Zach Parise

U.S. Olympic men’s hockey roster includes 13 from Vancouver Games

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The two biggest American stars from the 2010 Olympic gold-medal game are back for Sochi.

Goalie Ryan Miller and forward Zach Parise were among 13 returning Olympians on the 25-man U.S. roster announced after the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. In Sochi, the U.S. will look to improve on a surprise silver-medal performance from Vancouver.

Miller backstopped the U.S.’ improbable run to the Vancouver gold-medal game, where Parise scored a game-tying goal with 25 seconds left before Sidney Crosby won it for Canada in overtime.

“It’s very special to represent your country at that magnitude, where everyone’s focused watching it,” Miller said before the announcement, according to The Associated Press. “For me, it’s another chance to play in the tournament where there’s a chance to win something. You focus, take it seriously.”

Olympic hockey rosters: U.S. | Canada | Russia | Sweden | Finland | Czech Republic | Slovakia | Switzerland | Latvia | Norway | Austria | Slovenia

Miller or fellow 2010 Olympian Jonathan Quick is expected to start in goal for the U.S., beginning with a group-play game against Slovakia on Feb. 13 at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN. Quick hasn’t played since Nov. 12 due to a groin injury.

Jimmy Howard is the third goalie, beating out Ben BishopCory Schneider and Tim Thomas for the last spot.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Howard said on NBC. “Words can’t really put it in perspective.”

Parise is one of nine returning 2010 Olympic forwards, including Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel. Another 2010 Olympic forward, Bobby Ryan, was perhaps the most surprising omission. Five forwards are first-time Olympians.

ProHockeyTalk: Biggest snubs

The eight-man blue-line crew includes 2010 Olympians Ryan Suter and Brooks Orpik. Missing was Jack Johnson, best remembered from Vancouver for attending the Opening Ceremony between NHL games.

A first-time Olympic defenseman is perhaps the best story, if he can play.

Paul Martin was on the 2006 Olympic taxi squad with Miller and Matt Cullen as potential injury replacements but didn’t play in Torino. Martin then made the 2010 Olympic team outright but gave way to an injury replacement due to his broken left arm.

But Martin has a fractured tibia and, as of Wednesday, was still unable to skate.

As experienced as it is, the U.S. will not include any players with multiple Olympics under their belts for the first time since NHLers were allowed into the Winter Games in 1998.

But it will be vastly more seasoned than the 2010 team, which included three players with prior Olympic experience.

Here’s the full roster:

Goalies
Ryan Miller — 2010 Olympian
Jonathan Quick — 2010 Olympian
Jimmy Howard

Defensemen
Brooks Orpik — 2010 Olympian
Ryan Suter — 2010 Olympian
John Carlson
Justin Faulk
Cam Fowler
Paul Martin
Ryan McDonagh
Kevin Shattenkirk

Forwards
David Backes — 2010 Olympian
Dustin Brown — 2010 Olympian
Ryan Callahan — 2010 Olympian
Patrick Kane — 2010 Olympian
Ryan Kesler — 2010 Olympian
Phil Kessel — 2010 Olympian
Zach Parise — 2010 Olympian
Joe Pavelski — 2010 Olympian
Paul Stastny — 2010 Olympian
T.J. Oshie
Max Pacioretty
Derek Stepan
James van Riemsdyk
Blake Wheeler

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

U.S. Olympic Committee to hire infectious disease specialists for Zika

Christ the Redeemer
AP
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The U.S. Olympic Committee will hire two infectious disease specialists to advise potential Olympians who are worried about the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter Wednesday to all possible Olympians, acknowledging the growing worries over the virus.

“I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” Blackmun wrote. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”

The letter goes on to spell out much of the information that’s already been relayed by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. About 20 percent of those infected display mild symptoms, including body aches and rash. But pregnant women and those considering getting pregnant have greater reason for concern because the virus can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo said if the Olympics were being held now, she wouldn’t go.

Blackmun told The Associated Press that Solo’s comments “made us realize we need to provide concise and accurate info for our athletes.”

At least one of the two infectious disease specialists will be a woman, Blackmun said.

In addition to those two hires, the USOC will post updates to its website at USOC.org/RioTravelUpdates.

The USOC’s decision to hire the specialists was first reported by USA Today.

The letter, addressed to prospective members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic delegation, says “no matter how much we prepare … there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”

Blackmun said the USOC is monitoring the frequent updates regarding Zika. The letter makes note that “rapid testing to determine if an individual is infected is expected in the near future.”

“First and foremost, we want to make sure our athletes have accurate information because they’re concerned,” Blackmun said. “Based on what we know now, the primary threat is to unborn children.”

MORE: Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

Alex Morgan scores 12 seconds into U.S. Olympic qualifying romp (video)

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Alex Morgan wasted no time igniting the U.S. women’s soccer team’s Olympic qualifying campaign.

The striker scored the first of her two goals 12 seconds into the Americans’ CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament-opening 5-0 rout of Costa Rica on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.

It’s believed to be the fastest goal in U.S. Soccer history, according to U.S. Soccer.

“I think we shocked Costa Rica’s confidence a little bit,” Morgan said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “We’ve been working on that play, so I’m glad that we executed it perfectly.”

Crystal DunnCarli Lloyd and Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 in the world. Costa Rica is ranked No. 34.

“Overall, we brought the fight,” Lloyd said on Live Extra. “We’ve got to put this one to bed and move on.”

The first three goals came in the first 15 minutes.

GOAL VIDEOS: Dunn | LloydMorgan’s second | Press

The U.S. is in one of two CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament groups with Costa Rica, Mexico (ranked No. 26) and Puerto Rico (No. 108).

It plays Mexico next on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra. Mexico crushed Puerto Rico 6-0 earlier Wednesday.

The top two nations per group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the Feb. 19 semifinal winners advance to the Rio Games in August.

The U.S. is heavily favored to qualify for Rio, where it would go for its fourth straight Olympic title. The next-best North American team is ranked No. 11 (Canada, which is in the opposite CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group).

If the U.S. and Canada win their respective groups, they would not have to play each other to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying includes 13 of the 23 players from the World Cup, led by Olympic champions Morgan, Lloyd and Hope Solo, who blanked Costa Rica on Wednesday.

All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: No Olympics for Messi, but another Argentine star striker possible

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Mexico 6, Puerto Rico 0                                 5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA 5, Costa Rica 0                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN