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Team USA’s Minnesotans Excited to Play Back Home

By Brian Halverson, 12/01/17, 2:15PM EST


U.S. Women’s National Team will meet Canada in St. Paul this Sunday

When the 2017-18 U.S. Women's National Team makes its next stop on The Time is Now Tour, presented by Toyota, the latest in the series of Olympic preparation games will serve as a homecoming of sorts for a third of its roster.

“Minnesota is the ‘State of Hockey’ and I’m really excited that our state gets to host a game between the two best women’s teams in the entire world,” Warroad, Minnesota, native Gigi Marvin said of Team USA’s Sunday, Dec. 3 meeting with Canada in St. Paul.

As many as seven Minnesota natives will be showcasing their talents in front of fans, friends and, most importantly, family at Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. Sunday’s meeting in St. Paul is the sixth of the seven-game The Time is Now Tour, presented by Toyota, which wraps up Friday, Dec. 15 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.

Current and former University of Minnesota players Dani Cameranesi (Plymouth), Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights), Lee Stecklein (Roseville) Kelly Pannek (Plymouth) and Marvin join Minnesota-Duluth’s Maddie Rooney (Andover) and former Bulldog Sidney Morin (Minnetonka) to comprise Team USA’s Minnesota born and bred members who share a common bond.

“All of us grew up playing together in the summer, for the most part, and I think that created those bonds,” Rooney said. “It’s a great thing to share, being from Minnesota, because everyone understands how great the hockey atmosphere is there.”

In addition, Amanda Kessel (Madison, Wis.) and Megan Bozek (Buffalo Grove, Ill.) teamed up to lead the University of Minnesota to back-to-back national championships to conclude the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Of the state’s natives, all but Marvin made at least one Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament appearance at Xcel Energy Center with Morin (3), Cameranesi (2) and Stecklein (1) combining for six state championships.

“It’s very exciting and it’s a great atmosphere,” Cameranesi said. “I’m really excited to see the amount of fans that we bring in. Just having all that support behind us will be awesome.”

“Growing up in Minnesota and playing in the state tournament, that was a big deal,” Rooney added. “Being in the position I am right now, I’m just very humbled and grateful for this opportunity.”

With so much locally-produced talent on display in St. Paul, the building’s atmosphere is sure to be electric when the U.S. faces it archrival, but who will draw the biggest cheering section?

Gigi Marvin is one of numbers USWNTers with Minnesota roots

“I don’t know,” Marvin said with a pause. “I feel like Dani Cameranesi might have a huge crew there but the Marvin family supports well — we have a big family where we’re from — but it’ll be fun either way.”

Cameranesi laughed off the notion and turned the tables on Marvin, saying, “I’d probably say Gigi if all of her family members were coming.”

Marvin lent credence to Cameranesi’s educated assertion.

“I think there’s an entire section that is all family and friends, and little girls that are on some hockey teams that I’ve been able to skate with or coach,“ Marvin said. “I’m really excited to see them.”

Do not count out Rooney, though. The UMD goaltender who, at 20, is the youngest member of the Minnesota contingent, counts as many as 10 of her Bulldog teammates among friends and family she’s expecting. “I’d say close to a hundred, maybe more,” Rooney said.

Whatever the figure, those in attendance will witness the U.S. taking on a Canadian team it has already defeated in three of four meetings so far this fall. However, with so few games leading up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, the players know they cannot afford to take a single game for granted, meaning loved ones must be prepared to take a back seat to the task at hand.

“Our coaches have touched on the excitement with how many of us are from Minnesota,” Cameranesi said. “Although we’re in our home state we still have to stay focused on the game and not get too distracted.”

For Marvin, a two-time Olympic silver medalist who, at the age of 30, is the senior member of the team, this is nothing new.

“My family knows that we’re there for a job, we’re there to win and we’re there to be the absolute best we can possibly be,” Marvin said. “For the most part, the whole point is to go and play hockey.”

That’s not to say Marvin isn’t looking forward to seeing her biggest fans, especially those who are not only new to the sport, but new to the world.

“What’s cute is my littlest cousin, she’s about six months old, she has already traveled to Florida to watch me play in the Four Nations tournament and now she’ll go to the ‘X’ and get to watch another game,” Marvin said. “It’ll be really sweet having her in the stands.”

Among those Cameranesi says she is most excited to have in attendance are her squirt and pee wee coaches.

“They started everything for me and really reinforced my love of the game, which is a huge reason as to why I’m still here and playing, and still love the game so much.”

Marvin fondly recalls her previous experiences competing for Team USA in St. Paul leading up to the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Winter Games and says the excitement never wears off.

“I think anytime you wear the USA jersey and that coupled with playing against Canada, which is an amazing team to play against, and then added on top of that being in your home state, that’s like a best case scenario. It’s a win-win all around.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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2017-18 USWNT Schedule

Date Opponent TIme (Local/ET)/Result Venue Location Broadcast/Stream
Sun., Oct. 22 Canada W, 5-2 Centre Videotron Quebec City, Que. NHL Network
Wed., Oct. 25 Canada* L, 1-5 Agganis Arena Boston, Mass. NHL Network
Tues., Nov. 7 Finland
Four Nations Cup*
W, 8-2 Florida Hospital Center Ice Wesley Chapel, Fla. HockeyTV
Wed., Nov. 8 Canada
Four Nations Cup*
W, 4-2 Florida Hospital Center Ice Wesley Chapel, Fla. HockeyTV
Fri., Nov. 10 Sweden
Four Nations Cup*
W, 5-0 Florida Hospital Center Ice Wesley Chapel, Fla. HockeyTV
Sun., Nov. 12 Canada
Championship Game
Four Nations Cup*
W, 5-1 AMALIE Arena Tampa, Fla. HockeyTV
Sun., Dec. 3 Canada* L, 1-2 OT Xcel Energy Center St. Paul, Minn. NBCSN
Live Stream: NBC Sports App
Tues., Dec. 5 Canada L, 0-2 Bell MTS Place Winnipeg, Man. NHL Network
Fri., Dec. 15 Canada* L, 1-3 SAP Center San Jose, Calif. NBCSN
Live Stream: NBC Sports App
Sun., Dec. 17 Canada L, 1-2 OT Rogers Place Edmonton, Alta. NHL Network
Sat. Jan 13 Team NWHL W, 3-0 Florida Hospital Center Ice Wesley Chapel, Fla. HockeyTV
Mon., Jan. 15 Team NWHL W, 6-2 Florida Hospital Center Ice Wesley Chapel, Fla. HockeyTV


Megan Bozek celebrates after a goal.
The 1998 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team celebrates gold in Nagano.