International Ice Hockey Federation

American women re-launch

American women re-launch

New “quad” means new players, new ambitions

Published 19.02.2015 09:27 GMT+1 | Author Andrew Podnieks
American women re-launch
Former NHLer Ken Klee is the new head coach of the U.S. women’s national team. Photo: Nancie Battaglia / USA Hockey
Team USA lost the gold medal in Sochi by the slimmest of margins and plenty of bad luck, but now it prepares to defend its Women’s World gold from 2013.

It will do so with a lineup markedly different from the one that skated off the ice at the end of the 2014 Olympics.

“We do a thorough review after every tournament, and certainly a more extensive one after the Olympics,” explained general manager Reagan Carey. “We had a lot of success in the last four years, and we were really pleased with the momentum of the team, and obviously disappointed we weren’t able to secure gold in Sochi. But we also made sure to address some of our needs. We’re going in a positive direction.”

At the top of the list is a change of coaches. Katey Stone, winner of two WW golds but at the wrong end of the scoreboard in Sochi, has been replaced by Ken Klee.

“Katey did a fabulous job for us for four years,” Carey noted, “and she also coached at Harvard, which is a lot of invested time. But as we reviewed everything and wanted to keep things fresh for players, we chose Ken Klee to be our coach for this World Championship. He’ll test out different opinions and maintain the core of what we started with our last quad.”

Not many USA fans will be consoled by the fact that the Sochi final was likely the finest, most exciting women’s hockey game ever played. A 2-0 lead through 55 minutes of play was erased by a flukey goal and then a puck off the post with the Canadian net empty. The 3-2 overtime loss was heart-wrenching for fans of the team, but for the rest of the world possibly not familiar with the sport, it was a great introduction to the women’s game.

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“It’s still a game, and there are elements you can’t control,” Carey said. “Our job is to be prepared for the things you can. Some of the changes we made weren’t because of the result of the gold-medal game; they were the result of our overall vision and attempt to keep growing. At the same time, the winning team wins gold at the end of the day, and we have to find a way to get that done.”

So what does that mean for the U.S. team that will compete in Malmo at the end of March? Many changes. Gone are six veterans: Megan Bozek, Kelli Stack, Lyndsey Fry, Gigi Marvin, Josephine Pucci, and Julie Chu. As well, the team will be without star forward Amanda Kessel, who is sitting out the entire season after suffering a concussion in Sochi that has yet to fully heal.

“We have a great relationship with all of those players, and they are all vital members of our player pool,” Carey noted. They’re still in the mix. It’s a long stretch to the next Olympics, and we expect to see some of them back at some point.”

The modus operandi of the U.S. is certainly different from Canada which typically uses a more veteran roster. The experience can be beneficial in big games, but not rolling over the roster enough can create a generational gap.

“We’ve always had a bit of a younger team [than Canada] and that plays to our strengths as a skilled team, but we also need to make sure we have a core group of veterans,” Carey continued. “We have 13 returning players from our Olympic roster. We’re in a good spot where we’re giving younger players some exposure, but we have a great arsenal of veterans.”

The loss of Chu is inevitable but bittersweet. The soon-to-be 33-year-old has played every major event for her country since 2001, but time eventually catches up to everyone, and now seems to be the time for her.

“We had specific roles identified for everyone in Sochi, and Julie Chu was a big part of that,” Carey explained. “She’s taking some time to figure out what her next steps are. It’s a mutual discussion to see if she decides to continue to train.”

The situation with Kessel is clearer but also more worrisome. She was arguably the best female player in the world in the year and a half leading up to Sochi, and her absence will be felt not only by her teammates but the women’s game itself.

“We’ve had good dialogue with Amanda, making sure she’s doing the right thing for her long-term health,” Carey said. “We’d love to see her back in the mix but only when the time is right. Having said that, there are a lot of opportunities for young players to step up and shine while we have some veterans and Olympians working on things.”

The newcomers to the team include two defencemen and seven forwards, all of whom have significant experience at the WW18 level. The youngest will be 18-year-old Meghan Keller who is a rare example of a North American player making the leap from junior to senior hockey in one season.

“It’s exciting to see so many U18 players on the team, and as that program develops, it gives players a chance to jump to the national team sooner,” Carey noted. “Meghan Keller was able to bridge that gap a little sooner than most, but playing at Boston College and with coaches that have experience certainly helps. Her poise as a defenceman and her ability to be an offensive threat is a really nice combination. We’re looking forward to seeing her continue to grow and fit into that role with the senior team.”

The other blueliner is Emily Pfalzer, and the forwards are Stephanie Anderson, Hannah Brandt, Dani Cameranesi, Zoe Hickel, Annie Pankowski, Haley Skarupa, and Dana Trivigno.

Perhaps the biggest name to watch will be Skarupa who led the 2012 WW18 with 11 goals in just five games. Her offence will go a long way to dimming the loss of Kessel.

“Haley has a lot of great skill and is a goal scorer,” Carey enthused. “We’re looking for her to be able to do that, and she’s worked really hard to build up her strength. She’s done a great job at the U18 with Carpenter and Trivigno and Pfalzer, who all played together for two or three U18s. They all have a great relationship. For Skarupa, we’re hoping she has the same impact as at the U18s.”

For Carey, the big question mark will be to see how players who were stars in U18 – and then went off on their own for several years – fare at the senior level, a much faster and skillful game, to be sure.

“There’s typically a gap there and we talk to the players about it so they’re aware that we’re expecting them to train hard and earn that next opportunity, even if it doesn’t come immediately,” Carey explained.

“We’ve also improved our scouting over the last quad which has helped us keep track of a lot of players we might not have otherwise been able to. That was the case with Stephanie Anderson and Zoe Hickel [both of whom last played at WW18 in 2010], seeing those players hit their stride in their own program and be able to get an invite to our winter camp. Each day of camp they got better and better, and we hope they can fill a role with the national team.”

Which brings us to Malmo 2015. The Americans are co-favourites to make it back to the gold-medal game, but will this blend of old and new have what it takes to re-claim top spot in the women’s hockey world?

“The sense of team and sense of leadership has excelled over the last four years,” Regan suggested, “and I’m excited to see our veterans come in and set the tone and help the younger players. We have a great opportunity, but at the same time we have a lot of different players on our team and it’s a short pre-camp. The key for us is to get everybody together and make sure we’re on the same page.”

U.S. Women’s National Team

Alex Rigsby
Molly Schaus
Jessie Vetter

Kacey Bellamy, Boston Blades (CWHL)
Megan Keller, Boston College (HEA)
Monique Lamoureux, Boston Blades (CWHL)
Emily Pfalzer, Boston College (HEA)
Michelle Picard, Harvard University (ECACH)
Anne Schleper
Lee Stecklein, University of Minnesota (WCHA)

Stephanie Anderson, Bemidji State University (WCHA)
Hannah Brandt, University of Minnesota (WCHA)
Dani Cameranesi, University of Minnesota (WCHA)
Alex Carpenter, Boston College (HEA)
Kendall Coyne, Northeastern University (HEA)
Brianna Decker, Boston Blades (CWHL)
Meghan Duggan, Boston Blades (CWHL)
Zoe Hickel, University of Minnesota Duluth (WCHA)
Hilary Knight, Boston Blades (CWHL)
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson
Annie Pankowski, University of Wisconsin (WCHA)
Haley Skarupa, Boston College (HEA)
Dana Trivigno, Boston College (HEA)

Head Coach:
Ken Klee


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