ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- One by one, they waved their Go USA mittens as the U.S. women's Olympic hockey team was announced Wednesday during the second intermission of the NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich.
When Amanda Kessel's name was read, many in the crowd of 105,491 roared, given Kessel's brother, Phil, had just been on the ice as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. As the camera moved on to goaltender Brianne McLaughlin, she joked, "I can't follow that."
For the Olympic team there is only one way to follow the USA's silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games - with a gold medal in Sochi. With 11 veterans from the 2010 Olympic team and a cast of young playmakers, the Americans are ready to focus on exactly that.
"We had some very tough decisions, but we're confident that we have assembled 21 players that will help us achieve our goal of winning the gold medal," said team general manager Reagan Carey.
The roster features recent college standouts such as Kessel, the reigning NCAA player of the year at Minnesota, and Boston College's Alex Carpenter, whose father, Bobby, is a former NHL star, as well as veterans such as Julie Chu, who made her fourth Olympic team, and Jessie Vetter, the No. 1 goaltender at the 2010 Games.
"We have the right group," said captain Meghan Duggan, lauding the veteran leadership and mixture of younger players who bring "speed, excitement and intensity."
Kessel, one of those young stars, has not played against international competition the past few months due to what's been called a lower-body injury, but coach Katey Stone has said Kessel will be ready for the Olympics.
There could be two sets of Sochi Siblings on the ice for Team USA: Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux will make their second trip to the Olympics, and Kessel, whose brother Phil is expected to be named to the men's team, will make her Olympic debut. The Kessels would be the first brother-sister combo to compete in the same Winter Games for Team USA in ice hockey. Phil earned a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Amanda led Minnesota to an undefeated season and the NCAA title in 2013.
With the average age of 23.8, Lee Stecklein is the youngest at 19, just 10 days younger than Carpenter. At 31, Chu is the oldest player to ever represent the women's Olympic team.
Ten members played in college last season, and the 21 players come from 10 different states, led by Massachusetts (five players). Stone, the longtime Harvard coach, is the first female head coach of the U.S. team.
Defender Lisa Chesson, a member of the 2010 Olympic team who at 27 was the second-oldest player on the roster, and forward Annie Pankowski, who at 19 was the youngest player, were the team's final two cuts.
The U.S. team won its first and only Olympic gold medal in 1998, the year the sport debuted at the Winter Games. Canada has taken gold in the past three Olympics, while the Americans have gone home with two silvers (2002, 2010) and a bronze (2006).
At the same time, the Americans have been successful on the sport's other major stage, winning four of the last five world championships. Every Olympic gold medal and every world championship in women's hockey history has been won by the two powerhouses.
The Americans will head to Sochi after finishing strong in a seven-game series vs. Canada. After dropping the first three games, the Americans won the final four December meetings. Two of the games featured brawls, an indication of the intensity of the series. Canada also has dealt with coach Dan Church's unexpected resignation in mid-December. Longtime NHL player and former Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen took over Dec. 17.
Team USA will next play Feb. 8 against Finland in its first game in Sochi. The Americans lost to Finland the last time the two nations played, at the Four Nations Cup in November.
Photo gallery of the U.S. Women's Olympic Hockey Team
Here's the full U.S. Women's Olympic Hockey Team roster:
Jessie Vetter (started medal-round games at 2010 Olympics)
Molly Schaus (2010)
Brianne McLaughlin (2010)
Kacey Bellamy (2010)
Gigi Marvin (2010)
Julie Chu (2002, 2006, 2010)
Meghan Duggan (2010)
Hilary Knight (2010)
Jocelyne Lamoureux (2010)
Monique Lamoureux (2010)
Kelli Stack (2010)