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U.S. Women’s National Team Leaves Utica with Eyes on the Future

By Dan Scifo, 04/19/24, 4:15PM EDT


On the final episode of “Defending Their Ice,” U.S. players share their experience after the Women’s World Championship.

The U.S. Women’s National Team just finished the end of a special journey.

While the Americans didn’t walk away with the gold medal they had hoped for at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, players and staff members still cherished the experience of playing on home ice.

That entire experience was chronicled in the final installment of the six-episode docuseries “Defending Their Ice: The Story of the U.S. Women’s National Team,” as viewers were taken through the World Championship, including the gold-medal game where the U.S. went home with silverfollowing a 6-5 overtime loss against Canada in Utica, New York.

The episode, titled “On the Brink of Glory,” airs 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 20 on NHL Network.

“When you walk out that door, that team will never be together ever again,”forward Kendall Coyne Schofield said. “This will never be the same team. The journey will never be the same. That’s the hardest part of it all, no matter what outcome you receive.”

In 2023, the U.S. defeated Canada for its 10th World Championship gold medal. This year, the Americans sought to defend their title on home soil. This was the first time the U.S. hosted the World Championship since 2017 when it claimed gold in Plymouth, Michigan.

“You have to find a way to win, and that’s the hardest thing to do,” captain Hilary Knight said. “A lot has to go right. Winning is extremely difficult and winning on home soil is even more difficult.”

Knight became the most decorated athlete in Women’s World Championship history by earning the 14th medal of her career. Knight has won nine gold medals and five silvers since she joined the senior national team in 2007. Her 14 medals surpassed Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser for most all time.

The U.S. now has 23 Women’s World Championship medals — 10 gold, 13 silver — and has medaled at every tournament. Katie Million, USA Hockey’s director of women’s national team programs, said that the program is already moving forward, including long-term goals for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Milano and Cortina, Italy.

“With every competition, we’re always thinking ahead, whether we win or lose, what’s next and how do we develop our players,” Million said. “We’re already having meetings about this summer, what the next year looks like and talking about how we can help develop those players into winning the next gold medal.”

Million explained that the U.S. is in the middle of a four-year Olympic cycle. For the World Championship, the program stayed with veterans like Knight and Coyne Schofield, but also selected players Million described as a “bolder choice” as they near the next Winter Games. 

Two younger players highlighted in the sixth episode were Wisconsin standouts Laila Edwards and Kirsten Simms.

“It’s just really important that we have that mixture of being able to pass the torch from those veteran players down to our younger players who are going to carry it for a long time,” Million said.

Edwards was named the tournament’s MVP after finishing with six goals and eight points. She scored twice against Czechia and netted a hat trick during a semifinal shutout against Finland. Edwards, the third-youngest American woman to record a World Championship hat trick, is the first Black woman to represent the U.S. women’s senior national team.

“Scoring will hopefully help the case with more inspiration for young girls, and even more specifically young girls of color,” Edwards said.

Simms scored two goals and tallied four points in seven tournament games, including the overtime winner against Canada at the conclusion of group play.

“I was thinking pass, but I shot it,” Simms said. “Somehow it went in, and it was a surreal moment from there. It was obviously super cool to have the team pile on after. Just a really cool moment.”

There will be many additional moments to come for those younger players.Meanwhile, veteran players like Knight are determined to continue building on the program’s winning traditions. 

“Somewhere along the way, you wake up one day and you’re part of the core that has been around for a while,” Knight said. “It gives you wisdom and experience and confidence in the culture we’ve created over the years. It didn’t start with us, it started before us and we’re continuing that along.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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