Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Once More Unto The Breach

The familiar foes will kick off the biggest women's hockey tournament seen this season as the 2013 Women's World Hockey Championship opens in Ottawa, Ontario tonight. Canada enters the tournament as the defending champions, having defeated Team USA 5-4 in overtime last year in Burlington, Vermont. These two teams are very aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses, so this round-robin game might be a preview of the gold medal game. However, this game should be a great game as the two best women's teams on the planet battle once more.

Look, I'm not going to hammer away on Team Canada as they take to the ice in the black-and-yellow color scheme of the LiveSTRONG brand. I have said my piece, and I'll leave that where it is as tonight's game will be the only time in this tournament that we'll see Canada take to the ice in something other than red-and-white. However, I will say that it just doesn't look right in terms of seeing Canada on the ice in these new colors.

I do want to point out a couple of players who you will want to keep an eye on during tonight's game and throughout this tournament. USA's Amanda Kessel should be an offensive dynamo on this team with her speed and skill, so watch for #28 flying around the ice in the red-white-and-blue. Kessel led the Minnesota Golden Gophers women's team to an incredible 41-0 record this year that was culminated with the NCAA Championship. During this incredible run, Kessel racked up 46 goals and 55 assists as the offensive leader of the squad. I would guess Canada and the rest of the world will see a lot of her over the next week, and she should establish herself as big-game player.

Meghan Agosta-Marciano is a name that a lot of people know thanks to her success on the international stage, but she raised her game to new heights this season in the CWHL. She became the first player to win the Angela James Bowl as MVP twice, and did so in consecutive seasons. She reached 50 goals and 100 points in just 38 career games this past season, and she is looking to continue that success in this tournament. With a nose for the net and excellent speed, Agosta should be a regular name on the scoresheet for Canada.

I'm not making any predictions, but I will say that I am impressed with the rebuilding and retooling that Hockey USA has done with this current squad. They will score a lot, they defend tenaciously, and they have excellent goaltending. Despite me being a proud Canada, I have to say that Team USA would be my favorite in this pre-tournament prediction.

Russia looks like an improving team, and they come over with Alexei Yashin as the team's general manager. Finland and Sweden always bring solid teams as well, and they have rosters that could pull off an upset on one of Canada or the USA. The Czech Republic, Germany, and Switzerland won't challenge for a medal unless something dramatic happens in the tournament, but they will gain valuable experience at this level in terms of advancing their programs.

Tonight's game should be excellent in its speed and scoring chances, so Canada will have to be wary of the arsenal of weapons that Team USA has on their roster. But as always, GO CANADA GO!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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