Americans still eye ice hockey gold without NHLers

The U.S. men?s ice hockey team competing at next month?s Winter Olympics will feature a new mix of players given the absence of NHL players but the group?s expectations remain exactly the same.

After five Winter Games featuring National Hockey League players, the North American league announced last year that it would not participate in the Feb. 9-25 Pyeongchang Olympics.

As a result, the United States will be pinning their gold medal hopes on a group that includes former NHLers along with players from Europe, college and the U.S. minor leagues.

?We put ourselves in a good spot with our roster,? U.S. head coach Tony Granato said during a conference call on Thursday to announce goaltenders David Leggio and Brandon Maxwell as the final two members of the 25-player roster.

?We are expecting ourselves to play well and compete for a medal,? he added.

The team competing next month, when they hope to end a 38-year American gold drought, is being billed as a fast, puck-moving and tenacious team.

Leading them will be captain Brian Gionta, who has represented the United States on six previous occasions.

Team USA will begin play in the Olympic Games on Feb. 14 against Slovenia.