Workforce Canada counting on veterans because it seems to regain ladies’s hockey world championship

When the ultimate buzzer sounded at Brampton’s CAA Centre final April, Workforce Canada needed to watch the Individuals celebrating on Canadian dwelling ice.

A hat trick from Hilary Knight propelled the U.S. to a 6-3 win within the closing, ending a Canadian bid for 3 straight world championship titles.

A yr later, the Canadians have the chance to return the favour as their quest for redemption begins in Utica, N.Y., on Thursday once they face Finland within the first preliminary spherical recreation of the ladies’s world championship.

Switzerland, the Czech Republic and america spherical out group A, whereas Japan, China, Germany, Sweden and Denmark will compete in group B.

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Canada in search of revenge towards U.S. at ladies’s hockey worlds

Host Rob Pizzo is joined by Karissa Donkin to preview the upcoming IIHF ladies’s hockey world championship in Utica, New York.

Going into this yr’s match, Canadian GM Gina Kingsbury did not see a necessity for main modifications. She thinks the workforce had a powerful efficiency in 2023, even when it did not lead to a championship.

“I do know we most likely did not rating as many objectives as we’re perhaps used to from an Olympic perspective and that efficiency,” Kingsbury mentioned. “However I believed we performed a extremely nice collective recreation throughout. That gold medal recreation as nicely, I felt that we had management of that recreation for almost all of the sport.”

The Individuals held an analysis camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., final week to pick its roster.

Canada took a distinct method, naming its roster in early March. As an alternative of a range camp, the workforce gathered in Kingston, Ont., final week to start out constructing chemistry and fine-tuning particular groups.

A veteran roster

There might be loads of acquainted faces on Canada’s roster, with 20 gamers getting back from final yr’s workforce. Cousins Julia and Nicole Gosling will make their world championship debut whereas Olympic gold medallist Ashton Bell returns to the blue line.

Whereas the Individuals will discipline a roster stuffed with a lot of younger, NCAA expertise, Canada is bringing a roster stuffed with a bit extra veteran expertise, from captain Marie-Philip Poulin to Brianne Jenner, Jocelyne Larocque and Natalie Spooner.

“Some individuals might imagine we’re too cautious in a way and would like to see much more younger gamers on our roster,” Kingsbury mentioned. “However we have got an unimaginable group of core athletes which have been with us for fairly a while which have expertise, that know methods to win. They perceive tradition. They’ve established an unimaginable tradition with our program.

“So for us, it is ensuring we deliver up athletes that we really feel are actually able to compete at that degree, and that might be profitable at that degree.”

Will the tweaks be sufficient to get previous the Individuals? Is that this the yr a Czech Republic workforce on the rise will break by to the gold medal recreation?

Listed below are eight gamers to observe throughout this yr’s match: 

Sarah Fillier, F (Princeton College, NCAA)

Fillier is just 23 however is getting into her fourth world championship. She was Canada’s finest participant and match MVP final yr, posting 11 factors in seven video games.

Projected to be the highest choose within the 2024 PWHL draft, Fillier is one in every of Canada’s finest offensive threats, however she’s additionally accountable defensively.

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The 23-year-old ahead from Georgetown, Ont., says she’s watched nearly each recreation and is happy to affix the league subsequent season.

“She’s extraordinarily good,” Kingsbury mentioned. 

Normally a centre, Fillier has spent the previous couple of months enjoying on the wing at Princeton. It offers Canada’s teaching employees extra choices to deploy top-of-the-line gamers.

Grace Zumwinkle, F (PWHL Minnesota)
United States

Zumwinkle returns to the American world championship roster after being left off the squad that gained gold final yr.

It comes on the heels of a monster first skilled season within the PWHL, the place the Minnesota ahead sits second behind Natalie Spooner for the league lead in objectives (9). Zumwinkle retains discovering methods to create possibilities for herself and her teammates, and her dimension and pace make her tough to cease when she’s driving laborious to the web.

A female hockey player wearing purple uniform is seen celebrating a goal.
Grace Zumwinkle may very well be a difference-maker on Workforce USA in the fitting position. (David Berding/Getty Pictures))

With the fitting alternative, she needs to be a difference-maker for Workforce USA.

Noora Tulus, F (Luleå HF, Swedish Ladies’s Hockey League)

Finland returns to the harder group A this yr, however boasts a ton of talent up entrance together with Petra Nieminen, who has been one of many purpose scorers on this planet for some time now, and Viivi Vainikka.

But it surely’s price keeping track of Noora Tulus, who led the Swedish Ladies’s Hockey League (SDHL) in scoring with 61 factors in 36 video games this yr en route to a different championship for Luleå. Tulus is predicted to declare for the 2024 PWHL draft, the place she’s prone to be a excessive choose.

Natalie Spooner, F (PWHL Toronto)

Spooner has been enjoying one of the best hockey of her profession this season with PWHL Toronto, the place she’s scored a league-leading 15 objectives, and with Workforce Canada, the place she had six factors in three Rivalry Collection video games.

She’s a quintessential energy ahead who makes use of her pace and talent to get to the web. She’s tough to maneuver as soon as she places herself there.

Women's hockey player greets fans before playing a hockey game.
Natalie Spooner has been enjoying one of the best hockey of her profession this season with PWHL Toronto. (Mark Blinch/Getty Pictures)

“In and across the web, I do not know if there’s very many that may compete together with her in that space,” mentioned Kingsbury, who’s additionally PWHL Toronto’s GM. “She’s large, she’s sturdy, she creates house.”

Canada’s teaching employees may reunite Spooner with Fillier, figuring out the 2 have chemistry. Or they may deliver again an all-PWHL-Toronto line of Emma Maltais, Sarah Nurse and Spooner that regarded dominant on the Rivalry Collection.

Adéla Šapovalivová, F (MoDo Hockey, Swedish Ladies’s Hockey League)
Czech Republic

Šapovalivová captained the Czech Republic’s under-18 workforce to historical past in January by beating Canada to get to the gold medal recreation for the primary time.

Nonetheless solely 17, Šapovalivová put up 29 factors in 32 video games with MoDo within the SDHL, the place she performed towards gamers a lot older than her.

“She makes performs out of virtually nothing,” Jared Cipparone, her coach with MoDo Hockey, instructed CBC Sports activities. “She’s received a extremely good eye for purpose scoring.” 

Šapovalivová has one other yr of play within the SDHL earlier than she joins top-of-the-line NCAA packages, Wisconsin, in 2025. 

“I feel inside 5 years, she’ll be top-of-the-line gamers on this planet,” Cipparone mentioned.

Kateřina Mrázová, F (PWHL Ottawa)
Czech Republic

Mrázová has been an enormous a part of the Czech Republic’s hard-to-play towards id during the last two world championships, incomes back-to-back bronze medals.

A hockey player stickhandles the puck away from a falling opponent during a game.
Kateřina Mrázová has been a part of top-of-the-line traces within the PWHL currently in Ottawa, forming a trio with Brianne Jenner and Daryl Watts. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Mrázová centres top-of-the-line traces within the PWHL proper now in Ottawa, the place she leads the workforce in factors. 

“It was actually obvious how good she is as a participant,” Ottawa linemate Daryl Watts mentioned of attending to know Mrázová. “She’s received an edge to her, which is basically enjoyable.”

That edge and talent, from Mrázová and different Czech gamers like Tereza Vanišová, may very well be the X think about serving to the workforce make its first gold-medal recreation.

Lina Ljungblom, F (MoDo Hockey, Swedish Ladies’s Hockey League)

Ljungblom, 22, was Sweden’s high goal-scorer at worlds final yr. She adopted it up with a marketing campaign with MoDo in Sweden that noticed her end third in factors throughout the league, serving to MoDo to the league closing.

A pure purpose scorer, she’ll be Sweden’s finest offensive menace. However she’s additionally improved with out the puck, in accordance with Cipparone, her coach with MoDo.

“She was the chief of our workforce by way of setting the tempo and methods to play,” he mentioned.

A hockey player in a Sweden jersey carries the puck in front of a German goaltender.
Ahead Lina Ljungblom might be a menace to attain for Sweden. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Pres)

A Fifteenth-round choose by Montreal in final yr’s PWHL draft, she may discover her strategy to North America within the close to future.

Caroline Harvey, D (College of Wisconsin, NCAA)
United States

Arguably the Individuals’ finest participant in final yr’s match, 21-year-old Harvey is getting into her fourth world championship.

She’s contemporary off serving to Wisconsin to an NCAA closing, in a season the place she was named defender of the yr in her convention.

The offensive defender led the U.S. in scoring with 14 factors in seven video games eventually yr’s match, and needs to be an enormous a part of this workforce for years to come back.

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