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2022 Worlds Preview: Team USA

After two silver medals, Team USA looks to return to gold.

Ice Hockey - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 13
Hilary Knight #21 of Team United States reacts after scoring a goal in the second period with Lee Stecklein #2 and Cayla Barnes #3 during the Women’s Ice Hockey Gold Medal match between Team Canada and Team United States on Day 13 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Wukesong Sports Centre on February 17, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Last Time Around

After winning Olympic gold in 2018 and then Worlds gold in 2019 (plus just a few more before then), it's been a stretch of silver for the red, white, and blue.

In the 2021 World Championships, Team USA looked discombobulated and out of sorts at times, especially against Canada. They couldn’t string together a full 60 minutes against the rivals in either their preliminary game (where they lost 5-1) or the gold medal game (where they lost 3-2 in overtime after scoring two goals in the first period).

It was a similar story at the Olympics, though a little less pronounced. They fell to their neighbors to the north in both the preliminaries (4-2) and the gold medal game (3-2).

Three players to watch

Lee Stecklein | Defender

The US’s blue line has had a fair amount of turnover in the past years, and it shows in the defenders on this Worlds roster. Stecklein is the oldest and most experienced of the seven defenders, with three Olympics games and seven Worlds appearances under her belt. She notched a career-high seven points at the 2021 tournament. At the Olympics, her lone goal was a game-winner.

Look for Stecklein to be a leader on the blueline, and to eat up significant minutes. She’s as trustworthy and capable as they come in her own zone.

Abby Roque | Forward

While NCAA fans have long known about Roque’s abilities, she burst onto the national team scene in the Rivalry Series in 2019 and hasn’t looked back since. She’s a smart, talented player who, I think, can be the future of Team USA’s forward group with more time on the National Team and experience playing the international game.

This could be the tournament where Roque steps up into a more significant role. At the Olympics, she moved up in the lineup after an early injury took Brianna Decker out of the picture. Roque proved that she’s as versatile as she is skilled, playing forward on a scoring line and hunting down pucks.

Jesse Compher | Forward

Maybe this is a bit of a sleeper pick, and I’ll admit, I went back and forth between Compher and a few other players for my third spot (goaltenders in general, Savannah Harmon, Hannah Brandt to cheat and name more than three). But like Roque, I think Compher is the future of the team’s forward core, especially as she gains more experience playing at this level. She had a goal and two assists at the 2021 tournament and three goals and one assist at the Olympics.

Storyline

After dominating the top of the international podium since 2013, the US has finished the last two tournaments with silver meals. Like always, the goal here is gold (and a return to the top). The roster is stacked with 18 players from the 2022 Olympics, which is important given the strange timing of this tournament as it's the first one to be played in August of an Olympic year.

Bench and player management was a huge storyline out of the Olympics, where goaltender choices and defensive deployments were extremely suspect. But Team USA has a new bench boss this tournament in John Wroblewski. Unlike previous head coach Joel Johnson, Wroblewski came in at the end of May with extremely limited coaching experience in women’s hockey and at the National Program level. How that translates to his — and assistant coaches Josh Sciba and Shelley Looney — decisions on playing time is something to watch closely.

All the requisite talent is there. It needs to be utilized far better than it was in Beijing.

Schedule

All times in ET.

  • Aug. 25, 9 a.m. vs Japan
  • Aug. 27, 9 a.m. vs Finland
  • Aug. 29, 1 p.m. vs Switzerland
  • Aug. 30, 2 p.m. vs Canada