Olympics: Amanda Kessel gets back up to speed for U.S. women’s hockey
SOCHI, Russia — It wasn’t an official game, just a spirited and quick-paced scrimmage Tuesday for the U.S. women’s hockey team against Germany on the Olympic practice rink.
But it was as close as Amanda Kessel has come to playing a meaningful match since last spring, when she left the ice to rehabilitate a hip injury that had required surgery in 2012. After missing Team USA’s entire pre-Olympic tour, the dynamic forward clearly enjoyed returning to something more like normal.
“It feels great to get a game under our belts here,” she said. “Obviously, it’s been a little bit tough with the travel and whatnot. Considering that we just got here two days ago, our team came out and played pretty well.”
U.S. and German team officials had long ago agreed to stage a scrimmage on Tuesday instead of having each team practice separately, and U.S. Coach Katey Stone was pleased with the results. No official score was kept but the U.S. women scored 10 goals. “All kinds of great benefits for us, really,” she said.
Probably no one benefited from the session more than Kessel, who must readjust to game-pace before the U.S. faces Finland in its opener Saturday at Shayba Arena. Kessel, a standout at the University of Minnesota and younger sister of NHL all-star winger Phil Kessel, is expected to regain her spot alongside Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne, her linemates last spring when she scored the winning goal for the U.S. over Canada at the world championships.
Tuesday’s scrimmage was the toughest test for the U.S. women so far. They went through Olympic processing in Munich, Germany, before arriving in Sochi on Monday and held a practice on Monday and a light session Tuesday morning before Tuesday’s scrimmage.
Stone beamed when asked how she thought Kessel looked against the overwhelmed German women.
“She looks pretty good. What do you think?” Stone said.
About the same.
“She looks good,” Stone said. “She’s right where she needs to be.”
In one sense, that’s true: Kessel was back on the ice, where Team USA needs her to be. But even Kessel acknowledged that her conditioning isn’t where she’d like it to be.
“It’s pretty good. It’s getting there,” she said, smiling. “At this point I try not to focus on that. I’m here and can’t do much about it at this point. I’m just trying to do everything I can and play the best I can.”
German player injured
German defenseman Daria Gleissner suffered an apparent head or neck injury when she tumbled into the boards head-first late in the team’s scrimmage against the U.S. She was taken off the ice on a stretcher and transported to a local hospital. Michael Pfuhl, the team’s general manager, said he was awaiting word on her condition.
“She was turning around, going forward to backward, and she fell into the boards,” he said. He noted that the mishap was an accident and not the result of an illegal play.
Washington Capitals forward Martin Erat was named to the Czech Republic men’s team in place of St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka, who suffered a leg injury last week.
Honor for Ruggiero
Four-time U.S. hockey Olympian Angela Ruggiero, a native of Simi Valley, was elected vice chair of the International Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission.