As the pre-camp for the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship concluded in Newark, New Jersey earlier this week, it was impossible not to recognize the importance of the under-18 program and the strides it has taken in the past several years.
A few examples were noted during the camp. Cayla Barnes, who will become a three-time participant at the U18 worlds, recently competed with the National Team for an exhibition game against Canada and held her own.
Additionally, a group of national team players took part in an intrasquad scrimmage on Tuesday to help to fully prepare the U18 team for it’s upcoming tournament in the Czech Republic. The group included five players (Brianna Decker, Amanda Kessel, Amanda Pelkey, Haley Skarupa, Dana Trivigno) who once competed in the U18 women’s worlds.
Both examples are a testament to how far the U18 program has come and the significant impact it’s had on player development, both past and present. The value of the time within the program was not lost on some national team veterans here this week.
“It’s already been five years since I last played with the U18 team but every year at this time it still brings back some amazing memories," said Haley Skarupa, a three-time member of the U18 program. “You become close as a group and I’m still good friends with the girls I played with because it’s such a fun time and a real bonding experience.”
Many of the national team players skated together at the U18 level and came up through the program supporting each other and pushing each other to be the best they could be.
“Without question, my game advanced because I was competing alongside the best U.S. teammates in our age class,” said Dana Trivigno, a two-time U18 member. “Playing for the under-18 team inspired me to work hard.”
In addition to learning and becoming better on the ice, the U18 level helps the athletes build camaraderie and pride.
“All of us take pride in representing the United States but when you compete together and learn from each other its something special,” added three-time U18 veteran Amanda Pelkey. “It’s definitely a time to grow.”
The combination of hard work, teamwork and character contributes to the resulting improvement on the ice which has produced some amazing hockey and recent gold medals.
Overall, the under-18 experience has become vital for players and will continue to be an opportunity that won’t be forgotten for those who earn the honor of earn of putting on the Team USA jersey.