Twenty-three Canadian hockey women, including 2014 Olympic hero Marie-Philip Poulin, will be tasked with the challenge of trying to win a fifth straight gold medal in February at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang.
Click on the video above now as Rob Pizzo hosts a Facebook live with Olympians Meghan Agosta and Jullian Saulnier.
Canada will ice 14 forwards, six defencemen and three goalies in the Feb. 10-22 tournament at South Korea, compared to the previous limit of three netminders and 18 forwards/defencemen.
Forward Sarah Potomak of Aldergrove, B.C., and defencemen Halli Krzyzaniak of Neepawa, Man., and Micah Zandee-Hart of Saanichton, B.C., were the team’s final three cuts. Forward Amy Potomak and defender Erin Ambrose of Keswick, Ont., were released on Nov. 20.
“It is a tremendous accomplishment to be chosen to represent your country at the Olympic Games,” Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney, who coached the 1994 Canadian men’s team to an Olympic silver medal in 1994, said in a statement. “We are thrilled with the 23 players selected and we know they will wear the maple leaf with great pride and will leave nothing to chance in their preparation for Pyeongchang.”
Four years ago, Poulin shocked the United States with a pair of goals in the gold-medal game, including the winner on a 4-on-3 power play at 8:10 of overtime at Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia.
The Americans won Olympic gold in 1998 when women’s hockey was first introduced at the Games in Nagano, Japan, but Canada prevailed in 2002 (Salt Lake City), 2006 (Turin, Italy), 2010 (Vancouver) and 2014.
The Canadians have been in top form against their arch rivals in pre-Olympic exhibition action. Projected No. 1 goalie Shannon Szabados of Edmonton turned aside 34 shots in a 2-1 OT victory on Sunday in her hometown as Canada took five of six games in their NWT Series.
Szabados and company won four straight versus the U.S. in December after going 1-3 in October and November. Canada dropped a pair of games to the Americans at the Four Nations Cup, including a 5-1 decision on Nov. 12 in the championship game at Amalie Arena, home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I’m really happy with our process and where we’re at,” Laura Schuler, the first former Canadian player to coach the team, told reporters recently. “Our girls have been so open to little tweaks and changes in our game plan to help us continue to get better.”
Canada will have to guard against being too confident. The Canadians had lost four straight games to the U.S. before arriving in Sochi, where they beat the Americans twice. The U.S., which has won four world championships in a row, are skilled enough to do the same in South Korea.
Canada draws Russia in tourney opener
The teams won’t meet again until the preliminary round in Pyeongchang on Feb. 15.
Canada opens defence of its title Feb. 11 against Russia, which recently had six players barred by the International Olympic committee for doping violations and its sixth-place standing in 2014 stripped.
Schuler, 47, was a member of the Canadian national team in its lone Olympic gold-medal loss19 years ago and behind the bench at the past two world championships.
Joining the Toronto native on the bench will be assistants Dwayne Gylywoychuk of Winnipeg and Troy Ryan of Spryfield, N.S. Former longtime Canadian head coach Melody Davidson of Oyen, Alta., is general manager.
Before travelling to Pyeongchang, Canada will resume its Esso Series schedule in the new year with five games against Alberta Midget Hockey League opponents.
Canadian Olympic roster
- Shannon Szabados, Edmonton
- Ann-Renée Desbiens, La Malbaie, Que.
- Geneviève Lacasse, Kingston, Ont.
- Renata Fast, Burlington, Ont.
- Laura Fortino, Hamilton
- Brigette Lacquette, Mallard, Man.
- Jocelyne Larocque, Ste. Anne, Man.
- Meaghan Mikkelson, St. Albert, Alta.
- Lauriane Rougeau, Beaconsfield, Que.
- Meghan Agosta, Ruthven, Ont.
- Bailey Bram, Ste. Anne, Man.
- Emily Clark, Saskatoon
- Mélodie Daoust, Valleyfield, Que.
- Haley Irwin, Thunder Bay, Ont.
- Brianne Jenner, Oakville, Ont.
- Rebecca Johnston, Sudbury, Ont.
- Sarah Nurse, Hamilton
- Marie-Philip Poulin, Beauceville, Que.
- Jillian Saulnier, Halifax
- Natalie Spooner, Scarborough, Ont.
- Laura Stacey, Kleinburg, Ont.
- Blayre Turnbull, Stellarton, N.S.
- Jennifer Wakefield, Pickering, Ont.