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U.S. Defense Thriving Under Team Mentality

By, 04/05/17, 12:15PM EDT


With shutouts in five of its last six games at this event, including a pair to open up the tournament here in Plymouth, the U.S. has been able to consistently limit the amount of dangerous scoring chances in its own zone. To learn more about the keys to Team USA’s stout defense, we caught up with rearguards Megan Bozek (Buffalo Grove, Ill.), Emily Pfalzer (Getzville, N.Y.) and Lee Stecklein (Roseville, Minn.), along with assistant coaches Paul Mara (Belmont, Mass.) and Chris Tamer (Dexter, Mich.)

“I think the eight of us have just done a great job of being a positive and empowering core,” said Bozek, a mainstay on the U.S. blueline since 2012. “The communication in our own zone is like nothing I’ve seen before. All six of us are talking at all times so we’re constantly aware.”

Tamer echoed how crucial communication is between everyone on the ice.

“I think the key is team defense between all six players on the ice,” said Tamer, who is serving as an assistant coach for Team USA for the seventh time. “They all play offense together and they all play defense together. We’ve asked our defensemen to do a lot so far and they’ve done really well.”

Pfalzer, competing in her third IIHF Women's World Championship this week, also noted the importance of gap control and denying opponents a clean entry into the offensive zone.

“We don’t want to make anything easy for who we’re playing,” explained Pfalzer. “If we can force our opponent to dump the puck and fight harder for possession in the offensive zone then we’re doing our job.”

Stecklein, another veteran playing in her fourth world championship, discussed the balance this team has between more offensive-minded defensemen and “stay-at-home” defensemen, the latter of which she labels herself.

“You can see in our pairings that we do have a nice balance between offensive and defensive defensemen,” said Stecklein. “For example, I know that when Kali (Flanagan) rushes the puck she’s going to have confidence that I’ll be backing her up and staying at home.”

Even with this balance, Mara is complimentary of the versatility of all eight defensemen on the roster.

“All eight defensemen can skate, pass and shoot at an extremely high level,” explained Mara, who is coaching at his first IIHF event. “They've been working really well as a group and it’s been great to see.”

For complete coverage of Team USA at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship, click here.

Team USA Home

U.S. Roster

Event Info/Tickets

Date Opponent Round Time (ET)/Result U.S. Player of Game
Fri., March 31 Canada Preliminary W, 2-0 Nicole Hensley
Sat., April 1 Russia Preliminary W, 7-0 Kendall Coyne
Mon., April 3 Finland Preliminary W, 5-3 Hannah Brandt
Thurs., April 6 Germany Semifinal W, 11-0 Kendall Coyne
Fri., April 7 Canada Gold-Medal Game W, 3-2 OT Kacey Bellamy


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