Team Canada may have won the inaugural Rivalry Series over Team USA, but they may have come away from the series with more questions than answers. With the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship just two months away, Hockey Canada has a lot of tough decisions ahead of them.
Canada bested the U.S. without star forwards Jennifer Wakefield and Mélodie Daoust in their lineup – both players were held out due to injury. Their absence in the Rivalry Series and the exclusion of active collegiate players created a valuable opportunity for a few players to prove their worth against Team USA. Two of the CWHL’s biggest stars — Jamie Lee Rattray and Ann-Sophie Bettez — absolutely shined in their auditions with the national team.
Jamie Lee Rattray
Rattray was a key ingredient on what was undoubtedly the best line of the Rivalry Series. Skating alongside Blayre Turnbull of the Calgary Inferno and her Markham Thunder teammate Laura Stacey, Rattray was one of Canada’s most noticeable and productive forwards in the series.
Like the rest of Canada, she was kept out of the box score in Game One by Alex Rigsby, but she and the rest of her line still stood out. The Stacey-Turnbull-Rattray line generated some of Team Canada’s best chances at the Budweiser Gardens. The trio followed that performance with a big game at the Scotiabank Arena and in the series finale in Detroit at Little Caesars Arena.
Rattray buried goals for Team Canada in Game Two and Game Three. Her goal in Game Three proved to be the game-winner. All told, she finished the series with three points — all primary. In case that wasn’t enough for Perry Pearn and company to notice, Rattray’s goal in Game Two was the game-winner and she set up Turnbull for the insurance goal in Game Three with a gorgeous pass.
It’s hard to say what else Rattray could have done to prove that she deserves a spot on the national team’s roster in April. She played hard while managing to stay out of the box and demonstrated great chemistry with two silver medalists from the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Even with NCAA talent like Loren Gabel at Canada’s disposal for the Worlds in April, Rattray may have just carved out a role for herself on the national team with her play in the Rivalry Series. She was that good.
Just as we all expected, Bettez fit right in with the national team in her debut with the senior squad. Playing alongside one of the best players in the world certainly helped, but the chemistry between Bettez and Marie-Philip Poulin was and always has been a two-way street.
In the Rivalry Series, Bettez made a lot of great plays even though she didn’t end up in the box score. In addition to drawing a few big penalties, she also screened Katie Burt for Laura Fortino’s goal in Game Two and was great on top of the crease and around the net all series long. She was very much involved in the offense.
Fortino tying it up for Team Canada! pic.twitter.com/HpqyJFCqUm— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) February 15, 2019
It’s borderline criminal that it’s taken us this long to see Bettez on Team Canada. Did she play well enough to make the national team for the 2019 Worlds? Right now that is very much up for debate. At 31, she definitely doesn’t have the youngest legs, but that didn’t stop her from passing the eye test against a formidable Team USA.
Bettez looked great on Canada’s top line with Rebecca Johnston and Poulin. That trio drew a ton of penalties in the series which definitely helped Canada win what proved to be a crucial special teams battle. In addition to her performance in the Rivalry Series, Bettez has been tearing it up this season with Les Canadiennes. She has 44 points in 24 games this season — that’s 20 more points than Rattray has with the Markham Thunder.
Finally, we can’t mention Bettez’s future with Team Canada without bringing up how valuable she could be to Captain Canada. Keeping that dangerous duo together would do more than make Poulin happy, it could also help create more space for Canada’s brightest star in the offensive zone. You can’t catalyze the kind of chemistry that Bettez and Poulin have. However, if you’re Hockey Canada, you can choose to harness it.
Data courtesy of USA Hockey, Hockey Canada, and the author’s own stat tracking.