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2019 World Championship Preview: USA

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Team USA will look to capture their ninth World Championship title

Schedule

Team USA is in group A with Finland, Canada, Switzerland, and Russia.

  • April 4, 12:30 p.m. ET | USA vs Finland
  • April 6, 12:30 p.m. ET | USA vs Canada
  • April 7, 12:30 p.m. ET | USA vs Switzerland
  • April 9, 9:00 a.m. ET | USA vs Russia

Roster

  • Forwards: Melissa Samoskevich, Amanda Kessel, Annie Pankowski, Kendall Coyne Schofield (C), Alex Carpenter, Dani Cameranesi, Hilary Knight (A), Hannah Brandt, Jesse Compher, Hayley Scamurra, Sydney Brodt, Brianna Decker, Kelly Pannek
  • Defenders: Shelly Picard, Kacey Bellamy (A), Megan Bozek, Emily Pfalzer, Megan Keller, Cayla Barnes, Lee Stecklein
  • Goalies: Maddie Rooney, Alex Rigsby, Emma Polusny
  • Head coach: Bob Corkum


Players to Watch

Annie Pankowski just capped off an absolutely stellar college career at the University of Wisconsin with a National Championship. She scored the second of two goals in the final against Minnesota, a shorthanded, backhand goal that she made look extremely casual.

She led her team with 50 points in 39 games this year, and had 206 total points over 154 collegiate games in her NCAA career. She’s been cycled on and off the senior national team for years, having just barely missed both the Sochi and Pyeongchang Olympic rosters, and will be looking to make a lasting impression on Bob Corkum in his first go-around as head coach for a World Championship.

Alex Rigsby just won the Clarkson Cup with the Calgary Inferno in her first pro season. Not only that, she won the CWHL’s Goaltender of the Year award, putting up a thoroughly respectable .916 SV% and a 2.04 GAA, the top of both categories for rookie goaltenders in the league. She seems to have cemented her spot in the senior team’s goalie ranks, as she is now the most senior goalie on the roster and will likely want to hold onto a #1 spot.

Sydney Brodt made quite a splash in her first tournament with the senior team last November. At Four Nations, she had five points in her first four games, notching three goals and two assists as she slotted into the top line with Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne Schofield. As far as her NCAA stats, Brodt is the middle of the pack as a junior on Minnesota-Duluth. In 105 games she’s put up 57 total points, and she did not lead her team in any category this season, although she came in second with 117 shots on net over 35 games. Team USA’s staff clearly sees her potential regardless, and it will be interesting to see whether they put her back on that top line.


Last Time Around

The last World Championship was on American soil, and immediately followed Team USA’s successful boycott that led to a new agreement between the team and USA Hockey. Team USA went undefeated throughout that tournament, shutting out their rival Canada in the opening game and completing the tournament with a 3-2 overtime win against Canada in the final. Along the way, they put up 23 goals against Russia, Finland, and Germany (half of which were in that last game). This gold gave them their eighth World Championship title.

Michelle Jay


Storylines

Team USA seems to be comfortable with Rooney and Rigsby as a goalie tandem. Although Rooney wasn’t with the team for the Rivalry Series, it’s safe to say that was because both teams chose not to place NCAA players on their rosters. The biggest question appears to be that third goalie spot. NWHL rookie Katie Burt made her senior team debut during the Rivalry series, but was not named to the Worlds roster. Instead, after making her senior team debut in November’s Four Nations Cup tournament, St. Cloud State sophomore Emma Polusny got the nod. She’s split time with junior Janine Adler this season and finished with a .919 SV% and a 3.49 GAA. At Four Nations she played one game and allowed only one goal for a .950 SV%, and it’s clear that the staff would like to see more of her as they consider who they’d like to take that third-goalie role on a more permanent basis.

The team celebrated with Polusny after her first start and win in a Team USA jersey.

The era after the Olympics has been one marked with change at both an organizational and team level. One of the most interesting things about this early part of the cycle is watching all the moving parts while the team forms a new identity. After watching them play the Rivalry Series, it’s fairly clear that Team USA is struggling a little bit to click the way that they did in November or even in Pyeongchang. The lines changed often during the Rivalry series, sometimes in-game, as Corkum tried to assess the chemistry between new and returning players. Several of those players will not be on this roster--notably Amanda Pelkey, Dana Trivigno, Haley Skarupa, Gigi Marvin, Savannah Harmon, and Sidney Morin--but the benefit of a proper camp before the tournament is that there may be some more structure to the lines this time around, especially where the games count for more than bragging rights. Team USA certainly has the potential for incredible chemistry, it’s just a question of how the staff will tap into it and what combinations will do the trick.

Hayley Scamurra, who made her Team USA debut during the Rivalry Series, has made her second-straight roster.
Pat McCarthy

Similarly, it’s exciting to see the NCAA additions back on a roster. There’s little doubt that these “next wave” players are the future of the team. Folding young NWHL talent like Hayley Scamurra, the NWHLPA player of the year, along with Jesse Compher, who put up a massive 61 points in her sophomore season at Boston University, into a team with veterans like Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker allows the younger players to learn early on in the pre-Olympics cycle.


Statistics for this article taken from the CWHL website and Eliteprospects.