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Promising Youngsters in the Mix with Olympic Veterans at U.S. Women’s Rivalry Series

By William S. Paxton, 12/14/19, 11:45AM EST

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Increasing depth in player pool will serve Team USA well in series with Canada and beyond

HARTFORD, Conn. — Cayla Barnes was the lone teenager two years ago on the 2018 Olympic champion United States Women’s National Team.

This time around, Barnes brought more just like her to training camp this week at the XL Center. The new wave of women’s hockey was in full force, with players outside of the national team mainstays compiling about half of the 46-player roster battling for 23 spots available for Saturday’s first Rivalry Series game with Canada. A second game will be played Tuesday in Moncton, New Brunswick.

“This one has been interesting because we have a really good mix of NCAA players here this week kind of giving it a shot,” said Katie Million, who was hired as the director of Women’s National Team programs last February. “As they came into camp the messaging from our coaching staff was that everybody is on an even plate right now.

December Roster

“Your past experience doesn’t matter and we’re evaluating you on this camp and this camp only,” Million added. “That not only gives the younger players this opportunity, but it also pushes the older, more veteran players, too.”

Million and the coaching staff were scheduled to meet Thursday night to review the week’s camp and decide on which players will move forward with the team.

Even though Barnes was a member of that Olympic squad at the PyeongChang Winter Games, she took nothing for granted at this camp.

“Every camp is pretty similar, it’s a battle and pretty competitive,” the 20-year-old Boston College redshirt sophomore said. “There’s a big pool of players and it’s growing.

“The talent pool is so large that every camp is a battle and we’re all just competing for a spot.”

While in previous training camps the veteran players would have an advantage on making the cut, that was clearly not the case this week. 

The break in the women’s college hockey schedule allowed for the younger talent rising up through the U.S. program an opportunity to flash their skills to head coach Bob Corkum and company.

Million said the rapid growth of the sport has made an impact on players moving up the ranks. They are exposed to hockey at younger ages, and with the popularity of the sport over the last 20 years, to better coaching and training as well. 

“We are seeing some real good competition this week and people upping their game,” Million said. “People can’t just assume they are on the team because there is so much young talent.”

The depth of talent ranged in age from freshman year of college to early 30s. Barnes is used to being on the lowest end of that range, having been the youngest player on the 2018 Olympic team roster at 19.

“Honestly, every young player, NCAA player on our roster this week obviously they are being tracked and every one of them has a chance,” Million said. “Young hockey for women and girls is just getting so much better that we are getting more to choose from.”

Harvard freshman Dominique Petrie was one of those young stars looking to make a mark. 

Petrie has already shined on the Under-18 Women’s National Team and worked out with the senior national team prior to the 2018 Four Nations Cup as a high schooler.

“This is the first official one that’s like a tryout,” Petrie said. “It’s been an unbelievable experience and it’s not every day you get to train and compete with the best players in the world, so I have been really fortunate just learning from them and picking their brains.”

Following Team USA’s gold medal victory at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, the first-ever Olympic tournament for women’s hockey, the sport saw a boom of interest, not only at the collegiate level but all the way down to the youth groups. And the current generation of veterans that reclaimed the gold in PyeongChang is part of another wave that they hope will push girls’ and women’s hockey to even greater heights.

Kendall Coyne Schofield, 27, who has been part of the last two U.S. Olympic teams, said the sport’s growth has transferred over to the rink where the talent level keeps getting better.

“I think the biggest difference is the change we have seen in the culture,” she said. “You refer to them as younger girls, but they don’t play like they’re young. 

“These players who come in for the first time, second time, or even third time are equally as important as those that have been around longer,” she added. “They come in with confidence and tell it in the way they play and what they bring to the table.

“It’s awesome for players to come in and have confidence, and it gives the players who have been around maybe a little longer more confidence. … It’s awesome to be around.”  

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

2019-20 Rivalry Series

Rivalry Series History

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2019-20 Series Schedule

Date Opponent TIME (ET)/Result Location Broadcast Tickets/U.S. Player Of The Game Game Stats
Sat., Dec. 14* Canada W, 4-1 XL Center
Hartford, Conn.
NBCSN Alex Cavallini Stats
Tue., Dec. 17 Canada W, 2-1 Avenir Centre
Moncton, N.B.
NHL Network Alex Carpenter Stats
Mon., Feb. 3 Canada L, 2-3 (OT) Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre
Victoria, B.C
NHL Network Hilary Knight Stats
Wed., Feb. 5 Canada W, 3-1 Rogers Arena
Vancouver, B.C.
NHL Network Katie Burt Stats
Sat., Feb. 8 Canada W, 4-3 (OT) Honda Center
Anaheim, Calif.
NHL Network Megan Bozek Stats

*The December 14 game in Hartford was part of the 2019 Team USA Champions Series, presented by Xfinity.

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