GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For the second straight year, Team USA left Wisconsin with an unblemished record.
The U.S. Women’s Development Sled Hockey Team completed an impressive performance at the 2023 Women’s World Challenge by beating Canada 2-0 in the championship game on Sunday at the Cornerstone Community Center.
“It was so exciting this year to see some other players step up that weren’t in the competition last year, and just to see the growth and development of this program and where we’ve come from last year,” Rose Misiewicz, head coach of the U.S. Women’s Development Sled Hockey Team, said. “It really does mean everything.”
Of the 22 women on the U.S. roster, 16 traveled to Green Bay last year and were part of both championships.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Lera Doederlein said. “There’s a lot of adversity this year that we’re going through, and I think we pushed through pretty well.”
Pretty well is an understatement.
In winning all four of their games, the Americans didn’t surrender a goal, outscoring their opponents 19-0.
“It starts with the whole team, front to back, us supporting each other, whether it would be forwards, goalie, or defense,” U.S. forward Kelsey DiClaudio said. “We support each other out on the ice and off the ice, too. We keep each other accountable, and it really shows when we’re out there.”
The U.S. defense contained the Canadian offense every time it entered the U.S. defensive zone, minimizing any scoring chances for the opposition.
“That’s something we’ve worked on defensively,” Misiewicz said. “We know that our offense is very, very strong, we had worked on that in the past. And in terms of defense, it comes down to the defensive position; it’s also our team — our centers, our forwards getting back. We focus a lot on playing smart defensively overall as a team.”
Despite a strong first period that saw the U.S. out-shoot Canada 11-0, the Americans couldn’t notch a goal. They had ample opportunities, including a shot from Rachel Grusse that rang off the far post with four seconds remaining.
Team USA was finally able to break through in the second. With the U.S. holding the puck for at least 30 seconds during a delayed penalty, DiClaudioworked into the slot and unleashed a shot into the top left corner of the net. The goal at 2:35 lit a spark in the Americans.
“I didn’t even know if it went in at first, if we’re being honest,” DiClaudiosaid. “We needed to get one on the board and as soon as that puck crossed the line, it was a good relief of stress for everybody.”
Even though the U.S. was ahead in shots and possession time, Team USA led just 1-0 entering the final period.
Alyssa White nearly tied the game for Canada with an attempt off a breakaway that was turned away by U.S. goalie Hope Bevilhymer.
Team USA kept creating chances, but Canada goalie Jessie Gregory was up for the challenge.
“We knew that they’re going to be tough and every time when we come together it [gets] harder and harder,” Misiewicz said. “All the teams keep on improving, and it was definitely a challenge. They tested us and thankfully we were able to get a couple goals in there.”
The U.S. finally got a golden chance to put the game on ice.
With the puck sliding into Canada’s defensive zone, Doederlein outskated three Canada players to set up a one-on-one showdown with Gregory. Doederlein went top shelf to make it a two-goal lead with just 5:04 remaining in the contest.
“That breakaway gave us so much energy, it gave me energy,” Doederleinsaid. “There’s nerves everywhere for everybody on both sides and I just calmed down in that moment.”
Team USA combined multiple veterans with plenty of international experience and six players who are 20 years old or younger. That balance sets up the team well for future competitions.
“We’re going to carry this momentum, whether it would be a training camp, whether it would be the world challenge, whatever it may be,” DiClaudiosaid. “We want to carry this momentum and continue winning and most of all continue growing the game for all those girls out there.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.