- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - In her carry-on bag for the trip to Russia - never under the plane with the checked luggage - or hanging in her locker at the Shayba Arena, Lyndsey Fry always keeps the jersey close by.

It is not the one she is wearing for the U.S. women’s hockey team in Sochi this week.

It is the reason she is here.

Despondent over the death of friend and former teammate Liz Turgeon, Fry nearly played herself out of contention for a spot on the U.S. women’s hockey team. Two years later, the defenseman found motivation in her sorrow, telling her parents, “I’m going for it,” and rededicating herself to the sport.

“We kind of made this promise to each other,” Fry said in an interview at the team’s training base outside Boston before leaving for Sochi. “I’ve been set on keeping it - this past year, especially. To be able to do that … it’s all going to become very, very real.”

Fry’s hometown of Chandler, Ariz., is a Phoenix suburb where swimming pools are common and ice rinks are not - the state has never before sent a hockey player to the Olympics. But her father had her on roller skates at 4 and handed her a hockey stick not long after. Then came the “Mighty Ducks” movie, in which girls played on same team as boys, and Fry was sold.

Lyndsey’s mother said that when an ice rink opened up five miles from her house, the first in the area, “all of the girls switched over.”

“And the next year they were all playing on travel teams,” Lynne Fry said.

Like most young girls playing hockey, Fry played with boys until - seeking better women’s competition than she could find in Arizona - she joined a team in Denver called the Colorado Selects. The coach was former NHL star Pierre Turgeon and his daughter, Liz, was on the team.

Liz and Lyndsey became like sisters. When Fry grew tired of commuting from Arizona, she stayed with the Turgeons, adopting them - not just Liz, but her parents, too - as a second family. Fry took online courses to finish high school and she was accepted to play hockey at Harvard.

Liz, who still had another year of high school, was committed to Minnesota.

“So we didn’t know when we were going to play together again,” Fry said. “We had always hoped that this would be where we would kind of reunite.”

Liz died in December 2010 when the pickup truck she was driving crashed into a semi-trailer just after midnight about 100 miles outside of Albuquerque. She was 18. Fry spoke at the service, then returned to school and to hockey.

But it wasn’t like it was before.

“It was two days before Christmas and it was tough,” said U.S. coach Katey Stone, also Fry’s coach at Harvard. “It was a very, very difficult time for her.”

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