It was a big day for the Kessel family.
Right after Amanda Kessel was named to the women’s hockey team that will represent the United States at the Sochi Olympics, her brother Phil -- a forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs -- earned a place on the U.S. men’s team.
"It’s a neat experience," said Phil Kessel, whose Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings in the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, where the Olympic teams were announced. "We’ll see how it goes over there."
Phil Kessel, 26, was a first-round draft pick by the Boston Bruins in 2006 who was traded to Toronto in 2009 and now leads the Maple Leafs in scoring with 38 points in 42 games. He also played for the American team that won a silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
Amanda Kessel, 21, will be heading to her first Olympics. She was the top scorer in the NCAA last season with 101 points in 37 games while leading the Minnesota Golden Gophers to the national championship and earning the Patty Kazmaier award as the top player in NCAA women’s hockey. She is one of five members of Team USA to have won the women’s hockey Heisman.
"We’d like to play a very up-tempo game, so that’s really what the profile of our roster looks like," coach Katey Stone said. "Amanda fits into that style very well."
The women’s roster was announced during the break between periods of the Winter Classic, and the men’s team was announced after the game. Former Harvard star Julie Chu, the 2007 Kazmaier winner, is heading to her fourth Olympics and looking for a gold medal to go with the two silvers and a bronze she’s already got.
"Today is an important day for our team and we’re thrilled to continue our journey toward Sochi," Stone said. "We have a good blend of veterans and first-time Olympians and we’re excited about what lies ahead. We’re enthusiastic about our team and focused on getting better every day."
The women’s team has seven defensemen, 11 forwards and includes three goaltenders: Jesse Vetter, Molly Schaus and Brianne McLaughlin-Bittle, all of whom have Olympic experience. The other players with Olympic experience include Kacey Bellamy, Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux, Gigi Marvin and Kelli Stack.
Chu is the oldest player at 31 and Lee Steckline the youngest at 19.
"As women we’ve grown up wanting to be on this team," said Duggan, who was wearing the captain’s "C" on her jersey when she was interviewed on TV during the NHL game. "Obviously, being able to lead this team this year is incredible."
All 21 players have appeared in the World Championships, including 18 who played for the American team that beat Canada for the gold medal in Ottawa in April. The U.S. team, which has been training in Bedford, Mass., will depart for the Sochi on Feb. 1, play its Olympic opener on Feb. 8 against Finland and meet archrival Canada in the preliminary round on Feb. 12.
Canada has won the last three Olympic titles.
"It’s an incredible rivalry," Duggan said. "We’re doing everything we can to prepare ourselves to get a great game over there."
The Americans and Canadians are the favorites to meet again in the gold medal game on Feb. 20. The two North American hockey powers have won every world championship and every Olympic gold medal since the sport was added to the Winter Games in Nagano in 1998.
Jimmy Howard, who couldn’t make enough stops to help the Red Wings beat the Maple Leafs, appears to be the third goaltender behind Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller for the USA men’s team.
At Sochi, the U.S. forwards will be: David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan, James van Riemsdyk and Blake Wheeler. John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Cam Fowler, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, Brooks Orpik, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Suter will be on defense for the Americans.