Chapter 1

September, 2001

Lake Placid, NY

She skates passed the Swedish defense line and takes a shot.

GOAL! Mila Petrov scores for Team USA! She's the only woman and the youngest player on the Men's Olympic team. She's got fire unlike any other player on the team, she's dedicated and strong.

Petrov skates up to the blue line for the face off-

The buzzing alarm clock went off in Mila's bedroom, and in a matter of seconds, she jumped out of the bed screaming.

"What an awesome dream..." she said to herself. Mila sat back down on her bed and smiled.

"Breakfast is ready!" shouted a familiar female voice from the bottom of the stairs. Mila's smiled quickly faded. Slowly, she got back up from the bed and waited for the only other two remaining Petrov children still living at home to trample down the stairs first. Everyone in the Petrov family knew that Mila liked to show up to meals fashionably late.

"Good morning." said Ludmila Petrov as five of her six children sat down at the dinning room table.

The three older children didn't live at home, but Ludmila made sure that when they moved out, they still come home for breakfast everyday. Ranging from the ages of 15 to 27, none of the Petrov children looked or acted alike, most of the time Mila thought she was adopted, except for the fact that she had her mother's name and looked exactly the way the she did when her mother was younger.

Mila strolled into the dinning room and took her seat in between her younger sister Danka and her older brother Nick, the only two siblings that Mila actually got along with. Nick had practically raised her and so she loved anything he did, especially hockey. If it hadn't been for Nick, Mila and even Danka would have never gotten into the sport. A couple months after Mila and Danka started playing for the Lake Placid Co-Ed Hockey League, the oldest of the Petrov children, Lutka and Navka, started playing too. Soon, almost all of the Petrov children were on the same team.

It seemed like it was going to be a typical September day in Lake Placid. The sun shown brightly through the Petrov family home and a hint of summer still seemed to grace the usually cold city.

Ludmila, as usual was already dressed and ready. She looked important in a gray, pinstriped business suit and black pumps. Her graying, auburn-red hair was pulled into a tight bun on the top of her head, giving the impression that she was an orderly and conservative woman.

"Good morning children." said Mikhail Petrov as he entered the dinning room. He walked over to his wife and gave her a kiss on the check, "Good morning Ludmila."

"Morning Pop." said Nick, his mouth stuffed with toast.

"Good morning Papa." said Galina, the youngest of the Petrov children.

"Is everyone ready for their first day of school?" asked Mikhail.

"I am!" exclaimed Galina, "I start my first day of cheerleading practice today!"

"What's so great about that?" asked Mila, being her usual smart-alec self

"Well, it means that next year I can tryout for varsity." answered Galina, defensively

"Yeah, well I don't have to go to school!" said Mila teasingly, "I graduated and therefore I get to sit on my ass all day."

"I wouldn't brag about that," said Ludmila with her strong Russian accent, "You still could have gone to community college, instead of wasting your life away with hockey." Mila ignored her mother, who always seemed to have something displeasing to say about her.

"I'm excited about school," said Danka, shyly, "In a matter of nine months, I'll graduate."

"Yes and Papa and I are very proud of you." said Ludmila. Mila rolled her eyes.

"Hey Lutka, can you drive us to school today?" asked Galina.

"Is there no bus?" answered Lutka dryly.

"Oh please!" whined Galina.

"Do I look like a taxi service?" snapped Lutka, "I have to go to work. If I keep up this internship, Dr. Rollins will give me a recommendation to Harvard Medical School. Navka you drive them."

"Me?! I can't! I'm going to see Brett today." whined Navka, "Nick can do it."

"No. Nope. Not doin' it." said Nick, his mouth still full of toast.

"Well, I can't either, I have practice." said Mila. Everyone turned toward Nick, who was peacefully eating his toast. He glanced up from his plate.

"Hell no! I am not being a chauffer!" exclaimed Nick.

"Nikolai, please?" asked Mama. Nick put his toast down.

"What's in it for me?" asked Nick as he folded his arms across his chest. He raised an eyebrow.

"Nikolai." said Ludmila in her strictest sounding voice. Nick let out a deep sigh and then said, "Fine, I'll go get the car started." He got up from the table and headed outside to his Mazda 6. Danka and Galina grabbed their school bags and lunches and joined Nick out in the car.

"What's this you have practice?" asked Ludmila turning toward Mila, "I thought practice doesn't start until five."

"It does, but I'm meeting Mike early." answered Mila.

"Mila, it's eight in the morning! You play too much hockey. You should be focusing on a job-"

"Ma, I still don't know what I want to do, besides, I did get a scholarship-"

"The scholarship is for hockey, not academics!" yelled Mama, "Look at Lutka, she works as receptionist for doctor's office and studying to become medical doctor."

"But she plays hockey, and so does Danka and so does Navka." said Mila.

"Yes, but Navka is in a good steady relationship and has a job and Danka is in National Honor Society." said Mama, matter-of-factly.

"Navka works at a bar!" snapped Mila.

"Speaking of work and relationships, I have to go." said Navka getting up from the table. She swished her short, wavy black hair as she got up from her chair. She knew where this argument was going and figured not get herself involved. She grabbed her car keys and left the house, "Tootles!"

"And I have to leave for work soon." said Lutka, finishing up her oatmeal. Just like both Mama and Papa, Lutka also had a Russian accent, though hers wasn't as strong.

"Yeah well I'm heading down to the rink now." said Mila. She got up from the table and started toward the hallway, but Ludmila stopped her.

"Are you spending all day at the rink?" she asked.

"Yeah, I am." said Mila, as she yanked her arm from her mother's grip.

"I mean it Mila, you play too much hockey." said Ludmila sternly. Mila ignored her mother.

"Lutka, I'll see ya later with Danka, Nick and Navka." called Mila back to her sister. She continued down the hallway, grabbed her hockey bag, jacket and car keys and left the house slamming the door behind her.

*****

"Mila Petrov, aren't you here a little early?"

Mila smiled at the cheery old man that had spoken to her.

"No not really Mr. Olsen." she answered.

Al Olsen, the manager of the Lake Placid Olympic Arena, smiled, gave Mila a hearty pat on the back and continued on his way to his office.

Ludmila Petrov, or Mila as she preferred to be called, was so different from her traditionally Russian family. But she liked it that way. Her mother though, always seemed to have something to complain about when it came to Mila. Mila looked very similar to her mother. Same height, about 5'5'', same brown eyes with a fleck of gold, but Mila's trademark was her shoulder-length, curly, auburn hair. No one in the family had it except for her and her mother

Mila found a bench near the ice rink and sat down. She pulled her hockey skates out of her bag and started lacing them up.

"Hey Mila, you ready to play a lil' one on one?"

Mila glanced up to see her friend Mike, a fellow hockey player, leaning against the barrier that separated the ice from the arena floor.

"Nah, I got some warming up to do first." replied Mila. A long strand of curly, auburn hair fell into her face. She sloppily brushed it away.

"Oh c'mon Mil." whined Mike.

Mike Dempsey was Mila's best friend and had been for over twelve years. He and Mila were one in the same and clicked right from the beginning. A native of Boston, Mike had adapted quickly to the hockey lovers of Lake Placid. He was tall, had short black hair and brown eyes and was well built. Although many people had predicted that Mila and Mike would become an item some day, they realized early on that it was just a great friendship between the two hockey players, besides, Mila always teased about how she was friends with a Bruins fan.

"Oh alright." said Mila as she got up from the bench. She grabbed her hockey stick and joined Mike out on the ice.

"We got practice later." said Mike.

"Yeah I know." replied Mila.

"Is, um, Danka coming?" asked Mike, a little uncomfortably. Mila nodded.

"Oh, ok. Good." said Mike, he started blushing. Mila couldn't help but start laughing.

"Why wouldn't she come? She's our best goalie." said Mila in a teasing sort of tone

"I know…I just wasn't sure if she had an after-school program or wasn't feeling good or something…" said Mike defensively.

"Dude, will you just as her out already?!" exclaimed Mila.

"I can't. I'm-just-well-I can't." replied Mike.

"Well you obviously like her." said Mila.

"Hey at least I actually like someone!" exclaimed Mike, obviously trying to change the subject. Mila looked a bit shocked from what Mike said.

"I'm not like my sisters who need men in their lives to make them happy." said Mila, matter-of-factly.

"Yeah but-"

"Let's just skate." snapped Mila.

There was a bit of a silence, until Mike spoke up.

"There's an Olympic scout coming to practice tonight." said Mike.

"Cool." said Mila, "Good luck."

"It's a female scout for the Women's Olympic Team." said Mike. Mila nearly choked on her own saliva.

"What?!"

"Yeah, that's what Olsen said." answered Mike.

"Sweet! That is so awesome! But what about you guys?" asked Mila.

"The Men's Olympic Team usually only uses NHL players or really good college players." said Mike.

"Oh. Right."

"Don't worry about it," said Mike, "hey maybe Danka'll make the team." Mila rolled her eyes.

"Can we just get on with our game?" she joked. Mike smiled and the two friends started to pass a puck around.