Crash course: Amanda Kessel is carrying the offensive load of the U.S. Olympic women's hockey team on her shoulders. She will have plenty of help from her talented teammates, but U.S. head coach Katey Stone will depend on the prolific Kessel for the bulk of the scoring. Kessel is an elusive skater, and she has one of the hardest wrist shots in women's hockey.
Athletic profile: Kessel scored 46 goals and had 55 assists to lead the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers to the NCAA championship last year. She won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award that is presented to the best player in collegiate D-I women's hockey.
Family affair: Her brother Phil Kessel also will be in Sochi playing for the U.S. Men's hockey team. Phil is a high-scoring forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he may be just as important to the men's medal hopes as his sister is to the women's. While Phil is primarily a scorer, Amanda is looking to set up her teammates, as much as she likes to shoot. Amanda, age 22, credits Phil, 26, and brother Blake, 24 (a minor-league defenseman for the ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears), with helping develop her competitive instincts, something to which many siblings can relate. Phil used to chase her around the house, while Blake fired pucks at her.
Grudge match: The gold medal in women's hockey almost certainly will come down to a match between the United States and Canada. The two teams played a brawl-filled, seven-game series in December, with the Canadians winning the first three games and the Americans taking the last four.
Quote to note: “If there’s a better hockey player in the country, I’d like to know who it is. She is so special, and she’s impacting the game at an incredible rate.”—Minnesota head coach Brad Frost speaking to U.S. College Hockey Online (h/t thestar.com) about Kessel's talent.