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USA Mentally Tough Ahead of Gold Medal Game

02/19/2014, 3:30pm MST
By Cameron Eickmeyer - USAHockey.com

SOCHI, Russia - On the eve of the gold medal game, players and coaches of the U.S. Women's Olympic Team claim their long-established routines will have them sleeping peacefully on Wednesday night.

Well, at least for the most part.

"I think I'll probably wake up a time or two in the middle of the night," said forward Amanda Kessel, who is second in the tournament with six points. "I'm trying my best to think of it as just another game."

Goaltender Jessie Vetter, who will start her second Olympic gold medal game, said waking up in the middle of the night or having some pre-game jitters isn't a sign that a player is not ready to go.

"It's only human to have a little butterflies. If you don't have butterflies you should hang up the skates," she said. "We're going to do a good job of getting ready to go, getting back to hockey and bring it for a full sixty minutes."

The U.S. faces rival Canada for the gold medal on Thursday at 12 p.m. ET at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

Head coach Katey Stone said she feels her players are ready for the game and pointed to mental skills coach Colleen Hacker as a source of many of the routines that help keep nerves at bay.

"She's been awesome and keeping everyone on track," Stone said. "That's a huge part of being an elite athlete is the mental toughness and mental skills."

Forward Alex Carpenter said the pre-Olympic Bring on the World Tour and other exhibition games helped Team USA find a groove that is paying off in the final hours before facing Canada on Thursday.

"I learned a lot from the veteran players on this team to just eat well, sleep right and keep doing what you're doing," she said. "It's just like we're on the tour."

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