After a dramatic loss to Canada in last year’s World Championship game, Team USA is back for revenge this season. Something had to change for USA this year, and the team didn’t shy away from making big moves in an attempt to get back on top.
Here’s the final roster, which was announced on Saturday, April 1:
Three players to focus on
This is a very young roster, in part because of recent retirements and pregnancies. Kendall Coyne Schofield is out because she’s currently pregnant, and USA icon Brianna Decker recently announced her retirement. Goaltender Alex Cavallini attempted to make the roster three months after having a baby, but didn’t make the final cut. As a result, one of the few seasoned veterans on the team is Kessel, who has consistently been one of the team’s top-performing forwards in international play, especially lately.
Kessel had 17 points in the last WWC, behind only tournament MVP Taylor Heise. If the US wants to have success, they’ll need to have veterans like Kessel, Alex Carpenter, and Hilary Knight step up.
Taylor Heise had a breakout season at last year’s WWC, getting at least a point in six of Team USA’s seven games and finishing with 18 points, two points behind the single-tournament WWC record. As a result, she was named tournament MVP in her senior Worlds debut, a major statement for the youngster.
This year, USA will need Heise to keep up that pace in her sophomore season, especially without players like Coyne-Schofield and Decker present. Heise’s performance could set the tone for Team USA’s offense.
Team USA has a lot of impressive goaltenders to choose from, and Hensley has been one who has set herself apart in recent years. It sometimes feels like Hensley and Maddie Rooney are battling out for the top spot in the crease, but Rooney was a late cut after the team’s selection camp, leaving Hensley, Aerin Frankel, and Abbey Levy as the trio of goaltenders.
Based on her senior team experience, it’s likely that Hensely will be the go-to netminder for Team USA. As much as chemistry will be important for USA this year, they need to have a dependable backstop behind them, too. Hensley has been able to deliver that before, and her team will be looking for a consistent performance from her to give them an edge.
Hughes is a prolific young player who was a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award last season for the top women’s college player. She captained UMD again this season and this WWC will be her senior debut; prior to this tournament, she’d represented USA once at the U18 WWC back in 2016-17, where she won gold.
USA’s roster is always deep, but there’s a lot of room for newcomers or youngsters to step up and show what they’re capable of. Hughes has shown that she is a force in the college game. This will be an opportunity for her to play with and against the best of the best and see how she can compare.
This tournament will say a lot about where Team USA is a program. They’ve had trouble lately when it comes to closing out wins, whether that’s at the WWC or in their most recent Rivalry series.
In the previous decade, the USA had Canada’s number at the World Championships but would fall to Canada at the Olympics. That trend has changed now - after Team USA won the 2018 Olympics and the 2019 World Championships, it’s been all Canada since. The USA’s northern neighbors have won the last two Worlds and the last Olympics in 2022, and they also earned a dramatic victory in the last USA/Canada rivalry series, winning the last four games in a seven-game series to stun USA. The last two of those games were won in dominant fashion, with Canada walking away with 5-0 and 5-1 wins.
Something has to change for the US, and credit to the program creators for trying - they’re going big with some cuts from its selection camp. No Hannah Brandt, no Jincy Dunne, no Maddie Rooney…. it’s certainly a wake-up call, but only time will tell if it’s the shot in the arm the US needs or not.
What does success look like?
Success for USA is very simple - win gold. Anything less will be a disappointing finish for the red, white, and blue.
April 5 - USA v. Japan, 3 p.m.
April 7 - SUI v. USA, 11 a.m.
April 9 - USA v. CZE, 3 p.m.
April 10 - CAN v. USA, 7 p.m.