Feb 8, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; USA defenseman Megan Bozek (9) carries the puck away from Finland forward Nina Tikkinen (23) during the women's ice hockey preliminary round game in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Shayba Arena. Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will be well-represented in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games women's hockey gold-medal game this Thursday when Canada and the U.S. face off in the championship game. The WCHA will have 16 current and former players fighting for the gold medal. The game will be televised live at 11 a.m. CT on NBC.
The WCHA broke down the league's Olympians by country and university:
The roster for the United States team includes 11 current and former players from the WCHA. All 21 members of the squad have college ties and every player has competed in an IIHF Women's World Championship, including 18 who captured a gold medal last April to propel the United States to the No. 1 ranking in the world.
In addition to the five current and former Gophers competing for Team USA - Megan Bozek, Amanda Kessel, Gigi Marvin, Anne Schleper and Lee Stecklein - Wisconsin and North Dakota also have players on the Team USA roster. Marvin is the lone Olympic veteran among the Gopher representatives. Marvin is one of 11 USA athletes with Olympic experience, and Stecklein is the youngest player on the roster. Kessel and Stecklein have college eligibility remaining.
Four former Badgers are on the U.S. Olympic squad. They are forwards Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, who has been named team captain, and Hilary Knight, along with goaltender Jessie Vetter. It marks the second Olympic Games for Duggan, Knight and Vetter as the trio played for UW head coach Mark Johnson in the 2010 Olympics, while Decker is making her Olympic debut. Decker, Duggan and Vetter all took home the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the nation's top player, at some point during their Wisconsin careers, while Knight is the all-time leading scorer in school history. Vetter and Duggan each won three national championships while at Wisconsin, while Knight was a part of two national championship teams and Decker was a member of the 2011 national championship squad.
Former North Dakota players Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux are also on Team USA. It is the second Olympic Winter Games for the Lamoureux twins, who played in their first Olympics winning silver with the U.S. in 2010 in Vancouver.
Along with the Team USA connections, three WCHA teams - Minnesota Duluth, Wisconsin and Ohio State - have former players on Team Canada, the defending Olympic champion. They are forward Natalie Spooner of Ohio State, defenseman Meghan Mikkelson of Wisconsin, Jocelyne Larocque of Minnesota Duluth and former UMD forwards Haley Irwin and Caroline Ouellette, the Canadian captain.
Overall there were 34 current and former WCHA players who competed in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, including Minnesota Duluth with 11 players, Minnesota with seven, North Dakota with six, Wisconsin with five, Ohio State with three and Minnesota State with two. There are five current and former WCHA players who will compete in the bronze medal game between Sweden and Switzerland Thursday at 6 am CT. That game will be televised by NBC Sports Network.
Along with five Team USA Gophers, Minnesota had Finnish teammates goalie Noora Räty, an all-American collegian last season, and defenseman Mira Jalouso in competition for their native countries. Wisconsin has five players - the USA quartet will be playing against Mikkelson, who won two national titles while at Wisconsin and was named the 2007 WCHA Defensive Player of the Year.
Along with the Lamoureuxs, UND also had three current players that played in the 2014 Games. Forwards Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani were key members of Team Finland, while defenseman Tanja Eisenschmid played for Germany. Former UND defenseman Susanne Fellner also played for Team Germany.
Minnesota Duluth had 11 current and former players on six teams in Sochi. Irwin, Larocque and Ouellette have been stalwarts for Team Canada, although Irwin missed some games with an injury. Both forwards, Irwin and Ouellette, played on Team Canada's gold medalists in 2010 in Vancouver. Ouellette is a three-time gold medalist for Canada (2010, 2006, 2002), while Larocque, an all-American defenseman, was one of the last players cut from the 2010 Canada Olympic squad after she was centralized for the first part of the 2009-10 NCAA season. After returning to UMD in January, she helped lead the Bulldogs to their fifth NCAA title that March.
Current Bulldog freshman defenseman Lara Stalder will play for a bronze medal with Team Switzerland Thursday against UMD alums defenseman Jenni Asserholt, goaltender Kim Martin Hansson and forward Pernilla Winberg who are all skating with Team Sweden. Ex-Bulldogs Alexandra Vafina and Iya Gavrilova played for the host team Russia, current Minnesota Duluth blueliner Tea Villila skated for Team Finland and former Bulldog goalie Jennifer Harss was on Germany's Olympic squad.
In addition to Spooner, Ohio State had two others alums in Sochi - forwards Minttu Tuominen and Emma Terho (Laaksonen) who played on Team Finland.
Minnesota State has two alums at the Games. Nina Tikkinen played for the Finnish team and fellow alum Emilia Andersson is on the Swedish tea which is still hoping for a bronze medal.
WCHA: 16 Current and Former Players to Go for Gold in 2014 Winter Olympics
Gopher Olympian Photo Gallery