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New team, old look

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The U.S. women's hockey team that competes in the 2002 Winter Games could look a lot like the team that won the gold medal in Nagano in '98.

Fourteen of the women who upset Canada for the first-ever Olympic gold in women's hockey were named Thursday to the 25-player roster of the 2001-2002 U.S. National Team.

That's the first step to making the Olympic squad.

U.S. Coach Ben Smith selected the 25 players after watching 45 women — ages 16 to 30 and mostly from the Northeast and Upper Midwest — train and compete here for the past 10 days in the USA Hockey Women's National Festival. By December 20, Smith will select 20 of those 25 players to defend the Olympic gold medal in West Valley City and Provo this February.

The 2001-2002 National Team includes some of the biggest names in women's hockey.

Cammi Granato, the perennial team captain, made the cut as expected, as did two other longtime National Team members — defensemen Sue Merz and Karyn Bye. At 30, Granato and Bye are the oldest players on the roster. Merz is 29 and plans to retire after the 2002 Games.

Between them, however, those three veterans managed just a goal and an assist in the five intrasquad games played during the festival.

Granato said the competition and quality of play at this year's festival was much stronger than it was four years ago.

"I'm really impressed," said the Downers Grove, Ill., native. "It's great to see where the game has gone. It's at another level right now.

"It'd be really tough to pick this team because every player brings something special to the tryout and to the team. There's not much of a drop-off."

Also making the team was Shelley Looney, who scored the game-winning goal in the gold-medal game and has battled back from injuries. She impressed her former Olympic teammates at the festival.

Krissy Wendell, a Minnesotan who will be 20 next month, made the National Team for the third time and should be a lock for the Olympics. She led the U.S. in scoring last year and was the offensive star of the festival, scoring three goals and assisting six times. No other player had more than three points during the festival — forwards Brandy Fisher and Katie King, both of whom made the team, each had two goals and an assist in the five festival games.

The only gold medalists who did not make the National Team were Vicki Movsessian and Alana Blahoski.

Movsessian, a 28-year-old defenseman from Massachusetts, had retired following the '98 Games and was attempting a comeback. Blahoski , a 27-year-old forward from Minnesota, had two assists in Nagano and played extremely well during the 2000 Women's World Championships but did not have a productive season on the 2000-20001 National Team. She was whistled for a high-sticking penalty in the overtime period of Wednesday's final festival contest and her Blue team gave up the winning goal while she sat in the box.

Tara Mounsey, another gold medalist, made the team despite not participating in the festival. The veteran defenseman has been nursing an injury that kept her off the 2000-2001 National Team.

Several of the players named Thursday are first-time members of the National Team, including 16-year-old defenseman Lyndsay Wall and two other defensemen — Courtney Kennedy and Nicole Uliaz — who were stars on their college teams last season. Two forwards also have been plucked from the college ranks — Kathleen Kauth (Brown University) and Andrea Kilbourne (Princeton University).

Some of the younger players who lack Olympic experience were standouts on last year's National Team, including Wendell, 19-year-old Julie Chu and 17-year-old Natalie Darwitz.

Smith chose nine defensemen, 14 forwards and, surprisingly, just two goalies — Sarah Tueting and Sara DeCosta, who split the goaltending duties in Nagano. Ali Brewer made the 25-player National Team as the third goalie last year, but not this time.

Other members of last year's national squad who did not make it this year were defensemen Nicki Luongo and Winny Brodt, and forwards Erin Magee, Brooke White and Hilary Witt. Stephanie O'Sullivan, a member of the 1999-2000 team, also failed to make Smith's list.

All five of the festival games between the White and Blue squads were decided by two goals or less. The first four were low-scoring affairs. The White won Wednesday's overtime game, 7-6, on King's second goal of the night.

Team USA roster

Here is the 25-player roster for the 2001-2002 U.S. Women's National Team, announced Thursday:

Goalies: Sara DeCosta*, Warwick, R.I.; Sarah Tueting*, Winnetka, Ill.

Defensemen: Karyn Bye*, River Falls, Wis.; Sue Merz*, Greenwich, Conn.; Chris Bailey*, Marietta, N.Y.; A.J. Mleczko*, Nantucket, Mass.; Angela Ruggiero*, Simi Valley, Ca.; Courtney Kennedy, Woburn, Mass.; Nicole Uliaz, Perkasie, Pa.; Lyndsay Wall, Churchville, N.Y.; Tara Mounsey*, Concord, N.H.

Forwards: Natalie Darwitz, Eagan, Minn.; Tricia Dunn*, Derry, N.H.; Cammi Granato*, Downers Grove, Ill.; Annamarie Holmes, Apple Valley, Minn.; Jenny Potter*, Eagan, Minn.; Carisa Zaban, Glenview, Ill.; Laurie Baker*, Concord, Mass.; Julie Chu, Fairfield, Conn.; Brandy Fisher, Colton, N.Y.; Katie King*, Salem, N.H.; Shelley Looney*, Brownstown Township, Mich.; Krissy Wendell, Brooklyn Park, Minn.; Kathleen Kauth, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Andrea Kilbourne, Saranac Lake, N.Y.;

* — member of 1998 U.S. Olympic team.

E-mail: zman@desnews.com