It’s official. The next generation of Canadian women’s hockey players have arrived on the world stage.
On Thursday, Canada announced its roster for the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship in Calgary later this month after its 29-member centralization roster participated in a two-week development camp.
“It has been a challenging 16 months for our athletes and staff, but we have never lost sight of our goal of competing for a world championship on home ice,” said director of hockey operations Gina Kingsbury. “We have had few opportunities to train together as a group, but our training camp has been high tempo and competitive. We are confident in our group; we are a team full of skill, youth and veteran leadership that will give us the best chance to compete for a gold medal beginning Aug. 20.”
Canada, which opens its preliminary round on Friday, Aug. 20, against Finland on TSN/RDS (6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT), captured a bronze medal at the 2019 Women’s Worlds but hasn’t won gold since 2012. The 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the 25 players named to the 2021 team, eight will be making their world championship debuts. That includes a trio of young NCAA players in blueliner Ashton Bell and forwards Emma Maltais and Sarah Fillier. Canada’s trio of goalies include the returning Emerance Maschmeyer and Ann-Renée Desbiens, along with senior team newcomer Kristen Campbell.
Clearly, Hockey Canada feels that an injection of youth is needed to end the country’s nearly decade-long gold-medal drought at the tournament. Head coach Troy Ryan isn’t going to change the on-ice structure much, but wants his players to play quicker and possess the puck more.
“You’re just trying to weigh different options,” he said. “Who potentially looks good with who, but also just to give some different people an opportunity.”
There are also familiar veterans on the team, names like captain Marie-Phillip Poulin, Sarah Nurse, and Brianne Jenner. Rebecca Johnston will also suit up. The 31-year-old was cut from the 2019 team and then tore her Achilles while training last summer.
“Often times, it doesn’t matter what happens to you, it’s how you react to it,” Ryan said last week. “Rebecca has come back to the program and dealt with it to the best of her ability and came back and been a great addition to the program for sure. She’s highly skilled, plays the game the right way, plays with speed. We’re pretty happy with where she’s at right now given all that she’s dealt with.”
Forwards Jessie Eldridge, who made her debut with the senior team in the Feb. 2020 Rivalry Series versus the United States, and Julia Gosling, one of the youngest players on the centralization roster, did not make the team.
“One of the messages to the entire group was that we’ve been very confident and happy with both Julia and Jessie’s play to date, but we felt at this point we were going to go in a different direction,” Ryan said. “I’m very confident they’ll be back in the mix Sept. 1 and ready to join our team for centralization.”
That 29-player centralization roster will reunite after the Women’s Worlds to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
While the new additions could help, management could be overlooking other talented players not on the current centralization roster, particularly recent Patty Kazmaier (best female college hockey player) winners Daryl Watts and Loren Gabel.
“When I think about these athletes, I think of pure skill and goal scoring ability,” two-time Olympic gold medalist Cheryl Pounder told TSN this week. “Both Loren Gabel and Daryl Watts possess creativity. They don’t just play north-south, they play east-west. They have abilities to slow the game down.”
The 10-team tournament, which has Canada in Group A with Finland, ROC (Russian Olympic Committee), Switzerland and the United States, will run from Aug. 20-31. Group B teams include the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary and Japan. All games will be played at WinSport Arena in Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
Canada will play all of its preliminary-round games at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT., with TSN and RDS, the official broadcast partners of Hockey Canada, carrying extensive game coverage and analysis throughout the tournament. TSN will broadcast all preliminary-round games, playoff games and medal games, while RDS will provide coverage of all Canada’s games as well as playoff games.
Below is a breakdown by position of the 25 players who will represent Canada at the 2021 Women’s Worlds:
Forwards: Rebecca Johnston, Laura Stacey, Sarah Fillier, Jill Saulnier, Mélodie Daoust, Brianne Jenner, Sarah Nurse, Natalie Spooner, Emily Clark, Emma Maltais, Marie-Philip Poulin, Blayre Turnbull, Kristin O’Neill, Jamie Lee Rattray, Victoria Bach
Defence: Jocelyne Larocque, Renata Fast, Ella Shelton, Ashton Bell, Erin Ambrose, Jaime Bourbonnais, Claire Thompson
Goaltenders: Ann-Renée Desbiens, Emerance Maschmeyer, Kristen Campbell