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Womens

Ample talent left behind when Hockey Canada heads to PyeongChang

Erik Wollschlager

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Carlos Gonzalez/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

With the Winter Olympics coming closer, the two superpowers in women’s ice hockey have spent the last month whittling down their rosters to the roughly two dozen players who will soon gear up for South Korea.

Team USA released its roster in April, and fans were shocked at some of the names left off the team as America prepares for the Olympic Games. Hockey Canada has followed suit, issuing its 23-player roster that will gather in Calgary to prepare for PyeongChang. Similarly, there are some surprising omissions.

Few would question the women’s hockey staff which has organized every gold-medal team in the Olympics since 2002 — Hockey Canada’s success certainly speaks for itself. There are, however, several players many expected to see on the roster who will instead remain in Canada next winter.

The most glaring absence belongs to goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer. She was the heir apparent for Hockey Canada, playing a huge role in the team’s measured successes in Four Nations and World Championship tournaments.

Maschmeyer was one of the CWHL’s leaders in save percentage, but lacked some of the technical abilities of her teammates, and was unimpressive at Hockey Canada’s selection camp. Though she remains an alternate for the national team, Maschmeyer will likely lead the Calgary Inferno in 2017-18.

Also missing from Canada’s roster is reigning CWHL scoring co-champion Jess Jones. The star forward was once a bright prospect on Canada’s U18 team, but since 2007-08, she hasn’t gotten a chance to show what she can do for her national team.

Her career with the Brampton Thunder is quite remarkable. Jones is third in team history in goals and fifth in scoring. Even former coach Tyler Fines is surprised by this snub. He told FanRag Sports:

“Jess Jones is a one-of-a-kind player. She has great vision and elite skill with the puck. Jess has the ability to create space with her physical play and stick-checking ability… It’s amazing she [Jones] never got a shot at the national team.”

Given Team USA’s recent dominance in international competitions, winning every gold medal after the 2014 Olympics, perhaps this was the year Jones deserved a shot to show she could take down the mighty Americans. It wasn’t to be.

Another surprising snub, Ann-Sophie Bettez, is quietly destroying the competition in the CWHL. In her five seasons with Montreal, Bettez has played in 116 games and scored an incredible 176 points. Her production is split fairly evenly, with Bettez scoring 81 goals and sending 95 helpers to her teammates. Only superstar Marie-Philip Poulin has a better points-per-game average in the last five years; even Hockey Canada assistant coach and legend Caroline Ouellette has not scored as often as Bettez.

 

Canada’s loss is surely Les Canadiennes’ gain; Bettez has been an important part of the success Montreal has had in recent years. Given her scoring abilities, it’s quite a surprise that she hasn’t received recognition from Hockey Canada when formulating its roster — especially considering the fact that she has played so well with Poulin, and has helped drive up Poulin’s numbers.

There is no mistaking Canada’s success in Olympic tournaments. Few nations have been as dominant in a sport as the Canadians have been in women’s hockey. Still, one has to wonder about decisions that have been made over the last two years, and it is concerning that the U.S. now has an answer for Canada on nearly every international stage. Canada seems to be trending younger, and in some cases, veteran talent which could surprise the Americans is being left behind.

Erik was just four years old when he and his grandmother climbed the treacherous steps of The Aud to take perch in the vaunted orange seats. It’s been all downhill from there. The perpetual wave that never crests, his fandom for Buffalo sports has produced a swelling disappointment deep within that can only be released in small increments, such as sarcastic tweets and bitter reaction blogs – lest he unleash a raging flood that would destroy the city. For Buffalo Beauts in-game coverage and defense against the national media for the Buffalo Sabres, check out 716SportsPodcast.com, and for general hockey opinion you can find his musings at BonusHockey.com

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