With several important players back from last year’s teams that won the IIHF Women’s World Championship and Under-18 World Championship, the U.S. women’s program has expectations for winning both tournaments again this season.
At the same time, USA Hockey’s Director of Women’s Hockey Reagan Carey notes that the ultimate goal for the program is in 2018, when the Olympic Winter Games take place in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Balancing those two desires — to be on top today and to build a foundation to stay on top tomorrow — is a key for the U.S. women as they head into the 2015-16 campaign.
Or, as Carey sums it up: “Keep getting better.”
“The game is growing, and so is our program,” she said. “Certainly we want to win, and winning is part of that. Winning championships, especially at the U18s, is a positive sign for us. It shows that our program is working and we’re developing players.
“The goal for this year is to keep up with that process, and hopefully it all translates to success when we get into competitions.”
The U.S. teams will have opportunities this season to defend their titles in both the Women’s World Championship and the U18 World Championship. The World Championship takes place in March and April 2016 in Kamloops, B.C. The U18 event is in January 2016 in St. Catharines, Ont.
The senior team will also seek a gold medal in the annual Four Nations Cup after finishing second to Canada in a shootout last season.
“Winning is always at the top of goals for all of our programs,” Carey said. “We had a lot of success [last year], and the goal is to certainly build on that this season.”
A key to maintaining that level of play and achieving the desired success will be in the style of play that Team USA will look to employ. In recent years, the U.S. has stressed an up-tempo game that showcases the overall speed of the group and allows skill to rise to the top. Carey maintains that will continue to be the case moving forward as the younger players push the veterans to be their best.
Carey added, “By giving younger players an opportunity to compete and push the pace, by the end of quad we have a competitive player pool. Typically we're a younger team; being a fast team is a trademark, and we’re looking to continue that this season.”
A core group of veteran players should also play a major role for Team USA in those tournaments.
The U.S. women won a silver medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and sandwiched that with world titles in 2013 and 2015. Several players from those teams remain on the squad, such as Kacey Bellamy, Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Monique Lamoureux and Jessie Vetter.
“The exciting part is that our leadership core, they’re all young players too,” Carey said.
Yet as much as the team relies on those players on the ice, Carey notes they also play a huge role in the program outside of games. She said they have created a culture within the program that sets a high standard for the newer players.
“They’re terrific,” Carey said. “They identified what they wanted as a culture and they walk the walk.
“The younger players get exposure to them and see what it’s going to take. It’s not just about performing on the ice, it’s about how to manage their time and training.”
In the second year of the four-year Olympic quad, that latter point is vital, Carey said.
“At the beginning of a quad we’re trying to get to know as many players as possible,” Carey said. “Last season we had a terrific year with a world championship with the women and U18 teams. But we were also trying a lot of things. A lot of players we had were new to the process.”
As the program brings in new players and works to develop a national team that can win not only this year but also in 2018, those veteran players are vital both on and off the ice.
“They represent what we want our players to be,” Carey said. “We’re always a faster team, that’s what we want to be. They’re all still young players, so they can continue to contribute this season and throughout this next quad. They’re key components for us.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.