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U.S. women ready for semis after 'painful' video session

Katey Stone: 'You're either going to take the moment or it's going to take you. You have to make that decision.' AP Photo/Petr David Josek

SOCHI, Russia -- When asked on Sunday about the mental approach of the U.S. women's hockey team on the eve of its semifinal showdown against Sweden, forward Hilary Knight hardly minced words.

"I'd hate to be the other team right now," Knight said.

Knight's confidence comes from the way her team has responded to its 3-2 preliminary-round loss to Canada on Wednesday. Two days after that defeat, U.S. coach Katey Stone lit into her team during a 45-minute video session -- the longest of the season. Stone pointed out countless mistakes the team made against the Canadians. The session was brutal. It was honest. It was direct. And it was needed.

"At this level, you have to be personally accountable for your own play," Stone said Sunday. "I think you create accountability and people need to be more ready. You're either going to take the moment or it's going to take you. You have to make that decision."

Stone, Knight and several others from the team who spoke to the media after Sunday's practice admitted that, for whatever reason, the entire team wasn't ready to play against Canada. They let the Canadians control the puck in the neutral zone. They lost 50/50 battles. After the players watched film on their own Thursday, Stone gathered the team before practice Friday for what she called a "strong discussion."

"It was painful to watch at times because you're watching yourself and you're like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe we did that,'" Knight said. "It's so uncharacteristic of what we've done the last few months."

But Knight added that session was extremely beneficial.

"It was great," she said. "I hate losing, but it definitely instilled a little more oomph into our step. It made us come back to the drawing board and say, 'Hey, we need to play our style of hockey and show the world what we're all about.'"

Stone said her team has responded to the session with three great practices. She likes the team's approach off the ice and is confident they will be ready Monday. But she will not know for certain until the game starts.

"There's been a lot of coaching, a lot of reflection, both individual and collective, but we'll see tomorrow how they respond," Stone said. "They're good, and they know they're good. It's just a matter of bringing it when it's most needed."

Knight agreed.

"We took the bad things and we're working on them and you'll see a completely different team on Monday," she said.

U.S. forward and four-time Olympian Julie Chu, who injured her hand during practice on Saturday, did not participate in Sunday's session but Stone said she expected her to play Monday. The fourth-line forward was able to participate in off-ice workouts on Sunday.

"I said, 'Anybody who is a four-time Olympian gets a day off today,'" Stone said. "So she got a day off."

Chu was a member of the 2006 U.S. women's team that was upset by the Swedes 3-2 in the semifinals, forcing the Americans to settle for a bronze. When asked on Sunday if she might use that game as a reminder to not overlook the Swedes in an anticipation of a potential gold-medal rematch against Canada, Stone suggested that such a reminder wouldn't be necessary. And her players might not understand regardless.

"Some of these kids are too young," she said. "That stuff is in the past. Totally different players, totally different environment."