It was a trip down memory lane for many players on the U.S. Women's National Team as they practiced at the Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., before opening the Bring on the World Tour against Canada tonight.
"We're excited to be back here. Burlington is a great hockey town," said U.S. head coach Katey Stone. "I'm just anxious to see how our kids are going to play."
A sellout crowd is expected for the game between the cross-border rivals. Watch the game live on FASTHockey.com and follow the live box score here later tonight.
To learn more about Team USA's thoughts on returning to Burlington, click here.
The result of tonight's game won't affect any standings or medal counts, but Team USA is treating the tilt as just as it would a tournament game.
"It's a learning experience, but at the same time we want to win, so it's not just an exhibition," said Lisa Chesson. "You want to come into every game preparing the same way whether it's an Olympic gold medal game or an exhibition."
U.S. players and coaches consider the game to be the beginning of the season that builds toward the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. That attitude, Stone said, sets the tone for a level of competitiveness she wants to maintain throughout the Bring on the World Tour.
"It's October 12, it's not February, but we're looking to see where we measure up at this point," she said.
Kate Buesser will don the U.S. jersey for the first time tonight and she says the nerves are building.
"It's just pure adrenaline right now," she told media after practice today. "Closer to the game I'd hardly be able to speak to you."
Buesser was a spectator in 2012 when Team USA and Canada staged an overtime classic in the gold medal game of the IIHF Women's World Championship. Tonight she'll march onto the same ice surface, only this time she's in the game instead of watching.
"One of the people (in the stands) will by mother," she said. "It's going to be amazing to see the Red, White and Blue in the crowd and I think we're going to feed off that."
U.S. forward Kelli Stack is back with the team after rehabbing a knee injury and her comeback tour includes a stop in Burlington tonight, where she dominated the ice at the 2012 World Championship.
"I love playing in Burlington and at the University of Vermont," she said. "I played here in college a lot. The fans are right up on the glass and it's a lot of fun to play here."
Stack was second in the tournament in scoring in 2012, posting five goals and eight assists in five games. She said she hopes Team USA has a repeat of its performance in the opening game of that tournament when they defeated Canada, 9-3.
"Our team played amazing and we were firing on all cylinders. That's what we're going to try to do tonight."
The game falls amid hundreds of events worldwide aimed at building girls hockey as part of the IIHF World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend.
"You can't turn on the TV all the time and see these players, so to actually be here face-to-face and working with these players is an incredible experience and drives the energy level for this sport," said Reagan Carey, director of women's ice hockey with USA Hockey and general manager of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team.
Team USA will hold a girls clinic on Sunday in Burlington that was booked full within hours of being posted. The community's excitement is matched by the U.S. players and coaches.
"(The players) take their mantra pretty seriously when they say they are part of something bigger than themselves," said Carey. "They know by going out and sharing their time with (young players) outside of what they do on the ice as elite athletes is an important part of the whole process."
Stack said she and her teammates like to be looked up to.
"When we see little girls who someday want to be in our shoes, it motivates us on the ice as well," she said.
For more information on Girls' Hockey Weekend, click here.