Friday, 9 July 2021

Defending Their Gold

Hockey USA was busy today as they announced the 27 players who would be traveling to Blaine, Minnesota for the 2021-22 U.S. Women's National Team Residency Program that will begin in October as Team USA gears up for the Beijing Olympics in February 2022. There are no real surprises in these 27 names that will throw anyone for a loop, but it should be noted that the players who were named will likely all participate in Calgary in August at the IIHF Women's World Championship as well. That means the Calgary tournament will give the Team USA coaches a good idea where to start come October when 27 American women arrive at the Super Rink to defend their Olympic gold medal.

As stated above, there are no real surprises here. Fourteen women were members of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics gold medal team. Eleven players will be seeking their first Olympic team roster spot. Two more will be looking to rejoin the team after not being selected to play in Pyeongchang. All 27 women, however, are some of the best players on the planet, and it appears that Team USA will go into the Beijing Olympics as the gold medal favorites once again.

We'll start with the newcomers because there are certainly some fun players in this group. These eleven players are Caroline Harvey, Savannah Harmon, Jincy Dunne, Natalie Buchbinder, Abby Roque, Grace Zumwinkle, Hayley Scamurra, Jesse Compher, Britta Curl, Lacey Eden, and Abbey Murphy. I don't want to put the cart before the camp results here, but Abby Roque, Jincy Dunne, Savannah Harmon, and Britta Curl seem like they may have the best chances of these eleven players to make the squad based on their performances during the US legs of the PWHPA tournament.

The fourteen returnees include Cayla Barnes, Hannah Brandt, Dani Cameranesi, Alex Cavallini, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Brianna Decker, Kali Flanagan, Nicole Hensley, Megan Keller, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Kelly Pannek, Maddie Rooney, and Lee Stecklein. With Cavallini, Hensley, and Rooney all returning, it seems the goaltending position might be unshakable until one of those ladies chooses not to play. The remaining eleven players form the foundation of an already juggernaut-like team, so having a few of those newcomers join them will only make Team USA stronger.

That being said, the two players who are looking to rejoin the US Olympic roster are Alex Carpenter and Megan Bozek who both played in the ZhHL with the KRS Vanke Rays last year, helping them win the Russian league's championship. Both Carpenter and Bozek will be highly motivated after missing out on Pyeongchang in 2018, so expect them to make a splash and keep a few of those newcomers or perhaps bump one of the 2018 players off the roster. Both players are impactful when on the ice, so I expect them to make camp a little more interesting with their presences.

Hockey USA provided a few interesting facts as the average age of these players is 25.4. Caroline Harvey (10/14/02) will attend camp as the youngest player while Hilary Knight (7/12/89) will be the oldest. Knight, for what it's worth, is seeking to become just the fourth US women's hockey player to make four Olympic hockey teams. While it seems impossible to even consider her being cut, it's almost entirely certain she will join Julie Chu, Jenny Potter and Angela Ruggiero as the fourth woman to do so.

The fact that 27 players are headed to Blaine for the camp means that of those 27, only four will be sent home. As per Hockey USA, "[t]he final 23-player roster for the 2022 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team is expected to be revealed in very late December or early January" which seems like an awfully long time to keep players in suspense from an October camp, but I'm not in charge of those decisions.

Based on the 27 names shown above, there will be no easy games against the US once again when the 2022 Beijing Olympics open. Dare I say, but it seems that Team USA will have a spot on the podium thanks to the 23 women who will eventually named as part of this team based on past performances at various levels. With gold medals on the line, the American women will be hungry for more as they look to defend their gold medals from 2018, and that should worry the rest of the field.

The only question that may be asked is who can stop them from doing it again?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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