SOCHI — Kevin Dineen has made up his mind.
The Canadian women's Olympic hockey team head coach has decided on his starting goalie for the tournament opener. He even hinted that he has informed her.
But whether the starter will be Charline Labonte or Genevieve Lacasse or Shannon Szabados against Switzerland at Shayba Arena on Saturday, the three will remain close teammates and continue to support one another. There's no jealously here. They just want to win.
“We've been competing against each other since August,” Szabados said. “We're used to it. It's a competition. But it's definitely a friendly competition.
“We all want to be the one who plays. But we're still good friends on and off the ice no matter who gets the call.”
If you don't believe Szabados, check out the back of their masks. The three came up with a logo to represent their unity. The symbol is 312, with the numeral one situated slightly higher between the three and the two.
Three-one-two may be the area code for Chicago, but for Labonte, Lacasse and Shannon it incorporates their sweater numbers of 1 (Szabados), 31 (Lacasse) and 32 (Labonte).
“We have a great relationship,” Lacasse said. “We joke around a lot. We're competitors, but we like to have fun.
“We also like to support each other. When one of us is struggling and not in the right place mentally we there with a tap on the pads in support. In the end it's all about getting the gold medal.”
The three come from different cities, different backgrounds and they each followed different paths to the national team.
Mix of youth, experience in net
Lacasse is the youngest of the three at 24. Her father was in the military. So she was raised in Fort Henry in Kingston. She became a goalie because her older brother Alex needed someone to take shots on.
“I had my share of bloody lips and black eyes, but my Mom would put me up on the kitchen counter and fix me up and send me back out there,” Lacasse said.
She earned a scholarship to Providence and has begun work on her MBA, which was put on hold this year in order to pursue her Olympic dream. Last season, Lacasse was brilliant in leading the Boston Blades to the Clarkson Cup championship in the CWHL. She was named goaltender of the year with a 1.26 goals against average.
The 31-year-old Labonte is the most experienced of the three. She's been with the national team for 13 years. She's played with boys and against the boys with the QMJHL's Acadie-Bathurst Titan over two seasons when she was a teenager.
Labonte of Boisbriand, Que. went to McGill University and led the Montreal school to back-to-back Canadian titles in 2008 and 2009. In 2010-11, McGill settled for bronze at the national tournament, but Labonte set a Canadian university record with an incredible 37 shutouts.
She backed up Szabados in the gold-medal final four years ago in Vancouver. The latter had an outstanding game in blanking the United States.
Szabados was raised in Edmonton and her idol was former Oilers netminder Bill Ranford, who had his name etched on the Stanley Cup as a player and as the goalie coach of the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings. Szabados has attended Ranford's hockey school and they still exchange text messages to this day.
She's been a key player on the national team scene since 2006, earning great reviews with a 3-0 shutout over the U.S. in her debut. She played last season for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology men's team and helped the Ooks to the their first provincial championship in 16 years.
Each of the three have the credentials, but they know one will have to step up and shine if Canada has a shot at its fourth consecutive gold medal.