Hayley Wickenheiser

Canada names women’s Olympic hockey team

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As expected, the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team will be older than the U.S. roster.

Hockey Canada announced its final three cuts and the official 21-woman team for Sochi on Monday.

It’s led by six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, largely regarded as the greatest player in women’s hockey history. Wickenheiser, 35, has won three Olympic gold medals, one silver and competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics for Canada in softball.

She’s also the all-time leading scorer in Olympic women’s hockey history and one of two women’s players in EA Sports’ NHL 13 video game (the other is retired American Angela Ruggiero).

Canada has won the last three Olympic golds and took silver to the U.S. in the first Olympic women’s hockey tournament in 1998. The U.S. is the reigning world champion and has won two straight games over Canada this fall after Canadian coach Dan Church resigned.

Former NHL player Kevin Dineen now coaches Canada and would be the first male Olympic coach for the women’s hockey team. The U.S. is coached by Katey Stone, who would be the first women’s coach for the U.S. Olympic Team.

The average Canadian women’s Olympic hockey player age is 26 years old. The U.S.’ average age will be about 24 once it makes its final cuts and names its team on Jan. 1.

The Canadian roster includes 12 Olympians from 2010, six Olympians from 2006, three Olympians from 2002 and two Olympians from 1998.

The U.S. roster will include a maximum of 12 Olympians from 2010, one from 2006, one from 2002 and none from 1998.

Here’s the full Canadian roster:

Goalies
Shannon Szabados — 2010 Olympian (shut out U.S. in 2010 Olympic gold-medal game)
Charline Labonte — 2006, 2010 Olympian
Genevieve Lacasse

Defensemen
Meaghan Mikkelson — 2010 Olympian
Catherine Ward — 2010 Olympian
Laura Fortino
Jocelyne Larocque
Lauriane Rougeau
Tara Watchorn

Forwards
Hayley Wickenheiser — 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 Olympian
Jayna Hefford — 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 Olympian
Caroline Ouellette — 2002, 2006, 2010 Olympian
Meghan Agosta-Marciano — 2006, 2010 Olympian
Gillian Apps — 2006, 2010 Olympian
Marie-Philip Poulin — 2010 Olympian (scored both 2010 Olympic gold-medal game goals)
Haley Irwin — 2010 Olympian
Rebecca Johnston — 2010 Olympian
Melodia Daoust
Brianne Jenner
Natalie Spooner
Jennifer Wakefield

Video: U.S., Canada brawl in exhibition

Amanda Kessel ‘dream come true’ in University of Minnesota return

Amanda Kessel
AP
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Olympic silver medalist Amanda Kessel recorded two assists in her first game in nearly two years, coming back from a concussion for the University of Minnesota on Friday night.

“I think I’d regret it if I didn’t get back to this point,” Kessel said after a 3-0 win over North Dakota, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

Kessel, 24, last played in the Sochi Olympic gold-medal game and then sat out nearly two years with symptoms from a concussion reportedly suffered before the Winter Games. Coach Brad Frost said in July that Kessel wouldn’t play this season, ending her college career.

But in August, new doctors gave Kessel hope she would play again.

On Friday, she skated on the Golden Gophers’ top line after the school’s medical staff got second and third opinions before clearing her to play, according to the newspaper.

“If I was going to get back to playing, I was going to be 100 percent healthy and be able to get in there,” Kessel said, according to the Pioneer Press. “I felt great being able to get in corners and get hit and stuff like that.”

Kessel, the 2012-13 NCAA Player of the Year for the undefeated national champion, said she wasn’t 100 percent in “game shape” and that she felt like a rookie, but that she’s ready to challenge herself in the final month and a half of her senior season.

“I don’t think I’ve heard it that loud since we won the national championship here [on March 22],” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “So many people were just so excited to see her work her way back to where she is now.”

MORE: How Amanda Kessel became a star for U.S. hockey team

Kjetil Jansrud wins first ski race on 2018 Olympic course

Kjetil Jansrud
AP
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JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — Kjetil Jansrud confirmed he’s the skier to beat on the downhill course for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, winning the test event by a comfortable margin Saturday.

The first downhill course in South Korea also won mostly praise from skiers and the International Ski Federation.

“If you want to be the best you have to ski anything,” Jansrud said. “This is more than an acceptable Olympic downhill. The way it’s running now it’s almost a little too fast because the jumps are so big. But that makes it exciting.”

Giving Norway its 17th World Cup win of the season, Jansrud was nearly flawless and clocked 1 minute, 41.38 seconds for a 0.20-second advantage over Dominik Paris of Italy.

Steven Nyman of the United States finished third, 0.41 behind, in perfect conditions with clear skies, cool temperatures and hard snow.

It was Jansrud’s third win of the season and first in downhill after taking the season-long title in the discipline last season.

“This is probably the first run I’ve skied this season without mistakes,” he said.

Jansrud also led both training courses on the newly developed Jeongseon course.

Paris and Nyman each posted their first podium results of the season.

“In the summer I was thinking this is a highlight of the season to come here and to really learn about the culture and learn about what we’re going to experience during the Olympics,” Nyman said.

“I want to feel comfortable and come here with the expectations and I want to do well, too, because I know the Olympics are going to be here in two years,” Nyman added. “I did well and I’m happy. I think the course really suits my skills.”

A super-G is scheduled for Sunday in the first of 28 test events for the next Winter Games.

“Today we put Korea on the map of the international sports world,” Pyeongchang organizing committee chief Cho Yang-ho said. “This is just the beginning.”

While the course is not the most challenging of tests for World Cup racers, it features four big jumps, sweeping turns and is designed for small margins.

“It’s a downhill that is really made for the Olympics,” International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper said. “It’s not Kitzbuehel or Wengen — that we don’t need for the Olympics.”

It was only the third World Cup downhill held in Asia, and the first in South Korea.

Todd Brooker of Canada won in Furano, Japan, in 1985 and Peter Mueller of Switzerland won at Furano in 1987.

More than 1,000 fans attended the race, which was preceded by an opening ceremony featuring traditional dancers with skis on their backs.

Most of the spectators had to hike 500 meters (yards) up a steep hill to the finish area, since a planned lift for fans hasn’t been installed yet.

There were also cheerleaders to keep the spectators entertained, and many skiers bowed to the crowd after their runs according to the local custom.

Peter Fill of Italy finished fourth and Beat Feuz of Switzerland was fifth.

Jansrud is fourth in the overall standings, which are led by Marcel Hirscher of Austria.

Aksel Lund Svindal, Jansrud’s teammate who will miss the rest of the season following a crash in Kitzbuehel (video here), Austria, still leads the downhill standings by 71 points ahead of Fill. Jansrud is third, 109 points behind.

VIDEO: Ted Ligety out for season after torn ACL