'I'm honestly beyond excited': Northbrook's Compher ready to make Olympic debut in Beijing
Jesse Compher plainly assesses what she brings to a hockey team.
"A two-way forward who works hard and competes hard every chance I get on the ice," she said.
The Glenbrook North graduate will get the chance to bring it on the world stage. The Northbrook native was announced as one of 23 players to make up the 2022 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team during the NHL's Winter Classic in Minneapolis on New Year's Day.
Opening group play Feb. 3 against Finland, the U.S. Women enter the Beijing Winter Olympic Games as the defending gold medalist, having won their second gold in 2018. The United States has medaled in every Olympics since women's hockey was introduced to the Games in 1998.
The team will head to Los Angeles on Jan. 24 and fly to Beijing three days later.
A 5-foot-8 forward who played her college hockey at Boston University, Compher is among eight first-time Olympians named to the squad, along with Savannah Harmon of Downers Grove. Compher trains with the Clarkson University graduate when both aren't wrapped up in national events and practices.
Despite the timing of the announcement, Compher said the players were notified of their selection in December. The final roster was whittled down from 27 players.
"It's definitely very exciting when your dreams come true, but not only when they come true with you alone, but also when your best friends and teammates are by your side," Compher said from Team USA's training facility, the Super Rink at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota.
Usual suspect Kendall Coyne Schofield of Oak Lawn makes her third appearance on the Olympic Team and Megan Bozek of Buffalo Grove her second. Hilary Knight, a 2018 favorite from Idaho, is the fourth woman to make four U.S. Olympic women's hockey teams.
"I'm honestly beyond excited for the experience and the journey over there in China, but I'm just happy to be a part of this program and a part of this team," said Compher, sister of Colorado Avalanche forward J.T. Compher.
The United States won at the 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics by tying Canada in the third period of the gold medal game, then winning 3-2 in a shootout.
The rival squads faced each other six times in the Why Me Tour with dates in October, November and December, Canada winning four games with three of the six games going into overtime.
The last three scheduled games of the tour were COVID casualties, so the American women scrimmaged boys teams around Blaine, then practiced as a unit since Christmas.
"We looked good," Jesse Compher said. "We're just starting to come together, and I don't think we've played our best hockey as a team yet, which is the most exciting part."
A five-time Hockey East player of the week during her Boston University career, she was a second-team All-America selection in 2018-19 and a top-10 finalist for the 2019 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top collegiate women's hockey player. In her final season with Boston University Compher collected 11 points on 7 goals and 4 assists in 9 games.
Compher has seen her USA sweater, but hasn't been able to pull it on yet.
Having played in nine international competitions since she was 16, she knows what it means.
"I think that representing your country for sure never gets old. It's a feeling that's indescribable," she said.
"I'm excited to be on this journey with my teammates and excited for what we will accomplish."