By David McCoy

BLAINE, Minn. (WCCO) — Sunday is a big day for Olympic hockey fans in Minnesota.

Team USA will face Team Canada in a women’s hockey exhibition game at Xcel Energy Center.

“Tomorrow I hope fans can see some really fast hockey,” said defenseman and Roseville native Lee Stecklein. “I know it’s not often that you get to see our teams compete at this level, so we’re really excited to bring that home to Minnesota.”

There are six Minnesotans on Team USA, which practiced Saturday in Blaine ahead of a showdown that doesn’t mean anything — it’s just an exhibition game — but we all know actually means a ton.

“When the USA jersey’s on, we don’t ever take that lightly,” said defenseman and Warroad native Gigi Marvin. “Because this does count for us. We never look at it as exhibition. This is, we are very dialed-in, very focused, we’re looking forward to it.”

“We’re working towards something here,” said coach Robb Stauber, himself a Medina native. “We’re working towards a team that possesses the puck, that moves the puck, that values the puck in a sense that if it’s on our stick, we’ll keep it on our stick as long as we can.”

It’s a matchup of the top two contenders in February’s Olympics in South Korea — the two who met in the gold medal game in 2012 — a thriller that saw Canada win in heartbreaking fashion.

“That one, it takes a while to leave you, definitely, if it ever does,” Stecklein said. “But this year we’re really focusing on leaving that behind. We’ve got a lot of girls on this team who haven’t had that experience, and they bring a new, fresh eyes, fresh heart.”

“We are light-years, we’re not even comparable to what we were four years ago,” Marvin said. “I look at some of my teammates, and I’m like, this is insane. The strength, the speed, the precision, the determination, the commitment, it’s remarkable. We are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were.”

And they’re excited to show that Sunday.

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