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The best watching the best

Members of the U.S. women's national team took in Saturday's game

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

As two of the best players in the world - Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid - faced off on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena, a few more of the best players in the world were watching from a suite.

Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight and Annie Pankowski, all members of the U.S. women's national team, arrived in Pittsburgh this morning just in time to see the Penguins host Edmonton for an afternoon matinee.

"It's exciting because I've never gotten to see McDavid play live or Crosby play live," Pankowski said ahead of the matchup. "It's my first time ever, so I think that's pretty cool."

It was a unique opportunity for the players to actually sit down and just watch a game, something they don't get to do often with their busy schedules.

"It's rare," Knight said with a laugh.

While the women said they try to just enjoy the game as fans on days like this, they do catch themselves watching with hockey minds from time to time.

"Sometimes you just catch yourself sort of being a fan of the game because that's how we fell in love with the game," Knight said. "But then also too, you're like oh, I wonder what that guy was thinking on that play when it develops."

The players are in town ahead of their unique joint training camp with the Canadian women's national team that will be held from Nov. 4-10 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. It replaces the 2019 Four Nations Tournament that was originally scheduled to be played in November in Sweden, but has since been cancelled.

The camp will include two exhibition games between the U.S. and Canada on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7:00 p.m. and a rematch on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 1:00 p.m., along with several open practices throughout the week.

While Knight and Pankowski are in Pittsburgh for the first time, Kessel has obviously been here many times with her brother Phil winning two Stanley Cups for the Penguins. She knows exactly what kind of atmosphere to expect, and it's something she's excited about.

"I think since Pittsburgh is known for being a sports town, just to know that we'll be playing in front of passionate fans is great," Kessel said. "All of the practices are open, so to hopefully get a bunch of new people into the sport and know that we're really supported here is great."

Next week will serve as a preview for the five-game Rivalry Series between USA Hockey and Hockey Canada, scheduled for December 2019 through February 2020. 

It will be the first time that the teams, who are one of the best rivalries in all of sports, are meeting since USA defeated Canada in a shootout at the 2019 World Championship in Finland back in April to capture their fifth consecutive gold medal.

"You're going to be seeing that blood-filled rivalry," Knight said with a smile. "We bring out the best in one another, so you're going to see some great competition."

And they hope because of that, they'll gain some new fans throughout the week.

"It's the first game of the season, so it's going to be really exciting," Pankowski said. "I think having the whole week here - there's every opportunity for people to come see us and get exposure to the highest level of women's hockey. I think it will be a great week of hockey and super intense."

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