Scoring an advantage
By Garrett Fodor
Canada’s women’s national hockey team is hoping practicing against men will prepare them for their upcoming tournament.
Before the team travels to Plymouth for the 2017 edition of the IIHF Women’s World Championship, the team stopped in Leamington for a week of practices and scrimmages. The women faced off against the Lakeshore Canadiens of the PJHL, a team made up of 16 to 21 year old men that won the regular season of Jr. C hockey in the West region.
For Ruthven’s Meghan Agosta, the week was a welcomed homecoming, playing where she grew up and staying with family. Many fans of Agosta and the team came out to support the team. The arena was at capacity for each scrimmage and had hundreds out for each practice.
Brianne Jenner a member of the national team since 2012, said the team benefited from playing against Lakeshore before the tournament.
“The guys are so big and their sticks cover so much space so you just have to move the puck really quick,” said Jenner. “ I think that will be really good prep for when we play the U.S.”
Canada is looking for their first win at the IIHF World Championships since 2012, having earned three straight silver medals. After losing the first scrimmage 8-4, Canada head coach Laura Schuler said the team built off their loss and have to keep their game simple in the tournament.
“We’ve got to play like we did Tuesday (4-2 win over Lakeshore), that physical game. We have to make sure we are aggressive especially in the forecheck, backcheck and D zone,” said Schuler. “We have got to play with heart, being willing to block shots and those little things to go with our offensive system.”
Jenner said the scrimmages were a good opportunity for the four rookies on the team to get the pressure off their backs.
The World Championships made headlines, as the U.S. team threatened to boycott the games due to labour wage dispute. The support was raised from the NHLPA and MLBPA to the women who were invited to form a “back-up” team. It was not until late March 28 that the team received a four year contract and agreed to play in the tournament starting March 31.
“I think we probably have an advantage, but those are good hockey players and they are excited to play Canada. We are excited to play the U.S.” said Jenner. “We’re not going to take them lightly. Obviously they’ve been through something that’s probably bonding them as a group too so they’re probably in high spirits.”
The tournament begins March 31 as Canada plays the host Americans. All of Canada’s games during the tournament are being aired on TSN.