ANCHORAGE, Alaska — She endured eight months of painful rehabilitation far from home, and even postponed her wedding to focus on her Olympic dream.
But this week, Pam Dreyer of Eagle River, Alaska, heard the announcement that made her sacrifice worthwhile. Dreyer, 24, was one of two goaltenders named to the U.S. women's Olympic ice hockey team.
She was one of 20 players selected to play for Team USA at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, beginning Feb. 10.
Dreyer, a former standout goalie at Brown University and Chugiak High, will make her Olympic debut. She is the first Alaskan named to the women's Olympic hockey team — though she is not the only Alaskan skating in Turin. Anchorage's Scott Gomez was named to the men's Olympic hockey team earlier this month.
"To represent the country in a sport where Alaska is so proud, one on the male side and one on the female side, it just shows that whatever the sex, we have the talent," Dreyer said.
Dreyer joins goaltender Chanda Gunn of Huntington Beach, Calif. The starter has not been determined, Team USA coach Ben Smith said during a Tuesday press conference.
"If I'm number one, I'm number one," she said. "We'd all liked to be called on to play in the gold medal game. But from what I've gone through, I at least have the satisfaction of making the Olympic games."
Dreyer was the No. 1 goalie for the U.S. women's national team prior to a shoulder injury suffered in the closing moments of a 2-1 loss to Canada in the Four Nations Cup final a year ago. She dove to make a save and landed on her right elbow, tearing the rotator cuff.
Dreyer underwent surgery to repair the shoulder in February, but pain persisted and a second surgery to remove scar tissue followed in June.
As teammates buffed up and polished their skills in preparation for Olympic team tryouts in August in Lake Placid, N.Y., Dreyer kept rehabbing her shoulder.
She missed Team USA's victory over Canada in the Women's World Championship in April. Rather than come home, she stayed at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid to be near doctors and trainers.
She did not skate from November 2004, when she injured her shoulder, until July, when fiancé Ted Sunkinen fired a few pucks on her during a skate at the Palmer Ice Arena.
Dreyer said she felt OK prior to the Olympic team tryout in August, but after a few sessions on the ice, the shoulder throbbed and pain spread to her neck.
"I gave up a lot — eight months — and I was supposed to be ready, but I wasn't," Dreyer said. "That was a big letdown, emotionally and physically."
She was kept out of the rest of tryouts but still made the initial round of cuts. She skipped the Four Nations Cup in Finland three months ago to further rehab her shoulder, and then joined the team for pre-Olympic tour games in Italy.
Dreyer was brought along slowly, and in eight appearances has posted a 2-2 record with a 3.02 goals-against average and .874 save percentage.
Her breakthrough game came against Canada on Dec. 1 — just her second full game in a year. Canada won 3-1, but one goal was an empty netter and another came on a defensive breakdown that gave the Canadians a 3-on-0 breakaway.
"She looked to be in top form," said Smith, who is coaching the women's Olympic team for the third time. "She looked like she was back to where Pam Dreyer should be on the depth chart."