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U.S. Women's Trip To Hockey Gold Included Tampa Bay Stop

USF Ice Bulls
Members of the U.S. women's national hockey team and the USF Ice Bulls pose after facing off in Wesley Chapel in Oct. 2017. The U.S. women won both games against the USF men, 8-1 and 6-1.

The Olympic journey of the U.S. women's hockey team ended in South Korea with a gold medal. One of their earlier stops on that trip was in the Tampa Bay area.

The national team trained last year at Florida Hospital Center Ice Arena in Wesley Chapel, where they faced off against the University of South Florida Ice Bulls men's club team in a pair of games.

It wasn't the fairest battle of the sexes, as the women won both, 6-1 and 8-1.

"The girls are just so fast and know where they're going with the puck before they get it,” said assistant captain Kenny Weightman. “They're so smart on the ice, it's cool to see them moving without the puck and be able to make the plays while you're out there on the ice with them."

“They’re definitely 100 percent the smartest hockey players I’ve ever played. They’re not as big as we are, they’re very quick, they have on-ice awareness. It’s really easy to make plays when you have four people open on the ice,” Weightman said.

Following the Ice Bulls’ losses, the sophomore forward was a member of an Southern Collegiate Hockey Conference all-star team that took on the national team one more time.

“That was a lot closer,” Weightman said with a laugh. “We only lost by one or two goals.”

He added that the Ice Bulls cheered the Americans on Thursday as they beat Canada in a shootout 3-2 to win the team’s first Olympic gold since 1998.

“It’s an unreal experience to be watching them on TV win the gold medal,” Weightman said. "To be able to say, 'I went in the corner, I battled for a puck with her,' or 'I scored on that goalie and now she's winning a gold medal,' it's just a real cool experience and I'm really happy for the girls that they won.”

The Ice Bulls are starting their own playoff run, as they take on Georgia Tech in round one of the Division-III South Regionals at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Wesley Chapel.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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