For Cayla Barnes (Eastvale, Calif.), Megan Keller (Farmington Hills, Mich.), Kali Flanagan (Hudson, N.H.), Kelly Pannek (Plymouth, Minn.) and Maddie Rooney (Andover, Minn.), the USA Hockey Women’s National Festival this week marks the first time pulling on a USA sweater since winning gold at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Though it’s certainly been a year to remember, all five players, still active NCAA athletes, are taking this opportunity to reset and refocus ahead of the 2018-19 college season and the new quad.
“This week, I’m really just excited to meet new people that are here and ready to be a part of this quad,” said Barnes. “Obviously, it’s fun to be back with some of the returners that were at the 2018 Olympics with me, but it’s also great to be here with a new coaching staff and new players, too.”
Barnes, who contributed two goals and one assist during the 2017 Four Nations Cup before being named to the 2018 Olympic team, skated in just five games for Boston College before being called up to join the Women’s National Team evaluation last fall. She’ll return to BC to as a freshman this season.
“Going back to BC, I’m really excited to just be with my peers and my class again,” said Barnes. “I’m really excited to be a part of a team all year and hopefully go for a national championship.”
Cayla Barnes, Megan Keller and Kali Flanagan celebrate after receiving their Olympic gold medals
Barnes will also be joined by Olympic teammates Megan Keller and Kali Flanagan, both rising seniors at Boston College this season after taking a year off to train for the Games.
Meanwhile, Kelly Pannek will return to finish her eligibility at the University of Minnesota and Rooney, who played in four games – including the gold-medal game shootout winner against Canada – at the 2018 Olympics, will also rejoin her team at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
“I’m really excited to get back up to my college, the University of Minnesota Duluth, and get back into my college routine and be back with my teammates,” said Rooney. “I’m really looking forward to that and focusing on winning a national championship with them this year.”
But before the college season kicks off, these players have the opportunity to test themselves against some of the best in the country in Lake Placid.
“My goals for this week are to be consistent and work on the small areas of my game, puck handling and rebound control, things like that,” said Rooney.
“Every time you step on the ice, you can improve on something and get better, so I’m just going to focus on getting better each time,” added Barnes.
Having the opportunity to compete among some of the best players in the country this week, Barnes and Rooney are both confident that the U.S. can continue its recent history of success as the new quad unfolds.
“The future of the national team program is so bright. There are so many players here from across the nation representing their schools and their states, and there’s just so much talent,” said Barnes. “It’s really exciting to see what the future holds.”
Maddie Rooney (right) jumps for joy after making the game-winning save in the gold-medal game at the Olympics
And according to Rooney, that may be especially true for goalies.
“All good teams start in the crease,” said Rooney. “And to have the depth that we do in goaltending in the national program is huge, and I think it’s going to continue being a big factor moving forward.”
Barnes and Rooney are both competing this week for the opportunity to play on the 2018 U.S. Under-22 Women’s Select Team as part of a three-game series against Canada to be held Aug. 16-19 in Calgary, Alberta. If named to the team, it will be the first time they suit up against their northern rival since the Olympics, making for an exciting new chapter.
“This is the first time we get to meet Canada following the Olympics, so we want to set the tone and send a message to Canada that we’re not going anywhere,” said Barnes.
“It will be a big challenge, but I think we’re ready for it,” concluded Rooney.
The roster for the 2018 U.S. Under-22 Women’s Select Team is expected to be announced Aug. 12.
For full coverage of the USA Hockey Women’s National Festival, click here.