Members of the US Women's Hockey team have been in Minnesota this week preparing for two upcoming games against Team Canada; the first on Friday, December 20, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, before returning to Saint Paul for a game on December 28 at the Xcel Energy Center. The games are part of the ten-game Bring on the World Tour that began in October and concludes at the end of December.
The team took a break from training Tuesday night to watch the Minnesota Wild take on the Vancouver Canucks. Four players with Minnesota ties, Gigi Marvin of Warroad, Anne Schleper of St. Cloud, Lee Stecklein of Roseville, and University of Minnesota alumnae Megan Bozek (of Buffalo Grove, Ill.), along with team captain Meghan Duggan (of Danvers, Mass.), lead the crowd at Xcel Energy Center in the traditional pre-game chant of "Let's play hockey!"
Returning to her home state is obviously a boon for 23-year-old Schleper, who chatted and posed for photos with family and friends during the Wild game, and 26-year-old Marvin, who is headed to her second Olympic games.
"Anytime you can [return to] play in your home state it's special. It's awesome to be able to compete in front of those you know so well," said Marvin. "It will be a special atmosphere."
"We have a lot to prove and we always do. It's always a big game versus Canada and so our team is very excited to just go out there and play them again," said Schleper. "It should be another good game."
Team USA faces Canada four times in three weeks, but rather than finding the repetitive schedule wearisome, the team knows will only elevate their game going into the Olympics.
"It's never bad to play a great opponent multiple times throughout the year. We're familiar with it from being in the WCHA," said Marvin. "I played Wisconsin 4-6 times every single year so it's not something new it's something that we enjoy to do and a great environment to continue becoming better."
When asked if playing an opponent so regularly makes games more predictable Schleper responded: "I don't think so. We've have this tradition with [Team Canada] for a long time now and each time we come and play it's a new game and it's gonna be who shows up to play that day. We're gonna concentrate on what we can do to beat them. I often get the question of how do we beat them, it's not what they're doing, it's what we're doing. We're just concentrating on doing us right now and playing the best we can and showing up to each and every game."
In addition to facing Canada several times this tour, the team has also played Sweden and Finland. Tickets for the USA-Canada pre-Olympic exhibition game in St. Paul are still available. USA Hockey members can save $5 on each ticket by using the code USAH. Group rates are also available for parties of 12 or more by calling 651-312-3486.