'14 Need To Knows: Women's Ice Hockey

By Paul D. Bowker | April 25, 2013, 5 p.m. (ET)

Members of Team USA pose for a team photo after defeating Team Canada during the IIHF Women's World Championship gold-medal game at Scotiabank Place on April 9, 2013, in Ottawa, Canada. Team USA defeated Team Canada 3-2.

PERFECT MEDALISTS

The United States has won a medal in every Olympic Winter Games since women’s ice hockey became a part of the Olympic program in 1998. However, Team USA has not won gold since the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games. In 2010 in Vancouver, the United States settled for silver after a 2-0 loss to Canada in the gold-medal game. In the four Olympic Winter Games in which women’s hockey has been held, only the United States and Canada have won gold.

USA VS. CANADA

There is no bigger rivalry in women’s hockey than the United States versus Canada. Team USA won the Olympic gold medal in 1998 with a win over Canada in the championship game. Four years later in Salt Lake City, Canada defeated the United States for gold, and at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, Canada topped the United States in the semifinals. Canada defeated the United States for gold at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, but the United States won the most recent world championship – in April 2013 – with a 3-2 title-game victory over Canada, and has now won four of the last five world championships (2008, 2009, 2011, 2013).

 
Kacey Bellamy and Julie Chu at the 2013 World Championships

OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH

The United States and Canada are definitely the top-two teams to watch, but the sport has grown and developed in several other countries. At the 2013 World Championship, Russia took the bronze, upsetting Finland for the medal and marking its second medal at worlds. Russia, which earns an automatic berth to the Winter Games as the host country, has a strong hockey history on the men’s side and appointed former NHL star Alexei Yashin as general manager of the women’s team. Finland is another team to watch, and it features goaltender Noora Raty, who helped lead the University of Minnesota to a 41-0 record and the NCAA title this past season. Switzerland and Germany could also figure in the mix, and Sweden can never be counted out.

DATES TO REMEMBER

Olympic preliminary-round play in women’s hockey will begin Feb. 8, 2014, the day after the Opening Ceremony. Two games per day will be held through Feb. 13. The quarterfinals will be held Feb. 15, followed two days later by the semifinals and then the medal games on Feb. 20. All games except the gold- and bronze-medal games will be held at Shayba Arena. The medal games will be held at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

THE VENUE

Shayba Arena, where most of the Olympic women’s hockey games will be played, is a part of the Coastal Cluster complex of arenas that will be used at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. It seats 7,000 spectators. In addition to being the venue for women’s hockey, it will also play host to the sled hockey competition at the Paralympic Winter Games. Shayba, a Russian word which means puck, was designed and built so that it can be dismantled after the Winter Games and be reassembled in another Russian city.

 
The women's locker room at the 2013 World Championships

HISTORIC GAMES FOR STONE

In addition to being the winningest coach in NCAA Division I women’s hockey history for Harvard, Team USA Head Coach Katey Stone led the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team to gold at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships. At the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, she will be the first female head coach for the U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team. Among the many Olympians she has coached at Harvard was four-time Olympic medalist Angela Ruggiero. Stone’s career record at Harvard: 402-171-35. The Crimson made the NCAA tournament quarterfinals in 2013.

FIRST TIME, NO ANGELA

When Team USA lines up to play in Sochi, it will be without Angela Ruggiero for the first time in an Olympic Winter Games. The four-time Olympic medalist and four-time world champion retired from international play in 2011. Yet she remains an important part of the Olympic program. In 2010, she was named to an eight-year appointment to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission. She also serves on the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors and is president of the Women’s Sports Foundation. She was the first women’s hockey player, other than a goalie, to play in a professional men’s hockey game. A defenseman who has widely been considered one of the world’s best female hockey players, Ruggiero’s leadership and tenacity on the ice will be missed in Sochi.

CAPTAIN IS SEEKING GOLD

Julie Chu, another Harvard alum formerly coached by Katey Stone, will seek her fourth Olympic medal in Sochi. Chu, a forward, won her first Olympic medal, a silver, at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and followed that up with a bronze in Torino and a silver in Vancouver.  She will be seeking gold in Sochi. She was named team captain for the 2013 World Championship team. Chu is an assistant coach for the women’s hockey team at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. Her 285 points at Harvard rank No. 2 in NCAA history.

USA DEEP IN EXPERIENCE AND YOUTH

The U.S. won the 2013 World Championship with an impressive blend of experience and youth, and is likely to enter the Sochi Winter Games in similar fashion. Chu is the team’s elder stateswoman at age 32. Goaltender Jessie Vetter, a 2010 Olympian, will be 29. Lisa Chesson, a defenseman and 2010 Olympian, will be 28. Defensemen Kacey Bellamy and Gigi Marvin, and forward Meghan Duggan, will be 27. Contrast that with young stars Brianna Decker, Kendall Coyne and Amanda Kessel. Decker, who recently completed her senior season at the University of Wisconsin ranked second on the school’s all-time scoring list, will turn 23 in May. She scored a tournament-leading six goals at the 2013 World Championship, including one in the title game.

 
Monique Lamoureux moves the puck against Sweden during the
women's ice hockey semifinal game during the Vancouver 2010
Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 22, 2010.

STAR SIBLINGS

Amanda Kessel is likely to make the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team. Should the NHL, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation work out a deal to allow NHL players to compete in the 2014 Games, there’s a good chance her old brother, Phil Kessel, will suit up for the U.S. men’s team. Amanda Kessel, 21, just wrapped up her junior season at the University of Minnesota in which she led the Golden Gophers to an undefeated season and a second consecutive NCAA title while also winning the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top player in women’s NCAA Division I college hockey. Days after closing out her college career, Kessel was back on the ice for Team USA at the world championship, where she ranked fourth in the tournament with eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) and had a plus-6 rating through five games. Through 46 games, her big brother — a 2010 U.S. Olympian — has a team-leading 49 points (17 goals, 32 assists) for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are back in the NHL playoffs for the first time since 2004.

SOCHI READY

The United States is already qualified for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games because it was one of the world’s top-five teams following the conclusion of the 2012 World Championship, along with Canada, Finland, Switzerland and Sweden. As host, Russia also earned an automatic berth. The final two spots were awarded to Germany and Japan following the final Olympic qualification tournaments in February 2013.

TEAM USA SELECTION

Players will be continually evaluated leading up to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in various camps and tournaments. The preliminary Olympic roster will be named in June 2013 at the conclusion of the summer training camp with up to 25 players, who will centralize for the 2013-14 season. The final 21-player roster, which will include three goaltenders, will be named in late December.

NO CHECKING

The biggest difference between men’s ice hockey and women’s ice hockey is that checking is not allowed in the women’s game. That does not mean the game is without physical contact. Just don’t look for body checking into the boards as you would see in a men’s game. Minor infractions are whistled for two-minute penalties.

PROTECT YOURSELF

Hockey players are loaded with padded equipment in the interest of safety. These include a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, mouth guard, protective gloves, padded pants, shin pads underneath their socks and a neck protector for younger players. The helmets include cages or visors to protect the face. Goalkeepers also have a chest protector and large leg pads that are used to stop shots.

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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