MADISON, Wis. –- The official announcement of the U.S. Olympic teams came at the conclusion of the 2014 NHL Winter Classic, Wednesday on NBC, and eight former Badgers heard their names called as members of the 2014 U.S. Olympic hockey teams. The 2014 Olympic Winter Games get underway Feb. 7, in Sochi, Russia.
On the men’s side, Minnesota Wild defenseman and Madison, Wis., native Ryan Suter, as well as San Jose Sharks’ forward and Plover, Wis., native Joe Pavelski will play in their second Olympic Winter Games after earning a silver medal in 2010 in Vancouver. Suter served that team as an alternate captain.
Suter played the 2003-04 season at Wisconsin, while Pavelski was a 2006 Second-Team All-American and helped the Badgers to the 2006 NCAA title.
This time, the two Badger alumni will be joined by New York Rangers teammates and Minnesota natives Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan on Team USA. Both were teammates at Wisconsin during UW’s run to the 2010 NCAA Championship Game in Detroit. Now both will skate for a third team together in Russia.
At least one Wisconsin Badger alum has skated in 10 consecutive Olympic games dating back to the 1976 games in Innsbruck, Austria. The alumni group has captured gold medals in three (1980 – USA, 2002 & 2010 – Canada) and silver in two (2002 & 2010 – USA) Olympic games.
In four consecutive Olympics, at least one Badger has been captain or assistant captain for Team USA, including Chris Chelios, who was captain in 1998, 2002 and 2006, and Brian Rafalski and Ryan Suter, who were both alternate captains in 2010.
On the women’s side, four former Badgers were named to the U.S. Olympic squad. Forwards Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight, along with goaltender Jessie Vetter, are a part of the 21 player squad. It marks the second Olympic games for Duggan, Knight and Vetter as the trio played for UW head coach Mark Johnson in the 2010 Olympics, while Decker, a Dousman, Wis., native, will make her Olympic debut in Sochi.
Decker, Duggan and Vetter all took home the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the nation’s top player, at some point during their Wisconsin careers, while Knight is the all-time leading scorer in school history. Vetter, a native of Cottage Grove, Wis., and Duggan each won three national championships while at Wisconsin, while Knight was a part of two national championship teams and Decker was a member of the 2011 national championship squad.
The quartet will be joined in the winter games by fellow UW alum Meghan Mikkelson, who was named to the Canadian Olympic squad late last month. Mikkelson won two national titles while at Wisconsin and was named the 2007 WCHA Defensive Player of the Year.
Incoming freshman Annie Pankowski was one of the final two players cut on the United States squad. Pankowski, who was originally slated be a freshman on this year’s Wisconsin squad, will join the Badgers for the 2014-15 season.