaching staff, can you get the balance of both.” 

There will be unforeseen circumstances heading into Beijing 2022, especially given the rise of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. However, no matter what obstacles lie ahead, the objective remains the same. 

“Our business isn’t finished until we come back with a gold medal from the Olympic Games,” Decker said. “That is our mindset every day we train. I look at our team right now and the best part about it is that we haven’t played our best game yet and we are trying to gear toward that every single day at practice.”

Scott Charles

Scott Charles is a sportswriter whose work has been featured in the Associated Press, various NBC platforms and Yahoo! Sports among other places. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org and you can follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

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