Story of the week
The story of the week is not actually this Shannon Szabados profile behind the Athletic’s paywall. It’s what this part of the profile implies:
A middle-aged gentleman wanders over to check out the morning's on-ice session, two dozen swirling players in helmets and masks.
“So who's this?”
The Canadian women's squad, he is told.
Suddenly he's dying to know something else: “Which one is Szabados?”
From this anecdote, Cruikshank implies Szabados is on the ice for practice with Team Canada, although he never says it straight out, or dates the anecdote. Why’s that important?
Shannon Szabados has played a total of 40 minutes as Team Canada prepares for the Olympics. It was back in their first game of the “Icebreaker series” against teams in the boys Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League on September 21.
The goalie who backed her up in that game, playing 18 minutes in relief, was Geneviève Lacasse. Lacasse played the other three games of the Icebreaker series, which took place in the AMHL’s preseason. When the team moved on to the “Esso series” — which is also against the AMHL, but during the league’s regular season — Lacasse played just the first two periods before being replaced by Ann-Renée Desbiens.
Of the 13 games that Team Canada has played in their centralization schedule, Desbiens has started six, sometimes with no backup listed.
Emerance Maschmeyer and Erica Howe — who were left off the centralization roster but named as “support” whose first priority would be their CWHL clubs — have both been called into service. Maschmeyer, currently the starting goalie for the Montréal Canadiennes, was the listed backup for Lacasse’s games of the Icebreaker series and started the Esso series game on October 7th. Howe, who shares the crease for the Markham Thunder, was listed as backup for a game on October 12th. To be clear, these players are travelling to Alberta from Montréal, QC and Stouffville, ON respectively, mostly to sit on the bench for Team Canada.
On Monday night, Team Canada played an exhibition game against the boys Team Alberta U16s. Desbiens was listed as the backup goalie. The starter? The two Team Alberta goalies, Garin Bjorklund and Sebastian Cosse, played for both teams, switching teams midway through the game.
There’s a slim possibility that coach Laura Schuler thinks this trial by fire is something Desbiens needed — Ann-Renée has had two very high-stakes losses, one only a few months ago in the NCAA championship game. Team Canada is 4-1-1 (the AMHL allows ties) in games where Desbiens is the starter, so if this is a test, she’s passing it. Still, she’s going to need a backup.
Hockey Canada has not publicized any injuries that Szabados or Lacasse have suffered. However to not even list backups in more than one game, much less whatever Monday night’s nonsense was, raises a whole whack of questions.
Canada will face Team USA on Sunday at 2 pm, their first real test as a team. Conveniently, it takes place in Québec City, close enough for Maschmeyer to make an appearance if needed. Maybe it won’t. Maybe Szabados has been practicing with the team all along and will be well-rested and in net on Sunday afternoon. The game will be televised on both TSN2 (tape-delayed to 7:30pm) and the NHL Network. If there are serious problems with Team Canada’s goalie situation they’ll be in the spotlight very soon.
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