On Feb. 9, the 23rd Olympic Winter Games will kick off at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium in South Korea. While there are over 90 countries sending representatives to compete, many eyes will be on the fierce rivalry between the American and Canadian women’s ice hockey teams. Four years ago, Canada bounced back from a 2-0 deficit in the final four minutes of the 2014 Sochi Olympics gold medal game against the U.S., clinching the title in a stunning overtime defeat.
This year, both teams head to South Korea with momentum. Canada looks to extend its winning streak in Olympic finals to five consecutive titles, while the U.S. enters as the three-time defending World Champion, topping Canada in each final. The two teams have also faced off several times in the past few months. The U.S. defeated Canada 5-1 in November to win the Four Nations Cup for the third year in a row. But in December, Canada won all four exhibition games against the Americans, which included two overtime victories.
Hockey Canada, the national governing body that oversees ice hockey and ice sledge hockey in Canada, has crafted a competitive women’s ice hockey team led by Dartmouth women’s ice hockey head coach Laura Schuler. Schuler is in her third season of coaching for the national team, having served as the head coach of the Canadian national women’s hockey team since 2015.
Schuler has extensive experience within Hockey Canada as both a player and a coach. She won the silver medal as a member of the 1998 Canadian team at the inaugural tournament for women’s ice hockey at the Games. She has also served as head coach of the U22 National Women’s Team in 2011-2012 and U18 National Women’s Team in 2013-2014.
The Big Green’s Laura Stacey ’16 will also be hitting the ice for Canada. Her hockey roots go far back as her great-grandfather, King Clancy, won six Stanley Cups, three as a player with the Ottawa Senators and the other half as an assistant manager coach for the Toronto Maple Leaves. Stacey tallied an impressive 87 points in 108 games played for the Big Green and has continued her career as a professional for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s Brampton Thunder, earning herself the league’s title of 2017 Rookie of the Year. Four out of the CWHL’s seven teams will be represented on Team Canada this year, while three out of the National Women’s Hockey League’s four teams will be represented by Team USA.
Joining Stacey on the ice is Meghan Agosta, who led the team with three goals in 2014 for a total of four points. If the team wins gold, Agosta will tie Jayna Hefford, Caroline Oullette and Hayley Wickenheiser, all of whom won their gold medals playing hockey for Canada, for the Olympic record for the most number of gold medals in women’s hockey.
Team USA will be led once again by captain Meghan Duggan, who helped the team to a silver medal in 2014. Expect Alex Carpenter, who led the team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics with four goals and scored the second highest amount of goals out of any player in the tournament, to play a crucial role. The team will be joined by Jocelyne Lamoureux, who led the team with five assists and Amanda Kessel, who had six points with a +8 rating.
Many Team USA players play in the NWHL, a professional ice hockey league created in 2015. Five players also star for the Minnesota Whitecaps, an independent professional women’s team based out of Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota.
Three goaltenders will make their Olympic debut for Team USA: Alex Rigsby, who has won gold in four International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships and clinched a national championship with the University of Wisconsin in 2011; Maddie Rooney, a junior at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, who played in the 2017 World Championships and had a shutout in the preliminary round; and Nicole Hensley, who won gold with Team USA at the 2016 and 2017 World Championships, recording two shutouts at the 2017 tournament for a total of three wins.
In Pyeongchang, the U.S. will face off against Canada, Finland and Russia in Group A of the preliminary round, with its first game on Feb. 11 against Finland. Canada will take on Russia that same day. The gold medal game will take place on Feb. 22.
This will be the first in a series of articles covering the 2018 Winter Olympics.