SOCHI, Russia Before departing for the Olympics, the U.S. womens hockey team received a few visitors at their training facility in Bedford, Mass.
Members of Team USAs 1998 gold medal team stopped by to share stories and words of encouragement.
They just wanted to tell us that theres something special about our team and thats the way they felt in 98, forward Kelli Stack said. We want to bring a gold medal back to the States because its been so long.
Team USA remains a powerhouse in womens international hockey, but the Americans havent won a gold medal since that debut Olympic tournament in Nagano in 98. Canada has won three consecutive gold medals since then, including a victory against the U.S. in Vancouver in 2010.
The disappointment of that defeat still lingers inside the 11 current members of the American squad that skated off the ice with a silver medal.
Thats something thats driven us the last four years and really motivated us, forward Monique Lamoureux said. That feeling of coming up short doesnt fade over time. It really sticks with us.
Team USA is determined to write a different script when it meets its archrival Canada in the gold medal game again tonight. The Canadians defeated the U.S. 3-2 in the preliminary round in these Games.
The Americans were frustrated with their performance in that game, saying they lacked their usual aggressiveness. They wanted this rematch to prove that theyre a better team than what they showed the first time.
Were just a fast, young, resilient, strong team, forward Hilary Knight said. Weve got a lot of skill. Im excited about the opportunity.
Everyone should be, too, because these two teams are heavyweights in womens hockey. Their rivalry is heated (some say hated) and competitive. The teams respect but dont necessarily like each other. Their games are fast and physical and occasionally angry. The teams had a pair of fights in pre-Olympic games.
Theyre at the top of their game, were at the top of ours, Knight said. Its definitely a hot ticket.
Team Canada holds bragging rights, though, until proven otherwise. The Americans are dominant in international hockey, but its been a long time since they could claim to be the best.
Most of the players were still kids learning the game the last time the U.S. brought home a gold medal. To the current and previous group of national players, Canada has remained a thorn in their side, the one and only team that they use as a measuring stick to judge themselves.
Youve got to believe that you can do for you to do it, U.S. coach Katey Stone. Its just getting out there and getting hungry. This is not the time to sit back and wait and see what happens. Youve got to go after it.
This U.S. team it believes it has the right blend of talent, experience and chemistry to dethrone Canada. They defeated the Canadians four times in pre-Olympic games, but they must prove that they can do it under the pressure of a gold medal game.
You wait four years or basically your whole life for this moment, Stack said.