This weekend, the PWHPA kicks off their Dream Gap Tour in Toronto. The two-day, four-game Unifor Women’s Hockey Showcase will be played at Westwood Arena in Toronto.
The games will be streamed on the PWHPA’s websites.
Team Jenner is comprised mostly of Brampton/Markham Thunder veterans, with three rookies — Colgate standout Jessie Eldridge, Merrimack star (and former third-round NWHL draft pick) Katelyn Rae, and goalie Amelia Boughn out of UBC. The team’s coaches include former Team Canada and Thunder player Cherie Piper; and Kevin Stone, the defunct Thunder’s goaltending and assistant coach. Notable players include veterans Jocelyne Larocque, Laura Fortino, Jess Jones, Brianne Jenner, and Megan Bozek, as well as up-and-comers Victoria Bach, Eldridge, and Shea Tiley.
Though this team may lack some of the obvious star- and firepower of the other three, it’s a well-rounded team. Shea Tiley is no joke — she can and very well might steal some games if the team is able to get some depth scoring going.
A bulk of Team Johnston are former Calgary Inferno players. They have only one rookie, goalie Marlène Boissonnault, who just graduated from Cornell University. The team will be coached by former Inferno coach Ryan Hilderman and features a mix of recognizable Team USA and Team Canada players, including Brigette Lacquette, Rebecca Johnston, Brianna Decker, and Kacey Bellamy.
The roster also includes two formerly retired players: Brooke Beazer, a longtime Furies player, and Meaghan Mikkelson, of Team Canada and Calgary Inferno fame, are lacing the skates up again to join Team Johnston in Toronto. Goaltender Annie Bélanger backed up Alex Cavallini (née Rigsby) for last year’s championship Inferno team, but look for her to get the bulk of the minutes behind some experienced defenders.
Team Knox will be very recognizable for fans of the CWHL’s final-season Furies team. The roster includes many Furies veterans, including Jessica Platt, Shannon Moulson-Nap, and Carolyne Prévost. It also includes Team Canada stars such as Renata Fast, Sarah Nurse, Natalie Spooner and rookie Loren Gabel. One of Team Knox’s coaches is Laura McIntosh, a former Thunder player who also runs several girls and women’s hockey development programs in the Waterloo, Ont., region.
Their goaltending is solid and they have the most scoring depth of any of the four teams. Assuming the coaches put Nurse, Spooner, and Gabel all on one line, they’re still working with the likes of Shainn Darkangelo, Prevost, and Brittany Howard as options.
Team Poulin is essentially made up of last year’s Canadiennes team, with some notable additions like Markham Thunder’s and Team Canada’s Laura Stacey and rookie Emily Clark, who just finished her career with the Wisconsin Badgers. The team’s GM, Meg Hewings, was with Les Canadiennes starting in 2010, so it’s no surprise that she’s involved with the Quebec-based PWHPA players. The team will be coached by Valérie Bois, who was an assistant coach with last season’s Canadiennes team.
Like the 2018–19 Canadiennes, this team will be a force to be reckoned with. Surely they have the most impressive goaltending tandem of the group — with Team Canada’s Geneviève Lacasse and Emerance Maschmeyer — and they don’t lack for scoring with players like Hilary Knight, Marie-Philip Poulin, Ann-Sophie Bettez, and Mélodie Daoust.
Team Johnston vs. Team Jenner; Sept. 21, 12:30 p.m. (ET)
This is likely to have a Thunder vs. Inferno feel, for those who watched the CWHL’s season last year. Look for this to be a tough, gritty game where physical players will shine. Patience and discipline will set the winning team apart.
Team Poulin vs. Team Knox; Sept. 21, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
This game will either be high scoring or go down to the wire with no score at all. With the combined goaltending and goal scoring talent between these two teams, expect things to be tight either way.
Team Johnston vs. Team Knox; September 22, 9:30 a.m. (ET)
Team Knox can certainly beat Team Johnston, but if they can’t solve Team Johnston’s tough defense they may fall victim to what you’d expect will be a very fast Team Johnston top line.
Team Poulin vs. Team Jenner; Sept. 22, 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Team Jenner is probably going to rely heavily on Tiley for this one. If they can play a solid defensive game against a quick, creative Team Poulin, they should be able to keep things close, but scoring on the Team Poulin goaltenders is going to require a lot of shots that may be hard to get against a team that will probably dominate possession.
Players to watch
Loren Gabel: The 2019 Patty Kaz winner is entering her first post-college “season,” and while the Dream Gap Tour isn’t exactly as structured as a league season, Gabel will no doubt make a serious impact in the two games she’ll play this weekend. This will be especially true if she gets the chance to play with Nurse and Spooner in any capacity — whether as a line or on a power play unit. Their styles are so complementary that you can expect a lot of offense from those connections.
Annie Bélanger: Bélanger was a backup in the Calgary Inferno’s championship season last year, but she was absolutely dominant during her NCAA tenure with the UConn Huskies. People who are unfamiliar with her play over her last two college seasons may be surprised by how solid she is this weekend, but make no mistake: she’s the real deal, and Team Johnston can rely on her, even against the most elite of the elite.
Katelyn Rae: We all know we need to be watching the likes of Bach and Jenner on this team, but we should all also be curious to see how Merrimack product Rae gels with a team of high-octane offense. Merrimack has only been in NCAA’s top division since the 2013–14 academic year, but Rae put up 40 points in her senior season and 30 points in her junior season. For context, she scored 25 goals her junior season, which is more than the No. 2- and No. 3-ranked skaters on the squad combined.
Emerance Maschmeyer: Both of Team Poulin’s goaltenders are elite, international-level talent, but many would argue that Maschmeyer is on another level from almost every other goaltender in the game. She’s only 24 and she’s consistently in the conversation for best-ofs, whether she’s playing in a league or an international tournament. In her final season with Les Canadiennes, she put up an absolutely massive .935 SV%, but her team fell short in the championship game. There’s no trophy here, and she won’t get to play most of those former Inferno players, but look for her to bounce back with a solid weekend, no matter how many minutes she ends up playing.
Team Jenner 1 – Team Johnston 2
Team Poulin 1 – Team Knox 0
Team Knox 1 – Team Johnston 1 (Team Johnston SOW)
Team Poulin 3 – Team Jenner 1