Two current Wisconsin women's hockey team members will join six former Badgers and Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson on the 2009-'10 U.S. National Hockey team and could be on their way to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Junior forward Hilary Knight and senior forward Meghan Duggan are part of the 23-player roster that will face a number of college and national teams in a series of exhibition games on the Qwest Tour. USA Hockey made the announcement Monday from its headquarters in Blaine, Minn., where the team will train until leaving for Vancouver in February.
Three of Knight and Duggan's teammates from the 2009 season, goalie Jessie Vetter, forward Erika Lawler and forward Angie Keseley, are on the team as well. Former Badger defenders Molly Engstrom and Kerry Weiland and forward Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej round out the eight past and present Wisconsin players on the roster.
The Qwest Tour starts in St. Paul Sept. 25 with a game against the WCHA All-Stars and will include three games against archrival Canada as well as one against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center Jan. 5. In mid-December, the team will announce its 21-player roster for the Vancouver games.
Johnson, who was selected to lead Team USA in January, said exhibition games like the Qwest Tour are extremely important because they create a bond among teammates.
He said the experience he got training and playing with the U.S. Olympic team was crucial because it prepared them for the 1980 Lake Placid games and their famous ""Miracle on Ice"" upset victory over the Soviet national team.
""Everybody saw what happened in Lake Placid in two weeks,"" he said. ""A lot of you didn't spend the four or five months that we were together.""
""A lot of friendships were developed,"" he added. ""A lot of special memories that I still take with me some 30 years later.""
At the college level, Duggan and Knight will redshirt the 2009-'10 season, something that will not make interim head coach Tracey DeKeyser's job any easier.
Having already lost six members of the 2008-'09 national championship-winning team to graduation as well as assistant coach Dan Koch, who would have been co-interim head coach, DeKeyser will now lose two of her top scorers to Team USA. The Wisconsin team, which won its third national title in four years last March, will look to younger players for leadership in the coming season.
Much of that pressure could now fall on sophomore forward Brooke Ammerman, who attended the USA Women's Hockey National Festival but was not selected for the team. In the 2008-'09 season, Ammerman posted 27 goals and 27 assists at Wisconsin.
For the Badgers selected to the U.S. national team, however, Johnson said he looks forward to coaching them over the next few months.
""They're very committed to what they do,"" he said. ""That's the exciting part about getting an opportunity to work with this group.""
Johnson coached Team USA, which included Knight, Duggan, Lawler and Vetter, to a gold medal in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Women's Championship in April. David Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, said he hopes the team will be able to continue its success in international competitions at the Olympics.
""We certainly have great expectations for Vancouver,"" he said.