When the Four Nations Cup kicks off on Tuesday in Vierumaki, Finland, the U.S. women’s ice hockey team has one goal, and it’s the same goal Team USA has every time it plays in the event.
“We definitely want to come out on top,” said Kacey Bellamy, a two-time U.S. Olympian and veteran of 10 Four Nations Cups.
Though not as high profile as the Olympic Winter Games or world championships, the Four Nations Cup is a staple on the schedule each year for Team USA players. The annual event, which began as the Three Nations Cup in 1996, also features Canada, Finland and Sweden.
Having competed every year except 2001, the Americans have claimed the title six times, including last year. Their campaign to defend the title begins against Sweden at 11:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday. After a round robin, the top two teams face off Nov. 5 for the championship.
“I think if we play a team game and work together as a unit, possess the puck all over the ice and just compete as hard as we can, making plays with each other, I think that will make us successful,” Bellamy said.
In the midway point between Olympic Winter Games, that team is right where the players want it to be, said two-time Olympian Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.
“I think chemistry is better than it’s ever been,” she said. “We’ve had a bigger, core group of veteran players these last couple years, and I think our chemistry just continues to build. It’s just going to keep getting better as we get more opportunities to get together over these next 18 months.
“It’s definitely been fun to continue on with this program with that core group we’ve had over the last six years.”
Bellamy agreed, saying that having a roster chock-full of returning players, as well as a team of players from all across the country, means the program “is in a good place right now.”
“We’ve just been working really hard as a team in different aspects of our culture and it’s very exciting every time you put on that jersey,” said Bellamy, who played college hockey for New Hampshire. “I feel like whenever you put on the jersey, whether it’s a world championship, Four Nations, whatever — everyone does it with pride and honor, and those are two of the most important things.”
Lamoureux-Davidson, who played college hockey at North Dakota, added that having a solid coaching staff, led by coach Ken Klee, is vital to any success the U.S. might have in Finland.
“Honestly, it’s fun to be on the ice with a group of coaches that have the experience they do and can shed light on little things that can make a difference in a game or in a practice,” she said. “Then off the ice, they understand the travel, having two-a-days with a training session in the middle, and it’s nice to have a coaching staff that really gets it and has been through it. Just makes it easier to have that player-coach relationship and that mutual understanding.”
With a chance to repeat as Four Nations Cup champions, Lamoureux-Davidson said the U.S. players are aware of what needs to be done overseas.
“We just take it one game at a time — that’s the biggest focus,” she said. “Historically, it’s always been us and Canada, but the focus is on ourselves and making sure we’re prepared every single game and show up to play and play to our potential. It doesn’t matter who our opponent is.
“We can’t worry about what any other team is doing as far as systems go. If we keep the focus within our locker room, we’ll be successful.”