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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: Is Russia poised to take a leap forward?

Plus Kunlun’s debut, Canada vs USA and the NWHL season is about to begin!

Olga Sosina #18 of Russia celebrates her goal with Anna Shokhina #29 of Russia during a match against Japan at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Olga Sosina #18 of Russia celebrates her goal with Anna Shokhina #29 of Russia during a match against Japan at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

Story of the week

Women’s Hockey Update: October 23rd, 2017 | CONWAY'S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
In the autumn of 2016, the Russian women's national team visited the United States to take on clubs from the NWHL, and came away at the end with a respectable 2-3 record.

The women’s hockey world has spent a lot of time over the past few months focusing on the growth of the the game in South Korea and China. There’s also been some attention paid to the troubles in Sweden, and lots of people saw USA take out Canada with prejudice on Sunday afternoon.

But another team that underperformed at the 2017 Worlds was Team Russia. Over the last couple of weeks they’ve been in the US playing against three of the four NWHL teams. The result? A perfect 6-0 record.

While Russia won bronze at Worlds in 2016, they came in fifth in 2017. In and of itself this wouldn’t be the most shocking result except that they were knocked out of the medal round by Team Germany. Nobody who watched Worlds would tell you with a straight face that Germany was an overall better team than Russia—they won using strategy and Jenny Harss, not skill—but on top of the embarrassment of getting knocked out by the Cinderella story of the tournament, it served as a neon blinking arrow pointing at Russia’s weaknesses. Namely: a team with a well-coached, cohesive defense and a hot goalie could squeeze the life out of their offense like a boa constrictor.

Part of the difficulty, then, of evaluating any changes they’ve made is that this is NWHL preseason. Due to centralization, not only is there a significant amount of talent missing from the league, but rosters have changed around a lot to fill gaps left by departing players. Several teams have new coaches, and they haven’t had more than a handful of practices together to let new rosters gel. Also, while Fitzgerald, Rossman, and Ott are all good goaltenders, none of them are national team-level talent. In contrast, German goalie Harss is arguably the most underrated goalie in international hockey right now. (Side note: as Nafio said once, it is a crime that the lack of top-level worlds will deny her the stage she deserves this year).

Russia has never been a bad team—remember, they beat bronze-winning Finland in the round-robin, wobbly net-pegs aside—and they’ve got some standout talent in players like Olga Sosina, Anna Shokhina, and Lyudmila Belyakova. While there wasn’t a huge amount of roster turnover between Worlds this year and this series, there were some changes. Galina Skiba moving from forward to defense, and then becoming Russia’s highest-scoring defender against the NWHL, is especially notable. Scoring was an issue for Russia at both 2016 and 2017 Worlds, but it sure wasn’t on the NWHL tour. Russia’s top line of Anna Shokhina, Alevtina Shtaryova, and Yelena Dergachyova ran the table against the NWHL, with Shokhina’s 13 points leading the team. Oh, and Shokhina and Shtaryova are both 20, and Dergachyova is 21.

The fact that Russia just tore through three women’s pro teams with a top line consisting of only one player legal to drink in the US is definitely encouraging, and they should definitely feel proud. The question is whether or not this is a sign they’ve taken a real step forward as a team. I’m not sure we know the answer to that question yet.

For anyone who wants to do an in-depth study, all six games are currently available on the NWHL’s website (some have been moved to “Archived Games”).

International hockey

NYSportsJournalism.com - Bauer Unveils Robust Women's Hockey Campaign
Calling it the “most robust and expansive women-specific initiative” in its history, Bauer Hockey has unveiled a multi-media campaign “to grow and advance female hockey.”

US women’s hockey team gets Wilma Rudolph Courage Award – ProHockeyTalk
In April, the hockey team won its fourth consecutive world title.

Canada coach Laura Schuler calls out team after loss to USA - Eyes On The Prize
A 5-2 loss in Quebec City leads to more questions than answers

The long road back
The youngest of the ‘Golden Girls’ from Sochi, the last three years have provided more than their fair share of trials and tribulations for Mélodie Daoust

Poulin et le Canada ont « des choses à prouver » - La Presse+
Il y a 15 ans, le « vieux » Colisée de Québec avait déjà perdu pas mal de son lustre.

Daniela Diaz has selected her team for the Halloween Cup - swisshockeynews.ch
Head coach of the Women's National Team Daniela Diaz has called upon two goaltenders, eight defenders and 13 forwards for the Halloween Cup in Dmitrov, Russia.

EIHA - English Ice Hockey Association (via Public) / ENTP: Women’s team restored to England portfolio
It’s not 100% clear what’s going on here and why England needs its own development stream separate from the Great Britain team but it’s clearly a big deal.

CWHL

Recaps

Jamie Lee Rattray downs Kunlun Red Star 2-1 - Pension Plan Puppets
Markham Thunder, Liz Knox spoil Kunlun’s debut

Markham Thunder shut out Kunlun Red Star 3-0 - Pension Plan Puppets
Erica Howe’s second shutout moves Markham to the top of the standings.

Inferno win the first two games of the season in Boston - The Official Website of the Calgary Inferno | CWHL
The Calgary Inferno were dominant in Boston, winning both of their away games to start the season.

Chinese CWHL teams start Olympic push with southern Ontario debuts - Sportsnet.ca
Last season, there were fewer than 300 registered female hockey players in China. The goal is to start to change that, and these CWHL teams are one step in that direction.

Big bankroll, big dreams as Chinese teams try to reshape women’s hockey globally | The Province
Noora Raty, who you may or may not know as the standout goalie of the Finnish women’s national team, has taken a philosophical approach as she begins her grand adventure.

Finnish Olympian Annina Rajahuhta signs with Kunlun Red Star - The Ice Garden
Another Team Finland star heads to China.

NWHL

NWHL releases salary details for 2017-18 season - The Ice Garden
Players will make between $5,000-$7,000 this season in league’s new tier-based salary structure.

Buffalo Beauts' Showdown with Jr. Sabres Is a Good Indicator
The Beauts final exhibition game before the regular season gets underway proves their ability to find different players capable of stepping up each night.

Haley Skarupa signs with Boston Pride - The Ice Garden
Another lion joins the Pride and this time it’s star forward Haley Skarupa.

NCAA

Div I Polls: USCHO | Ice Garden

Clarkson Women's Hockey celebrates NCAA National Championship Banner Raising Day in style with 6-1 win over SLU | NorthCountryNow
The defending National Champions hit on all cylinders Saturday afternoon, defeating archival St. Lawrence University 6-1 before a Cheel Arena record crowd of 2,679 North Country fans on the Clarkson University Women's Hockey team's 2017 NCAA National Championship Banner Raising Day. [Editor’s Note: Clarkson only has 4,300 students. Good job, Clarkson fans]

Merrimack women's hockey tops Penn State in overtime - The Mack Report

GOAL BY GOAL: Underclassmen Strong Again As #3 BC Women’s Hockey Drops Quinnipiac 4-2 - BC Interruption
Watts & Lonergan are stealing the show

UNH Wildcat Marie-Jo Pelletier Is a 'Mighty Mouse' of Sorts
University of New Hampshire Wildcat Marie-Jo Pelletier is a top NCAA defender and a giant beyond her 4'11" inch frame. A natural born leader.

A Day in the Life of a Division 1 Woman’s Ice Hockey Player (GUEST POS | Relentless Hockey - Strength & Conditioning for Elite Hockey Players
Neat look at the day-to-day schedule of Div I women’s players.

USports

TOP 10 TUESDAY — U SPORTS
St Mary’s joins the top 3 in this week’s women’s hockey poll

Canadian universities have a game plan for wooing top athletes - The Globe and Mail
Improved availability of athletic scholarships and new revenue generation are among plans to attract athlete students by U Sports, Canadian universities' athletic body

RSEQ Week one: Three ups, three downs - The Ice Garden
Carleton, Concordia, Montreal, and Ottawa began conference play while McGill wrapped up its preseason

Lakers women ready for another championship run - BayToday.ca
'I have to give the players that have been part of our program in our first four seasons a lot of credit'

WHKY: McVannel scores, Kish posts shutout as Cougars top UBC - Canada West
The University of Regina women's hockey team pulled out a tightly-contested 1-0 win over the No. 2-ranked UBC Thunderbirds at The Co-operators Centre on Saturday night to earn a weekend split.

European league hockey

SWHL (Switzerland) The ZSC Lions top the standings for the first time this season - swisshockeynews.ch
Thanks to victories against SC Weinfelden and the Neuchâtel Hockey Academy, the ZSC Lions are on top of the standings for the first time this season.

Naisten Liiga (Finland) Meeri Räisänen seeing success in her return to women’s hockey - The Ice Garden
After spending part of two seasons playing with men, the Team Finland goaltender is back in the women’s crease.

EIHL (England) Ice-hockey: Streatham Storm secure first English Women’s Elite victory
Streatham Storm came from behind to grab their first English Women’s Elite league victory on Saturday with a tenacious 2-1 win at home over Kingston Diamonds.

AWIHL (Australia)

AWIHL news: 23 October 2017 | Ice Hockey News Australia
Adelaide Rush - The Rush have signed Anytime Fitness Mile End as a sponsor for the 2017-18 season.