With just over 160 days to go until puck drops on the 2024 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship, Team USA’s preparations are well underway. From evaluation to scouting, the journey began in the dead of summer at the USA Hockey-BioSteel Girls Under-18 Select Player Development Camp last week.
For the select group in Oxford, the opportunity to lace up the skates at USA Hockey-BioSteel Player Development Camp begins a journey to represent the U.S in international competition. It is a journey that many hope ends with them standing arm-in-arm as the “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays with a gold medal around their neck in Switzerland in January.
Seventy-six of the top age-group players from around the country gather in Oxford, Ohio, on the campus of Miami University to compete during a week-long camp, hoping to score a coveted invitation to compete for a spot on the U.S. Under-18 Select Team just a few weeks later. While not a prerequisite for making the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team, it is a good step in showing the coaching staff what each player can bring to the ice.
Liz Keady Norton, the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team head coach, explained camp is an opportunity to set a standard for players both on and off the ice.
“We want the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team to be a team that’s really tough to play against. I definitely think we have those players here,” Keady Norton said. “As a staff, were so impressed by the level of compete and pace of play at this camp. It created a competitive environment that allowed us to evaluate players. We had physical play and players making plays while playing at pace.”
Preparation on the ice is important, but so is learning how to prepare off the ice as well. For many players, last week’s camp was one of their first exposures to knowledge on nutrition, mental performance and strength and conditioning.
“From the development perspective, they all go home more informed and more aware both on and off the ice,” Keady Norton said. “It’s great for the game in general and for youth development nationwide. Everything is elevated at this camp. It helps getting these kids on track with an elite mindset and shows who really wants to win and be excellent at what they do.”
At the conclusion of camp, 34 players were selected to compete at the USA Hockey National Festival in early August in Lake Placid, N.Y. These 34 players will have a further opportunity for development and evaluation before the 23-player U.S. Under-18 Select Team is named. That team will play a three-game series against their counterparts from Canada on August 16, 17 and 19, in Lake Placid.
The 2024 U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team will then be expected to be announced in the fall.