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World Championship Preview: USA

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The boycott is over, and now Team USA can go to the World Championships with their eyes on the prize: gold.

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 13 - Canada v United States Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

The boycott is over, and the US Women’s National Team has arrived in Plymouth, Michigan. On home soil, USA Hockey has a roster of the best American players to defend their championship title.

The journey to get gold in the Women’s Worlds

As the players embark on their journey to secure their third gold medal in as many years, a few teams stand in their way. Group A boasts the exact same top 4 teams as in the 2016 World Championships: USA with gold, Canada with silver, Russia with bronze, and Finland.

The USA begins the preliminary rounds against Canada this Friday at 7:30pm ET. This will likely be a preview of the gold medal match, if all goes as expected. They will play Russia on Saturday, and Finland on Monday. Going into the tournament as the number one seed, the US is expected to get a bye for the quarterfinal round and play in the semifinals next Thursday.

As always, Canada will be their likely opponent in the gold medal match. While Hockey Canada was an ally and fully supported the USWNT in their boycott, the friendliness may end there.

The women hockey players of the USA and Canada have a storied history on the ice. While only some of the matches have included full line brawls, most of them have included heartbreak for one of the teams. For the US to keep riding the high of their win for equitable support, they will need to defeat Canada.

Distracted team?

Though everyone is excited to see Team USA come together again for the last major international tournament before the Olympics, the story surrounding Worlds is undoubtedly the USWNT boycott. Up until Wednesday, it was unclear if the original team named to the Worlds roster would event attend, as Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight and Co. fought for equitable treatment with the men’s US team and more support from USA Hockey.

The boycott is over, and the buzz (for the most part) has died down, but to suggest that the strike is completely out of the mind of the players might be a bit of a stretch. Team USA has been in the thick of the biggest story in hockey in years, and being able to perform on the ice like they normally do may be a more difficult test for USA than they expect.

Of course, this is Team USA we’re talking about here, so odds are, they’ll be fine. By all accounts, they’re just happy to get back on the ice.

Players to watch

It’s much of the same cast that Team USA has been used to for the last couple of years. Duggan, Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux, Hilary Knight, and Kacey Bellamy are just some of the players that the Americans will rely on.

An interesting addition to the roster is the return of Gigi Marvin, who was named as one of the team’s forwards. Though she has played forward in years past, she’s been almost exclusively a defender in recent years. It’s possible we see her at both forward and defense.

Also worth watching is the goalie battle behind Alex Rigsby, USA’s clear No. 1 goaltender. Maddie Rooney of UMD and Nicole Hensley of the Minnesota Whitecaps will be her backups. They’ll likely see at least some playing time, but who gets the call first and watching how they perform under high-stress situations will be important as the USA looks to find a backup for Rigsby.

We shall see who has the last laugh. Odds are it may be Hilary Knight and Team USA.