Kelli Stack's first Olympic experience could have used a Zamboni. As a member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey team in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Brooklyn Heights native (pictured) snapped a pic with snowboarder Shaun White, chatted up NHL star Jaromir Jagr and notched three goals and five assists during her time on the ice.
But it wasn't all good times and smooth skating. After outscoring opponents 40-2 in four games, the Americans were shut out by Canada, 2-0, for the gold medal. It was the second time the Canadians defeated the U.S. for Olympic gold since it became a sport in 1998. "None of us were satisfied with the silver medal," says Stack.
"I think anybody who's ever worked that hard to get something would understand," adds Brianne McLaughlin, a goaltender and Sheffield Village native.
Thus, it will have been a long 1,443 days between then and when the games begin in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7. "I won't be satisfied with being a two-time Olympian," says Stack, 26. "I want to win the gold."
She began to dream of hockey while sitting rinkside, watching her older brother, Kevin, play. Stack competed on area boys' teams and then on a girls' 19-and-under squad at age 14. As a high school senior, she traveled five hours round-trip to play for a highly competitive team near Detroit.
"Growing up playing hockey as a girl in a male-dominated sport, I think we all strive to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal," she says.
McLaughlin has made similar sacrifices. The 26-year-old got married in July and had just two weeks with her new husband before heading to Boston to train for Sochi.
"I know what hockey has done in my life," she says. "It's paved every kind of decision for me and everything in my life — what I've done, who I am — and I love it."
To bring home the country's first Olympic gold since 1998, they've endured a grueling six-days-a-week training schedule, dividing hours between the ice and weight room.
It's been especially trying for Stack, who missed much of 2013 after surgery to fix a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. The 5-foot-5-inch forward seems back to her old form, however, scoring two goals in the U.S. national team's four straight victories over rival Canada during the December lead-up to the games.
"A lot of people think hockey is dominated by Canadians," she says. "If we were to win a gold medal, it would put our foot on the map and show we can compete too, and we're just as good — if not better — than the Canadians."
12:00 AM EST
January 24, 2014