Let’s wrap up our Women’s Worlds previews with the team we put off for last to
give USA Hockey as much time as possible to stop acting like idiots build up suspense: Team USA. Can the reigning gold medalists (in 2016, and 2015, and...I don’t remember what happened in 2014, I can’t read suddenly, I don’t know) end the biggest women’s hockey news event in years with a storybook victory?
I’m aware I’m addressing a largely hostile audience here, so I thought I’d draw up a list of reasons that you (yes, YOU!) should consider cheering for Team USA. In no particular order:
- They are fresh off a victory against USA Hockey, in one of the best-organized shows of solidarity in recent memory, one that will have a positive influence on women’s sports in the US for decades. Do you like listening to Which Side Are You On? and/or Beyoncé? Please consider Team USA.
- You probably already know some of the more famous faces on Team USA, like Hilary Knight and Meghan Duggan. You might also know Brianna Decker, who is a two-time NWHL MVP and still, somehow, profoundly underrated. Team USA has an extremely talented core.
- Some of them have very cute dogs.
He's getting bigger! 26lbs! pic.twitter.com/EhrU4dPTQ0— Hilary Knight (@Hilary_Knight) June 29, 2016
- This is the first international tournament since the Sochi Olympics that will feature Amanda Kessel, three-time NCAA champion and legendary badass. Kessel missed over a year with a concussion sustained in the leadup to Sochi. While she made the Four Nations roster last November, she was sidelined after injuring her leg while playing for the New York Riveters in the NWHL. Since returning the Riveters, she’s gone back to her old ways, and by “her old ways” I mean “scoring at an absolutely silly pace” (18 points in 8 games this season!).
- Do you like Boston College? If you like Boston College, you should cheer for Team USA! There are six current or former BC Eagles on the roster. Two of them are currently attending the school. One of them is Michigan native Megan Keller, reigning Cammi Granato Trophy winner as Women’s Hockey East Player of the Year, and one of the best defenders in the country. Keller’s impact on Boston College can’t be overstated—this year, she scored at 1.11 points per game (39 points in 35 games). No other defender in the country exceeded a point-per-game pace. She’s not just notable for her offense, either. Keller’s one of those smart, fast two-way defenders who’s equally capable and crucial for her team at both ends of the ice. Watching Boston College games, it can seem like she never leaves the ice—and thanks to BC’s issues icing a full roster this year, sometimes that wasn’t much of an exaggeration.
- The University of Minnesota is also well-represented, also with six current or former players on the roster. They include Megan Bozek, who plays for the Buffalo Beauts, and scored four points in two playoff games to lead her team to win the Isobel Cup. Please enjoy this picture of Bozek (on the left, in the maroon sweatshirt and amazing snakeskin leggings) and Beauts teammate Kelley Steadman with the Isobel Cup, and a minion, in a grocery store.
- Alex Carpenter is incredible and I would lay down my life for her, and I mean that in the most normal and least creepy way possible. The 2015 Patty Kazmaier winner had 35 points in 19 games in her rookie season in the NWHL, playing for the Boston Pride. Five of those points came in the Pride’s semifinal game against the Connecticut Whale. As she demonstrated with her golden goal to win Worlds last year, Carpenter has an uncanny ability to read the play and put herself in the perfect position to score. Which she does. A lot.
- For the first time that I’m aware of, Team USA mainstay Gigi Marvin will be representing the US as a forward, not in her usual position as a defender. Have you ever wondered what would happen if that old argument about moving Jake Gardiner to forward came to fruition? This is like if someone in a position of authority actually thought that was a good idea, and decided to try it out right as the playoffs were starting. Exciting!
- Someday in the future, when they make an inspirational movie about the USWNT strike, won’t it be awesome to tell your grandchildren/pets/next-door neighbors about how you, personally, cheered those women on in their quest for gold? It’ll be like Miracle, only with yoga pants instead of plaid polyester suits. You have a can’t-miss opportunity to be part of history.
Team USA won the gold medal last year, so while I wouldn’t say they’re “favored” any more than in any other US-Canada matchup, they’ve got a tremendously strong roster. Two of the new additions to the roster are to replace recently retired players, with University of Minnesota-Duluth standout Maddie Rooney taking the third goaltending slot with Brianne McLaughlin’s departure, and Boston College blueliner Kali Flanagan filling the space on defense left open by the retirement of Anne Schleper.
The other four players not on last year’s roster are Amanda Kessel, Kessel’s University of Minnesota linemate Hannah Brandt, Gigi Marvin (who I apparently hallucinated being on the final roster last year), and Kelly Pannek. Pannek, who tied for the women’s NCAA lead in scoring this season as a junior, is making her debut for the USA senior team.
They also have a new coach in Robb Stauber, whose first outing as coach of Team USA involved...watching his team get swept in the two-game December Series against Canada three months ago. Hopefully, he’s learned some things? Maybe?
“Unfold” is an interesting way to refer to a decades-long rivalry that frequently ends with punches thrown, but the point is, this is going to be some sweet red-white-and-blue hockey. Wednesday’s decision was a huge win for the USWNT off the ice. Now, it’s time to see if they can win big on it.