As the United States national women’s team undergoes a youth movement, no player encompasses that future more brightly than Lee Stecklein. The youngest player on the Sochi Games roster at 19 years old (Alex Carpenter is the second youngest by 10 days), she is also the tallest. Introduced with her US teammates before an outstanding New Years’ Day crowd of 105,419 at Michigan Stadium, it was a unique moment.
Standing at six feet tall, she already boasts a significant resume with USA Hockey. Among a growing number of women in USA Hockey that have served on the Under-18, Under-22 and National Team programs, Stecklein is a fundamentally sound player. Despite the fierce rivalry with Canada, her hockey career in the US jersey would bring with it some unique connections north of the border.
The first came during an emotion-filled three-game exhibition series in the Ottawa suburb of Rockland, Ontario. Contested in August 2011, said series would prove to be a remarkable window into the future. Canada’s Meghan Dufault and Halli Krzyzaniak would later play in the historic game with North Dakota in which they snapped the Golden Gophers record setting win streak.
Of note, Stecklein contributed two assists in the third game of the series. One of the goals she assisted on was scored by Dani Cameranesi, the 2013 winner of the Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award. Ironically, the other skater who earned the assist was Alex Carpenter.
Proving the world of women’s hockey is a remarkably small one; Stecklein and Cameranesi were also rivals in the Minnesota high school ranks. Of note, Stecklein was a 2012 All-First Team selection in the state competing at Roseville High School, where she helped the Raiders grab four Suburban East Conference titles. One of her teammates, forward Kate Flug (also a US Under-18 alumnae) is currently in her freshman year at Minnesota. The autumn of 2014 shall see the two of them reunite as teammates.
Such performances certainly made them destined to be teammates once again. Stecklein and Carpenter would compete on the US National Team at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships. Contested in the city of Ottawa, the irony would not be lost as the two would be part of more hockey history. Defeating Canada in the gold medal game, it marked the first time that Canada lost an IIHF Women’s World gold medal game on home ice.
For Stecklein, such a remarkable upset was not her first brush history with hockey history in 2013. Stecklein was part of the undefeated NCAA Frozen Four champion Minnesota Golden Gophers. Appearing in all 41 games as a freshman, her first NCAA point came on October 6, 2012.
Her best performance came in a weekend series during November 2012 against New Hampshire. She would log the first goal of her career in the November 24 contest. The following day, she would log the game-winning tally against New Hampshire, earning WCHA Rookie of the Week honors.
Two of her teammates on the Gophers squad, Amanda Kessel and Megan Bozek are also part of the US team. The presence of former Minnesota teammate Megan Bozek will certainly provide her with a strong mentor and friend.
Having also excelled in lacrosse, tennis and soccer, Stecklein follows in the proud tradition of elite hockey talent to come from the state of Minnesota. With gold at the IIHF Under-18 level along with the 2013 IIHF gold, complemented by the NCAA Frozen Four crown in 2013, Stecklein is looking for gold at Sochi to add to an already impressive collection.