It never really was a question of whether the United States Women's National Team would win. The only thing in doubt was by how much.
The U.S. skated with relative ease through Sunday's game with the ECAC Northern League All-Stars, earning a 7-1 win in front of 2,752 at Cornell's Lynah Rink.
The U.S. oushot the All-Stars, 50-6, and Cammi Granato already had notched a hat trick by midway through the second period.
The Americans didn't just go through the motions against the college kids; there can't be any half speed when an Olympic gold medal is on the line in four months. Instead, they let their superior skill and years of international experience carry them to another win.
Every time they play on their Skate to Salt Lake tour is a chance to get better as they prepare for the 2002 Games in February.
"There might have been some lapses there, but I think once the ECAC put us on our heels a bit I thought we responded well and got back in the game," said USA coach Ben Smith. "I thought we were going hard right to the bell."
The national team fell victim to road legs early. Shots went off defenders, skates went offsides and at 10:07 of the first period, the United States found itself down, 1-0, after Kristy Zamora of Brown followed her shot and tucked in the rebound past Sara DeCosta.
"Anytime someone gets a goal on us, it puts us in the mind frame that we've got to get going," said U.S. defenseman Chris Bailey. "We didn't come out here to go through the motions, and we've got to get everything going in the right direction."
"Any team wants to beat us. They come at us pretty hard," said forward Brandy Fisher, who turned 26 Sunday. "We just have to adjust. Coach often says that this is the game of their lives, playing the U.S. National Team. We just have to be prepared for it."
After the ECAC goal, Team USA tightened its game, playing crisper as it began a scoring clinic.
Granato evened the game with a power-play goal two minutes later. Katie King added two goals to give the U.S. a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
The lead swelled to 7-1 after the second period after a pair of goals by Granato and scores by Krissy Wendell and Natalie Darwitz.
St. Lawrence goalie Rachel Barrie, who played the second half of the game for the ECAC, kept the contest from getting really embarrassing -- the ECAC Eastern League All-Stars recently lost to the national team, 16-0. Barrie made 23 saves, allowing just one goal.
The game was a homecoming of sorts for Lyndsay Wall. At 16, Wall is the youngest member of the U.S. National Team. A native of Churchville, near Rochester, she played with the Buffalo Regals boys team in 1999-00 before joining the Syracuse Stars, last year's 19-and-under girls hockey national champion.
"It was great just to see that they all support me and everything," Wall said. "I mean, this is a 2 1/2 -hour bus ride for (my friends and family). Just to see that they came out to watch the game when a lot of them don't even know what's going on, to have them behind me is great."
The national team was scheduled to leave for Finland for the Four Nations Cup next week but pulled out of the tournament amid security concerns. Instead, the women will return to Lake Placid to train and possibly play some exhibitions.
Their next scheduled competition is the Thanksgiving Tournament at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid with St. Lawrence, Wisconsin and the Beatrice Aeros.
Smith, who is carrying 25 players, has to trim his roster to 20 by Dec. 22.