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USA and Canada Go for Gold as IIHF World Championships Begin Thursday

By NWHL.zone staff, 04/03/19, 4:00PM EDT

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PHOTO BY MATTHEW RANEY

The 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championships begin Thursday in Espoo, Finland, with eight countries participating – the United States, Canada, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Japan and Switzerland. The tournament begins with group play and concludes with the gold medal game on April 14. 

Team Canada Group Play Schedule
Canada vs. Switzerland – April 4, 9 AM ET (broadcast on NHL Network)
Canada vs. USA – April 6, 12:30 PM ET (broadcast on NHL Network)
Canada vs. Russia – April 8, 12:30 PM ET
Canada vs. Finland – April 9, 12:30 PM ET

Team USA Group Play Schedule (all games broadcast on NHL Network)
USA vs. Finland – April 4, 12:30 PM ET
USA vs. Canada – April 6, 12:30 PM ET
USA vs. Switzerland – April 7, 12:30 PM ET
USA vs. Russia – April 9, 9 AM ET

The perennial powers in international women’s hockey, Canada and the United States have combined to take gold and silver in every World Championship. And while Canada has taken four of the past five Olympic gold medals, the United States has won four straight World Championships and seven of the past eight.

The United States and Canada will compete in Group A in Worlds, meaning they will meet in the group play stage of the tournament. The two teams have met more recently than they typically would have leading up to Worlds after competing in the inaugural three-game Rivalry Series in February. Canada took the series win, defeating the United States twice during the series.

“The Rivalry Series was awesome,” said Lee Stecklein, after a scrimmage during Team USA’s training camp on Long Island last week. “It definitely showed us areas we needed to work on, and that we had a lot of work we needed to do between then and Worlds if we wanted to win this tournament.”

Stecklein is one of 10 players who competed in the NWHL in 2018-19 who will be participating in World Championships. In fact, she ended the season as the Isobel Cup MVP after scoring the game-winning goal as the Minnesota Whitecaps won the Isobel Cup in their inaugural NWHL season.

“It’s always fun to end the season with a win and then come here and be around your teammates who have won championships at every level,” said Stecklein, of turning the page to national team duty. “We don’t get to be together that often, so to have this time here training and getting ready for Finland is definitely something we’re really excited about.”

Michelle Picard of the Metropolitan Riveters added that the team was focused on honing the details during training camp. “We’re just working on getting all on the same page. Everyone has a lot of trust in each other that you’re going to do your job. That’s what’s great about this group. Everyone’s so strong and so talented that it’s really easy to trust each other out there.”

Picard has just re-emerged on the national team scene, earning a roster spot for the Rivalry Series and now for Worlds, marking her first major tournament back with the U.S.

“I’m super excited,” she said. “This is a great group. I’m so honored to be here. It’s always fun to pull that jersey over my head, so I’m really looking forward to Finland and bringing home gold.”

In addition to Stecklein and Picard, Dani Cameranesi, Emily Pfalzer and Hayley Scamurra of the Buffalo Beauts, Amanda Kessel of the Riveters, and Hannah Brandt and Kendall Coyne Schofield of the Whitecaps will represent the United States. Beauts goaltender Shannon Szabados will represent Canada, while fellow netminder Meeri Räisänen, who spent most of the season with the Connecticut Whale, will represent Finland.