The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics are just around the corner, and the U.S. women's team is wasting no time in preparing to recapture the gold for the first time since the sport's Olympic inception in 1998. Team USA, the top-ranked team in the world, is at the Xcel this week to kick off a nationwide barnstorming tour against the best amateur and national teams. Their first match is against the Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Stars, who certainly are no slouches. Coached by University of Wisconsin skipper Mark Johnson, Team USA will face more stiff competition following the showdown at the X. In the next few months they play chief rival and second-ranked Team Canada three times, the crack Gophers squad and Wisconsin once each, and third-ranked Team Finland. It's going to be a rough tour, no doubt, but it certainly will get the team in shape for fierce Olympic play. If you can't make it to the game on Friday, there are three more chances to catch Team USA. They play North Dakota in Warroad on October 10, return to the Xcel on December 30 against the Canadians, and then face the Gophers at the Ridder Arena home ice on January 12.
Fri., Sept. 25, 7 p.m., 2009