The U.S. women’s ice hockey team will be one of the heavy favorites at this week’s IIHF Women’s World Championships, an event in which the Americans have won in five of their last six appearances and boast an all-time record of 65-14-1.
The 23-player roster competing at the event beginning today in Kamloops, British Columbia, includes 18 women who helped the U.S. win gold at the 2015 world championships and 13 members of the silver-medal-winning 2014 U.S. Olympic Team.
Forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, is entering her sixth world championships with the program and has noticed a drastic change in team chemistry since she joined the national team in the 2008-09 season.
Although the U.S. has won gold or silver at every edition of the world championships since the event began in 1990, only recently has the American squad really been clicking on all cylinders.
“We really try to make everyone feel comfortable so they can be at their best when it matters most,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “Away from the ice, we don’t go off on our own. We’ll sit and chat after a team meal for hours. There’s that part of it, too, building camaraderie that’s not forced. I think in the past, it could have been kind of forced, and now it’s just really easy to sit with whomever on the team and chitchat. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
It can be argued that Lamoureux-Davidson’s favorite word is “collectively,” as she’s always stressing her teammates are one unit every time they touch the ice, with all of them having the flexibility to play on different line arrangements because they mesh so well.
The U.S. team is made up of players from 13 different states, some of who play in the newly created National Women’s Hockey League, others who are still in college and a few who play for independent teams.
Geographic distance is just a number, though, as all the players put in the extra effort to keep in constant contact with each other between training camps and tournaments, with each woman a leader in her own right.
“I’m a straight shooter, and I tell it how it is,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “I’ll speak up when I need to, but I think I just let my work ethic speak for itself.
“If you’re not a (captain) letter, you can still be a leader. And that’s why I think we’ve done so well, because all of our veteran players take on that responsibility to just be the best we can and be a leader no matter what role we have.”
Lamoureux-Davidson, along with captain Meghan Duggan, helps make up a core group of veterans in their third Olympic cycle that likes to lead by example.
And according to second-year defenseman Emily Pfalzer, that’s been a much-appreciated approach.
“You can really go to anyone for advice,” Pfalzer said. “The older girls have really been amazing and have made us feel welcome and comfortable. They’ve just made things easier with the transition. Whether it’s talking with them, asking them questions or just seeing how they do things, they’re definitely role models.”
Forward Alex Carpenter falls somewhere in the middle of Lamoureux-Davidson and Pfalzer, having played on the team for one Olympic Winter Games — at which she put away a team-high four goals — and two world championships.
She’s by no means considered a newcomer anymore, but she’s not a veteran yet, either.
But just like her teammates, she always speaks using “we.”
“We’re just focusing on each game as it comes,” Carpenter said. “We’re not focusing on defending the world title, we’re just looking to win one.
“There’s always stuff that we can work on. We are always looking to get better in all aspects of our game. It’s just about improving on a daily basis.”
Lamoureux-Davidson said much of the “we” and “collective” verbiage can be credited to the team’s coaching crew, led by coach and former NHL defenseman Ken Klee.
“It’s pretty cool when you get the chance to learn from NHL guys who have played at the highest level,” she said. “Not that we can’t have women be our coaches, but to have guys who have NHL experience is pretty cool for us, and I think that has a lot to do with our success so far. They don’t give us roles to fill. They let us play, and they really give us the freedom to be creative, and I think that’s why we’ve had success so far.”
Since the first world championships in 1990, the event has been a two-horse race between Team USA and Canada, with one of those teams winning gold at every edition of the event.
But the U.S. women are trying to do better at seeing the bigger picture — they haven’t won Olympic gold since 1998, when women’s hockey was in the Games for the first time — and that’s why they have been working so much on become the ultimate unit.
“The goal is to be able to win the tournament, but the mindset is to focus on us and what we can do and what our best is,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “What we’ve done hasn’t been good enough to this point, and so we all really do need to take care of the little things and really pass that down onto the younger girls.”
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.