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Olympics: Gopher women ready to lead U.S. hockey team

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The U.S. women's ice hockey team will have five Golden Gophers alumni on the roster, and two more will represent another country.

Former Gophers Megan Bozek, Gigi Marvin and Anne Schleper (pictured), along with current student-athletes Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein will play for Team USA. Former Gophers Noora Raty and Mira Jalosuo will represent Team Finland.

"It's awesome it happened that way," Schleper said in an interview with the Pioneer Press. "It certainly adds to team chemistry. We've honed in on our defensive play, and just having awesome players and teammates beside you makes it so much easier to play together."

Kessel, who was named one of the ten best hockey players in the world last year – regardless of gender – by Hockey News, powered the Gophers to a second consecutive national championship with a 100-point season. According to the Los Angeles Times, she spent the majority of the last year battling a hip injury, and just last week played in her first full-speed game since suffering the injury.

"I'm 100%," Kessel told USA Today on Wednesday.

Whether Kessel and the other four Gophers on the U.S. team march in Friday's Opening Ceremony is yet to be determined. U.S. coach Katey Stone told the Star Tribune that it's going to be a "game-day decision." The only reason they would skip the ceremony is to rest up for Saturday's opening round game against Finland.

The women's tournament has an unusual format, as Pro Hockey Talk explains.

They’ve got an interesting format to the women’s tourney this year. In the preliminary round, the top four ranked teams — Canada, U.S., Switzerland, and Finland – will play each other – and the bottom four teams – Sweden, Japan, Russia, and Germany – will play each other. After that, the top two teams from the first group (probably the U.S. and Canada) will advance to the semis while the bottom two teams from the first group will play off against the top two teams from the second group for the other two spots in the semis.

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