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Team USA looks to continue domination on world stage at Four Nations Cup

Four Nations Cup at AMALIE Arena is a chance for Team USA to improve on its post-Sochi momentum

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

The U.S. Women's National Team has won the last four World Championships and seven of the last eight installments of the tournament, beating Canada in the final in all seven.

Team USA has taken the Gold Medal in back-to-back Four Nations Cups, edging out Silver Medalist Canada in both.

Yet, despite their dominance in recent years over their Northern rival, Team USA is still haunted by the memory of a last-minute collapse to the Canadians at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The Americans led by two goals with three-and-a-half minutes remaining. A U.S. shot from distance on an empty net that would have sealed the victory clanged off the post.

Canada scored two goals, including the tying score with under a minute remaining, to force overtime, and, eight minutes into the extra session, netted a power-play goal to steal the Gold Medal from the stunned Americans.

"You don't forget it," Team USA captain Meghan Duggan said. "It's always something that's going to be there, but I like to look at it as how much our team's grown from that and learned from that and moved forward on a positive side rather than thinking about how devastating it was."

As deflating as that defeat was for a U.S. team in search of its first Olympic Gold since the 1998 Games in Nagano, the Americans have used the collapse as a rallying cry, a chance to re-examine all aspects of the hockey program and change the culture surrounding the team.

"You look yourself in the mirror and you say, 'Why did that happen?' Duggan said. "As a leader myself, you think what do we have to do to be better. What do I have to do to be better? You ask those questions, and we've been asking those questions for the last three-and-a-half years kind of moving forward and gaining confidence and getting our team culture where we want it. We definitely use that as unfinished business and motivation and energy going into the next games."

The answers have been nearly all positive for Team U.S.A since that fateful day in Sochi.

Team U.S.A. has won virtually all major competitions since Sochi, capturing three-straight World Championships and two-straight Four Nations Cups.

The Americans will get another chance to show their superiority on the world stage this week at the 22nd installment of the Four Nations Cup, which starts Tuesday, November 7 at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel and runs through Sunday's Gold Medal and third-place games at AMALIE Arena.

The Four Nations Cup will be the final major tune-up for Team USA before the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea in February.

"I think you definitely just gain confidence from a tournament like this," Team USA alternate captain Kacey Bellamy said. "You obviously don't want to look too far ahead to a Gold Medal and winning it, but you want to take each game in stride and what you can improve on and work on and grow as a team each and every night."

Also taking part in the Four Nations Cup are women's national teams from Finland, Sweden and, of course, Canada. Team USA will get its first crack at the Canadians at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a round-robin game.

The U.S. and Canada have met in the championship game of the Four Nations Cup each of the last three seasons, the U.S. winning the last two.

Team USA is attempting to win three-consecutive Four Nations Cup for the first time in team history. They've been staying at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel and training at Florida Hospital Center Ice since August for this week's Four Nations Cup as well as the upcoming Olympics.

Team USA will continue training in Wesley Chapel until departing for the Olympics at the end of January.
"I'm really proud of our team for winning the last three World Championships in between Olympic years and the last two Four Nations Cups," Duggan said. "It's the last major tournament going into the Olympic games. So, when you think about confidence and you think about energy and momentum, it'd be a big win for us."

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