As part of their preparation for the Beijing Olympics, the members of the Canadian women’s hockey team have been taken out of their comfort zone. The players have not always appreciated.
Matches against AAA level men’s teams had become the norm since 2006.
Skating, passing the puck and making quick decisions was an effective way to fine-tune the Canadians’ preparation for a potential matchup against the United States during the Olympic tournament.
Leading up to the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 Games, Canada’s women’s hockey team posted an overall record of 58-46-5 against AAA teams.
However, Hockey Canada has decided to raise the bar for 2022. As a result, Canadian hockey players have played five games against Junior A teams from Alberta and British Columbia.
The Canadians were swept and outscored 30-2 in goals scored, which rocked the game.
“If there’s one thing that sticks out about the members of this group, it’s that you don’t have to interpret their faces, because they’re going to talk to you,” said head coach Troy Ryan. .
“They told me bluntly ‘it’s difficult’ and ‘we don’t see the point at the moment'”, he said.
The men limited body checking, which is penalized in international women’s hockey, but there was still body contact. The men’s height, weight, speed and reach, a notch above AAA level, gave the women a hard time.
“You lose games by big scores and wonder if we are doing the right things. But after you have taken a step back, you participate in a few meetings and you see what you are doing well, ”explained Marie-Philip Poulin, the captain of the Canadian team.
“The way of cutting the spaces on the ice, the work with our sticks that we have to do against these men to be able to compete with them, these are aspects that we have added to our game. It’s difficult to see the overall picture when you lose by seven or eight goals.”
In the tightest game of five, the Canadians lost 2-0 to the Cameron Kodiaks on November 3.
“The women drew a very good level of competition from this match. It’s difficult because the only other team they can face that is at their level is the United States,” analyzed Clayton Jardine, Kodiaks head coach.
“On our side, it opened our eyes and made us realize how skilful they are. The way they defend with their sticks and skates is something we try to teach because the checks on the men’s side are going away, and it’s become a skill-based game.”
Gina Kingsbury, director of women’s national teams at Hockey Canada, won Olympic gold medals in 2006 and 2010, so she’s well-placed to talk about the importance of games against AAA level clubs.
For her, playing against Junior A-caliber teams was a natural progression, and the test these matches provided was one of the criteria that went into putting together Beijing’s 23-player roster.
“A lot of people can look at the score and say ‘it was useless. It was useless. On our side, the score does not matter. What matters are the details we extract from these matches.”
“We have a completely different pace in the defensive zone, even compared to a year ago. We know how to succeed. If we can do well against these guys, there’s no doubt we can do well against the Americans.”