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  • Minnesota Will Be Well Represented On the Women's Olympic Team

    Kayla Hynnek

    For those disappointed that the NHL won’t be sending their players to the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, don’t worry. Team USA will still have a powerhouse of a hockey team. On the women’s side, that is.


    During the second intermission of the Winter Classic in Minneapolis, Team USA introduced the roster for the Olympics starting in February. This team is stacked and looking for a second consecutive Gold Medal. 13 of the 23 members who won Gold in 2018 are back, along with some new, younger players.


    Among the 23, six are from Minnesota, and eight have played at the U of M. That makes the State of Hockey (appropriately) the most represented, and the Gophers have the most alumni. The Women's Hockey tournament at the Beijing Olympics will practically be a showcase of the talent in the North Star State. So let's take a look at all these skilled players who will represent Minnesota next month.


    Starting with the lone goalie from Minnesota, we have Maddie Rooney from Andover. Rooney, along with Alex Cavallini and Nicole Hensley, have been quite the trio of goaltenders for the States over the past five years or so. Currently 24 years old, Rooney won the gold for the Red, White, and Blue at the last Olympics. She was able to beat the Canadian netminder Shannon Szabados in an exciting shootout win for the USA at only 20 years old.


    A standout goaltender on the Andover varsity high school team, she was so good, she played her senior year for the boys' team. She has since played four years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, ending her college career with a 58-45-14 record. However, none of the three rostered goalies for Team USA has emerged as the starter, as Rooney, Cavallini, and Hensley are going to have to duke it out for the starting role in camp before the Games start.


    Lee Stecklein of Roseville is the only Minnesotan defenseman on Team USA. A former Gopher, she helped lead Minnesota to two National Championships in four years. She then helped the Minnesota Whitecaps of the NWHL win their first Isobel Cup, scoring the game-winning goal that clinched it. She has won five World Championship Golds and both a Gold and Silver medal at the Olympics. At six feet tall, Stecklein is the tallest on the team and has played the most consistent games for the United States.


    Megan Bozek of Buffalo Grove, Ill. will also be on the Team USA blueline. She played for four years at Minnesota and was part of two National Championship-winning teams. She was one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in her senior year, which is the women’s equivalent of the Hobey Baker award. She’s won five Gold Medals for Team USA at the IIHF Women’s championships, as well as five first-place finishes in the Four Nations Cup. Rounding out the defenders are Cayla Barnes, Caroline Harvey, Megan Keller, Jincy Dunne, and Savannah Harmon.


    Minnesota really excels at producing forwards. Of the 13 forwards, four are from Minnesota, and two others are Gophers. Amanda Kessel, an honorary Minnesotan from Wisconsin, played her high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s then went on to play at the University of Minnesota. One of the most beloved Gophers hockey players ever, Kessel is also a fan-favorite on Team USA.


    A National Champion in three of her four years for Minnesota, Kessel dominated NCAA hockey. She scored 108 goals and 140 assists as a Gopher and won the Patty Kazmaier Award in 2013. She was part of the Gophers team that went undefeated en route to their national title in 2013 as well.


    What really makes Kessel special is how she was able to capture her third NCAA title. In 2014 she suffered from post-concussion syndrome and was unable to play hockey for a little over a year. After finding a new doctor and starting a new training regime, she returned to the Gophers for her senior season in 2015-16. In poetic fashion, she scored the game-winning goal in the National Championship title game. Kessel scored in the shootout in the Gold Medal game in the last Olympics and is expected to be another important piece for team USA this year.


    Abbey Murphy is another Gopher from Illinois. Currently a sophomore at the U, she’s one of the youngest players suiting up for Team USA this February. She’s been representing the USA for a few years and has won two Gold Medals and two Silvers.


    Next in the Minnesotan forward core is Hannah Brandt. She grew up in Vadnais Heights and played high school hockey for Hill-Murray, and then went on to be a star for the Gophers. A Patty Kazmaier finalist in all four college seasons, she was able to help the Gophers win three National Championships. She’s been a part of USA hockey for many years now and has helped them win numerous Gold Medals.


    Dani Cameranesi is a returning member of the 2018 Olympic Gold Medal-winning group. Hailing from Plymouth, she played her high school hockey for The Blake School and won the 2013 Ms. Hockey award for best girls high school hockey player in Minnesota. She then went on to play for the Gophers and won two National Championships for the U. She won Rookie of the Year in 2014 and was a Patty Kazmaier Award finalist twice. Known for her great passing abilities, Cameranesi dished out 108 assists for the Gophers. A part of Team USA since 2011, she’s won Gold many times and will be an integral part of the team looking to defend Gold.


    Kelly Pannek is another player from Plymouth. She played for Benilde-St. Margaret’s and graduated in 2014. She then went on to play for the Gophers, as many standout Minnesotan hockey players do. An All-Star for the U, she helped them to two National Titles. She has been a part of the USA Hockey program since 2013.


    Last but definitely not least, we have Grace Zumwinkle from Excelsior. She played high school hockey for Breck School and was 2017 Ms. Hockey as well as MVP all four years. Zumwinkle played four years for the Gophers and was captain during her senior season. Primarily a goal scorer, Team USA will lean on her to provide the points this year.


    Alex Carpenter, Jesse Compher, Abby Roque, Hayley Scamurra, and USA legends Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Brianna Decker, and Hilary Knight are the other forwards looking to bring the United States their second consecutive Gold Medal for the first time in team history. Since 1998, the women have brought home two Gold, three Silvers, and one Bronze medal. This year Team USA looks to catch up to Team Canada, as they lead all women's teams with four Olympic Gold Medals.


    So while the men's hockey teams might not be suiting up the best players in the world, the women will be. Minnesotans should be excited too, with all the connections to the State of Hockey for the women’s side. We should all be proud to see our players on the national stage. The last Gold Medal game for the women ended in a nail-biting shootout win for the Americans, and this year should be no less thrilling.

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