Gangneung, South Korea — Megan Keller was all smiles Tuesday night at the Kwandong Hockey Centre — the whole U.S. women’s hockey team was for that matter.
The defender from Farmington had an assist and helped her team shut out Olympic Athletes of Russia, 5-0, in the Group A preliminary round.
“I can’t really put it into words, it’s been amazing,” Keller said of her Olympic experience. “To be here with 23 of my best friends and teammates, it’s a really special experience and feeling, and one I won’t soon forget.”
The U.S. is now 2-0 in the preliminary round after defeating O.A.R and Finland, 3-1, clinching a spot in the semifinals.
The 21-year-old first-time Olympian has been a catalyst on defense with whatever team on which she’s competing.
Keller, a senior at Boston College, took a year off of school to train for the Olympics. During her junior season, she won the Cammi Granato Award as Hockey East’s top player, along with first-team Hockey East honors.
But the Olympics were the ultimate goal, and Keller is taking advantage of every opportunity.
“It feels really special to be able to represent my country and be with the rest of my teammates here, among other great athletes competing for Team USA,” Keller said. “It’s an amazing experience so far.”
Keller, a three-time gold medalist at the world championships, has notched a point in each of the first two games at the Winter Games.
She said while the first couple of games are always a little rough at this level, she and her teammates are ready for the challenges ahead.
“It’s been so fun and it’s nice to have a bunch of teammates around you supporting you,” Keller said.
The most anticipated game comes on Thursday against Canada (2-0) in one of sport’s greatest rivalries.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Keller said. “Anytime you get to represent your country, and especially at the Olympics, it’s a huge honor and we all want to honor that and represent our country to the best of our ability. Canada’s just the next step.”
But Canada is a huge step. Canada has won four straight gold medals at the Olympics, including the dramatic 3-2 overtime victory at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
First-timers like Keller might be new to the Olympics’ rivalry, but are no strangers to competing against Canada.
The U.S. defeated Canada in the 2017 World Championships in overtime, 3-2, in Plymouth. The Canadians then won five of the eight exhibition games in preparing for the Olympics.
“There’s nothing other like it in women’s ice hockey and sport,” Keller said. “It’s a huge rivalry.”
Head coach Robb Stauber kept his “next-game” mentality and said he really hasn’t thought much about the Canada game.
“We have not given much energy to Canada because, again, going back to the opening press conference, our message to our players is definitely one game at a time,” Stauber said.
“Anytime we’re playing a team here you want to win, and they just happen to be the next game,” Keller said. “We’re going to be ready.”
Elizabeth Wyman is a freelance writer