By Ren Clayton

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The U.S. women’s hockey Olympic team has been finalized. A Minnesota-heavy roster was unveiled at the Winter Classic, outdoors in the state of hockey.

“We have a really strong girls’ youth program, really great girls’ high school hockey. And just knowing that I was able to play for my community was something very special. And now to be here with so many other Minnesota natives has been extra special,” said Lee Stecklein.

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Roseville native Stecklein, making her third Olympic team, is one of nine players on this roster with Minnesota ties; that includes eight current or former Gophers.

“So I just feel like that program, being here, it’s helped prepared me to be on the U.S. women’s national team,” said Stecklein.

The team has been practicing in Blaine since October and will continue to until they pack up for China at the end of this month, led by Joel Johnson, another Minnesota guy in his first Olympic cycle as head coach.

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“Each Olympic year, for everybody on the call right now, is its own experience. And for me it means something, and for everybody else it means something different. But it’s special nonetheless,” said Johnson. “So it’s been a fun journey and I look forward to it continuing.”

There will be no taxi squad at the Olympics in case of COVID-19 issues. But the team says there will be a short window to bring in alternates if needed.

“Our business isn’t finished until we come back with a gold medal at the Olympic Games,” said Brianna Decker, who is making her third Olympic team.

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Ren Clayton