Jocelyne Lamoureux, Kelli Stack

U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team roster marked by youth

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For the first time, the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey roster will have no ties to its 1998 team that won gold in the sport’s Olympic debut. 

Forward Julie Chu is the only player named to the 21-player squad Wednesday who competed at either the 2002 or the 2006 Olympics. Chu, 31, is also the only player on the team born before 1985.

In addition to Chu, the team is led by forwards Meghan Duggan (the team captain) and Amanda Kessel, the reigning NCAA Player of the Year who scored the gold medal-winning goal in overtime against Canada at the World Championships in April.

Kessel, the sister of NHL All-Star Phil Kessel, hasn’t played a single minute of the U.S.’ seven games against Canada this fall and winter due to a lower-body injury. The U.S. took the series 4-3, winning the final four games after the shock resignation of Canadian coach Dan Church on Dec. 12. The longtime rivals brawled in two of those games.

“It’s an incredible rivalry,” Duggan said on NBC. “Everyone in here just loves the sport of hockey.”

The same three goalies from the 2010 Olympics return, led by Jessie Vetter, who started the gold-medal game at the 2010 Olympics and the 2013 World Championships.

The final two cuts were 2010 Olympic defenseman Lisa Chesson and forward Anne Pankowski. Defenseman Jincy Dunne, 16, was cut in December, ending her bid to be the youngest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player ever.

The U.S. is coached by Harvard’s Katey Stone. Stone is set to be the first female coach of the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team.

The average age of the U.S. team is a little over 23 years old, which is almost three years younger than Canada’s average age for its team named Dec. 23. The U.S., reigning world champion, and Canada, three-time reigning Olympic champion, are expected to play in the gold-medal game Feb. 20.

The U.S. opens its Olympic schedule against Finland on Feb. 8, the day after the Opening Ceremony. Finland, backed by goalie Noora Raty, beat the U.S. at the Four Nations Cup on Nov. 8.

The U.S. will play Canada in a group-play game Feb. 12.

The top four ranked teams in the world were put in the same preliminary group — Canada, the U.S., Finland and Switzerland — with all four guaranteed to advance to the playoff round. The top two teams in that group get byes into opposite semifinals.

Angela Ruggiero and Jenny Potter were the last links to 1998 who played in the 2010 Olympics. They have since retired.

“We’ve got some veteran experience, and then we have a lot of youth coming in,” Duggan said on NBC. “They bring a lot of speed. They bring a lot of excitement and intensity. We’ve got the right group.”

Here’s the full U.S. roster:

Goalies
Jessie Vetter — 2010 Olympian (started medal-round games at 2010 Olympics)
Molly Schaus — 2010 Olympian
Brianne McLaughlin — 2010 Olympian

Defensemen
Kacey Bellamy — 2010 Olympian
Gigi Marvin — 2010 Olympian
Megan Bozek
Michelle Picard
Josephine Pucci
Anne Schleper
Lee Stecklein

Forwards
Julie Chu — 2002, 2006, 2010 Olympian
Meghan Duggan — 2010 Olympian
Hilary Knight — 2010 Olympian
Jocelyne Lamoureux — 2010 Olympian
Monique Lamoureux — 2010 Olympian
Kelli Stack — 2010 Olympian
Alex Carpenter
Kendall Coyne
Brianna Decker
Lyndsey Fry
Amanda Kessel

Lolo Jones on USA-1 for Winterberg Bobsled World Cup

Ashley Wagner ‘sick’ of hearing about her age

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KANSAS CITY — Ashley Wagner can become the oldest U.S. women’s figure skating champion in 90 years, but it would not be wise to tell her that.

“I think that this sport focuses on age way too much,” the three-time U.S. champion Wagner, 25, said in a press conference after Thursday night’s short program at Sprint Center (recap, videos here). “I’m so sick of hearing about my age. I’m so sick of it guys. If anybody asks me one more question about my age, I’ll just stop talking. It’s ridiculous.”

Wagner placed third in the short program, 1.88 points behind leader Karen Chen, who is 17 years old. She’ll try to surpass Chen in the free skate Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Chen sat in Thursday’s press conference between Wagner and second-place Mirai Nagasu, a 23-year-old who won the U.S. title way back in 2008.

“They’re my role models,” Chen said. “I watched them skate for years and years.”

Wagner then interjected before the next question.

“You just made both of us feel so old,” Wagner said, drawing laughter.

Truth is, Wagner is often asked about her age, her experience, her highs and lows, and answers respectfully and with wisdom. She did again after competing Thursday night for the first time in nearly two months, under the pressure as U.S. Championships favorite.

“I choose to view the word ‘veteran’ as experienced, and experience is never a bad thing, because I’ve gone through the good experiences and the brutally terrible awful experiences,” said Wagner, who last season earned world championships silver, ending a 10-year U.S. women’s drought.

NBC Olympics analyst Tara Lipinski was surprised to learn Wagner wasn’t particularly interested in questions about her age.

“Age is definitely a factor,” Lipinski said Friday. “You can pretend it’s not, but it is. I tried to pretend that it wasn’t, but it was. It was talked about a lot. I was too young [winning the Olympics at age 15]. Whether it’s the opposite [age] range, age is a factor.”

Wagner competes in a sport where, in other top countries, crops of teens are replaced by the next crop of teens. At last month’s Japanese and Russian Championships, the oldest women’s podium finisher was 18 years old.

Wagner may be past the usual prime years for skaters, but Lipinski pointed out that being (very) young has its disadvantages.

“I felt that I didn’t have a lot to draw on,” said Lipinski, who at 14 became the youngest U.S. women’s champion in 1997. “I didn’t have a lot of outside perspectives. Skating was my life. So any small mistake took me so down, and it was very hard for me to put this sport in perspective.”

Wagner was asked if she worried she may have peaked with that 2016 World Championships silver medal.

“If I peaked,” she said, “I would have retired.”

If Wagner makes the PyeongChang Winter Games, she would become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928. Which would actually be an incredible accomplishment in a teen-dominated sport.

That sort of statistic was probably furthest from her mind in Thursday’s press conference.

“We definitely need a new crop of girls to come in,” Wagner said, cracking a smile, “because I will die one day.”

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating head says Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang

How to watch U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Friday

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2016, file photo, Nathan Chen of the United States, competes in the men's short program at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating final in Marseille, southern France. The 17-year-old's revelatory performance at last month's Grand Prix final in France has made him American figure skating's bright new star. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
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U.S. Figure Skating Championships coverage continues Friday, live on NBCSN, Universal HD and streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, starting at 6 p.m. ET.

The short dance and men’s short programs are scheduled in Kansas City.

The NBC Sports All-Access page will provide live scoring and more all week.

Short dance
6-8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app
STREAM LINK | SKATE ORDER | PREVIEW

Men’s short program
8:30 p.m.-midnight ET, Universal HD
SKATE ORDER | PREVIEW

In dance, defending champions Maia and Alex Shibutani take on two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. They’re heavy favorites for the three world championships berths.

Nathan Chen leads the men’s field, seeking to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 1966. He faces past champions Jason Brown and Max Aaron with two worlds berths at stake this weekend

The free dance will be Saturday and the men’s free skate Sunday, both on NBC and streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss says Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang