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“From paralyzed to an Olympian”

After a health scare left her partially paralyzed, Erika Grahm is grateful to be back playing the game she loves

Wendy Graves
|
November 08, 2014

Erika Grahm is only 23 years old and she’s already written her life story.

Two days before the Swedish forward hit the ice at the 2014 4 Nations Cup she signed off on the final draft of her book, “From Paralyzed to an Olympian.” (It will be released in Sweden on Dec. 1.)

In the summer of 2011, Grahm was vacationing in Greece with her boyfriend, and while out for a run one afternoon felt pain in her back and glute. A few days later the tingling had spread to her hands.

Once back home in Sweden, Grahm brushed aside her discomfort as an old back injury acting up and went back to the rink.

Two weeks later – having since abandoned her practices – she could barely walk.

“I was just lying to myself,” says Grahm. “I didn’t want to tell someone because if I told someone it’s going to be true.”

By this time overwhelming headaches and exhaustion were confining her to bed up to 22 hours a day. Walking anywhere was a workout in itself, as she could only drag her feet less than a foot at a time to go anywhere. And she’d lost feeling in the right side of her face.

She would end up spending eight weeks in and out of a small hospital in northern Sweden, where a series of tests led doctors to suggest she had multiple sclerosis. It took a specialist at a larger hospital 30 minutes to disprove that diagnosis; three days later, Grahm finally had a name for what had brought her life to an abrupt halt: Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves, leading to paralysis.

She spent a week in hospital hooked up an IV unit. Once home it took another month for Grahm to feel like herself again.

“After that a journey starts,” says Grahm, who lost 15 pounds of muscle. “I was a mess but I had only one thing in my head: I will be back. I wrote in my phone the day I got out of the hospital:  here we go again. I’ll be back.”

She worked out daily with one of the national team’s coaches to rebuild her strength. With short- and long-term goals in mind, she was determined to get back on the ice.

“I was young and I felt I had many years to go in my career,” she says, “but the (2014) Olympics were a goal, because in 2010 I was the last player cut.”

Less than four weeks after leaving the hospital Grahm put her skates back on. She took her boyfriend’s hand and let him lead her around the ice.

“It felt unfamiliar and it was like I was so heavy,” she says. “It felt like my skates were under the ice.”

It took another four weeks for her to feel comfortable.

“I was frustrated because I couldn’t go, but in my head I was still the same hockey player.”

Grahm rejoined her club team, MODO Hockey, for the start of the 2013-14 season, but didn’t immediately play. The team’s coach was new to women’s hockey and had never seen Grahm play, but he’d heard what she could do.

“I was team captain before I was sick,” says Grahm. “And (my coach) told me I was (still) going to be team captain so something was familiar for me.”

Her biggest challenge wasn’t getting herself back up to speed physically. The complications, Grahm says, were in her head. She met with a mental coach once a week.

“He helped me to understand that I’m the same player, even though my body is not the same player,” she says. “I needed patience.”

Grahm not only plays for MODO, she works in the team’s office with its company sponsors. One day, having decided she wanted to know more about girls’ hockey, she emailed all the clubs in the district.

“Women’s hockey is small in Sweden,” she says. “We are only 3,000 hockey players so all girls play with boys. I did until I was 16.”

She started MODO Women’s Future, a project that has up to 60 girls, ages seven to 12, practicing together each month. Her teammates join her when they can. It’s a great opportunity not only for the younger girls to play as a team, says Grahm, but also for them to meet women who’ve gone on to compete at higher levels.

Grahm, herself, is competing against the best in the world this week at the 4 Nations Cup in Kamloops, B.C.  The player fans see on the ice this week isn’t any different than the one they saw in Newfoundland & Labrador in 2010, the last time the event was held in Canada. But the person you meet off the ice definitely is.

“I’m happier,” she says. “I appreciate everything. When I was sick, I was like, what’s happening to me? I’m so glad that I can live my life again.”

Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. United States

Sunday, April 14 | 5 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Gold Medal Game

Jason La Rose, Shannon Coulter
|
April 14, 2024

GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. UNITED STATES (APRIL 14)

Here we go. Canada’s National Women's Team is one win away from a record-extending 13th gold medal at the IIHF Women’s World Championship, taking on the host Americans in the gold medal game Sunday night.

Last Game

Canada took care of business in the semifinals, shutting out Czechia 4-0 to advance to the gold medal game. Laura Stacey set up first-period goals for Blayre Turnbull and Jocelyne Larocque. Emily Clark and Sarah Fillier rounded out the scoring for the Canadians. Ann-Renée Desbiens made nine saves while Canada put 47 shots on Czechia’s Klara Peslarova.

The United States come into the gold medal game undefeated, earning a 5-0 shutout of Finland in the semifinals. University of Wisconsin forward Laila Edwards recorded a hat trick, with Hannah Bilka and Savannah Harmon finding the back of the net as well. Finland’s Sanni Ahola made 50 saves, while Aerin Frankel stopped 15 shots for the semifinal win.

Last Meeting 

The North American rivals played arguably the best game of the preliminary round last Monday, with the Canadians dropping a narrow 1-0 decision in overtime. Ann-Renée Desbiens was absolutely sensational, finishing with 29 saves, but Canada couldn’t solve Frankel. It marked just the third time in 184 all-time meetings that Canada and the U.S. went 60 minutes goalless – the other two were both in Women’s Worlds gold medal games, in 2005 and 2016.

What to Watch 

While names like Poulin, Nurse, Spooner and Fast get the headlines, Jocelyne Larocque continues to just go about her business quietly and effectively. Set to play in her 10th Women’s Worlds gold medal game, the Ste. Anne, Manitoba, product – who cracked list of top-10 oldest players to represent Canada at the tournament (she was 35 years, 10 months, 17 days for the prelim opener) – leads the Canadian contingent in time on ice (22:21 per game) and tops the tournament with a plus/minus of +15. She’s also chipped in with a goal and four assists in six games.

In order for Canada to have success today, they will need to find a way past Frankel. She has had a record-breaking tournament for the United States, allowing only three goals in five games, with a 0.59 goals-against average and a 0.962 saves percentage. With her semifinal shutout, the 24-year-old set the record for the most shutouts at a single Women’s Worlds with four.

A Look Back 

This will be the 22nd time Canada and the U.S. have met for gold at Women’s Worlds, with Canada holding a 12-9 edge in the first 21. Nor surprisingly, these two teams always seem to play a close game with a world title on the line.

Prior to last year’s 6-3 win for the Americans – which was a tie game with less than four minutes to go – seven of the previous eight gold medal games were one-goal contests, and the only outlier, in 2015, was a two-goal game. Those eight games included five that needed overtime – in 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2021.

All-time record: Canada leads 104-79-1 (23-20 in OT/SO)
Canada goals: 508 
United States goals: 445

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Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Czechia

Saturday, April 13 | 7 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Semifinal

Nicholas Pescod
|
April 12, 2024

Canada’s National Women's Team is into the final four at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, taking on Czechia in a Saturday night semifinal in Utica with a place in the gold medal game on the line.

Last Game

Canada booked its spot in the semifinals after downing Sweden 5-1 in its Thursday quarterfinal. Renata Fast scored twice, opening the scoring in the first period and adding insurance in the second, while Laura Stacey, Natalie Spooner and Jaime Bourbonnais rounded out the scoring for the Canadians. Jocelyne Larocque joined Fast as multi-point scorers, picking up a pair of assists, while Emerance Maschmeyer turned aside 17 of the 18 shots she faced.

Czechia secured its spot in the semifinals thanks to Daniela Pejsova, who got a point shot through traffic for the game’s only goal with 7:06 left to give the Czechs a 1-0 win over Germany. Klara Peslarova stopped all 24 shots the Germans threw her way for her second shutout of the tournament.

Last Meeting 

In preliminary-round play last Sunday, Kristin O’Neill scored two goals and provided an assist, Sarah Nurse contributed with two helpers and Ann-Renée Desbiens made 13 saves for the shutout as Canada blanked the Czechs 5-0.

What to Watch 

While Canada’s goaltending has been the focus, and rightfully so with Desbiens and Maschmeyer combining for a .973 save percentage through five games, let’s turn our attention to the bottom of the Canadian forward group. While the top unit has scored just twice (one of them an empty-netter), the fourth line of O’Neill between Danielle Serdachny and Julia Gosling has been terrific (O’Neill leads Canada in scoring), and the trio of Stacey, Blayre Turnbull and Emily Clark contributed the game-winning goal in the quarterfinals. Don’t sleep on the big guns, though; last year in the semifinals, Sarah Fillier potted a hat trick in a win over Switzerland.

Natálie Mlýnková is tearing it up for the Czechs. The 22-year-old is tied for second in goals with four and tied for second in points with six, and is the top scorer in the tournament not wearing the red, white and blue of the United States. For the trivia buffs, three Czechs — Anezka Cabelova, Tereza Plosova, and Adela Sapovalivova — can make history by winning a medal in Utica; they would join Marie-Philip Poulin (Canada, 2009), Susanna Tapani (Finland, 2011), and Nelli Laitnen and Viivi Vainikka (Finland, 2019) as the only players to win a medal at the IIHF U18 Women's World Championship and IIHF Women's World Championship in the same season.

A Look Back 

History is very, very recent between these two teams. They’ve only met twice – last year in Brampton and last weekend in Utica.

All-time record: Canada leads 2-0-0
Canada goals: 10 
Czechia goals: 1 

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Canada vs. Sweden

Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Sweden

Thursday, April 11 | 5 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Quarterfinal

Nicholas Pescod
|
April 10, 2024

GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. SWEDEN (APRIL 11)

It’s on to the playoffs for Canada’s National Women's Team as it takes on Sweden in quarterfinal action Thursday at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

Last Game

Ann-Renée Desbiens was sensational on Monday night, making 29 saves, but Canada closed out the preliminary round in Utica with a 1-0 overtime loss to the United States to finish second in Group A. Laura Stacey and Natalie Spooner led the Canadian offence with four shots on goal apiece.

Like the Canadians, the Swedes are also coming into the quarters on the heels of a 1-0 defeat. Sweden dropped its final preliminary game against Germany on Monday, despite outshooting the Germans 32-24 —forward Lina Ljungblom had seven of the Swedes’ 32 shots.

Last Meeting 

Canada narrowly avoided the upset in the quarterfinals a year ago at Women’s Worlds in Brampton, escaping with a 3-2 victory thanks to overtime heroics from Sarah Nurse. Nurse scored a pair in that game, while Blayre Turnbull added the other for the Canadians, who finished with a 54-14 advantage in shots but ran up against a red-hot Emma Söderberg in the Swedish goal.

What to Watch 

The obvious storyline here is goaltending. Ann-Renée Desbiens was nothing short of terrific through the preliminary round, fashioning a tournament-leading .974 save percentage and 0.65 goals-against average through three starts, capped by a 29-save clinic against the Americans. And if Canada decides it wants to save Desbiens for the weekend, Emerance Maschmeyer is a heck of a backup; she was perfect in her lone prelim start against Switzerland, stopping all 12 shots she faced in a 3-0 win to post her sixth shutout in 13 all-time appearances at Women’s Worlds.

For the Swedes — Lina Ljungblom, Hilda Svensson, Hanna Olsson and Söderberg. Seventeen-year-old Svensson forced overtime against Canada a year ago, tying the game with just 10 seconds to go, and sits tied for second in goals (three) and tied for second in points (five) through the prelims. Svensson leads all players in shots with 29 and had the other goal in the quarterfinal defeat in Brampton. Meanwhile, Olsson owns a tournament-leading 72.15% faceoff percentage, which puts her slightly ahead of Marie-Philip Poulin, and Söderberg has been terrific again, allowing only four goals in three games.

A Look Back 

Canada remains unbeaten against the Swedes at Women’s Worlds, owning an 11-0 record. New York has also been historically good to Canada when it comes to playing Sweden; it owns a 4-1 record in the Empire State, with the last meeting occurring at the 2013 4 Nations Cup in Lake Placid. Natalie Spooner scored twice to help the Canadians to a 4-3 win.

All-time record: Canada leads 79-2-1
Canada goals: 509 
Sweden goals: 70 

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Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. United States

Monday, April 8 | 7 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Preliminary Round

Nicholas Pescod
|
April 07, 2024

GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. UNITED STATES (APRIL 8)

Canada’s National Women's Team faces a familiar foe as the preliminary round comes to a close at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, taking on its neighbours to the south in a battle of unbeatens with first place in Group A on the line.

Last Game

Canada made made it back-to-back-back wins and back-to-back shutouts Sunday, blanking Czechia 5-0. Kristin O'Neill led the way with three points, scoring twice and adding an assist in the first period, Danielle Serdachny, Renata Fast and Laura Stacey also scored, and Ann-Renée Desbiens stopped all 13 shots she faced as Canada outshot the Czechs 42-13.

The United States outlasted Finland 5-3 on Saturday night for its third-consecutive win in the preliminary round. Kendall Coyne Schofield, who scored twice, Abbey Murphy, Hilary Knight and Taylor Heise powered the Americans to victory.

Last Meeting 

For the second year in a row, Canada pulled off a reverse sweep over the United States, downing it 6-1 in Game 7 of the Rivalry Series in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Feb. 11. Natalie Spooner and Emma Maltais each found the back of the net twice, while Marie-Philip Poulin and Ashton Bell also scored. Desbiens was excellent, stopping 24 of 25 to record the victory.

What to Watch 

Although it has been quiet through two games, Canada’s top line of Sarah Filler, Marie-Philip Poulin and Brianne Jenner have been very good against the Americans over the years. The trio have a combined 132 points (69-63—132) in 197 games all-time against the U.S., and Jenner had two goals the last time the rivals met at Women’s Worlds. Oh, and for those keeping track, Jenner is just two goals away from 50 with Canada’s National Women’s Team, which would make her just the 13th to reach that milestone.

The Americans are leaning on their big guns, with Coyne Schofield, Knight, Alex Carpenter and Caroline Harvey ranking in the top six in tournament scoring, with Coyne Schofield – who missed last year’s Women’s Worlds before giving birth to son Drew in July – leading the way with six points (3-3—6). Knight, of course, is the leading scorer in the history of the IIHF Women’s World Championship, with the five points she has accumulated through three games giving her 106 (63-43—106) in her storied career.

A Look Back 

Canada owns a 5-3-1 record against the United States in New York. The last time these two teams did battle in the Empire State was in the preliminary round at the 2013 4 Nations Cup in Lake Placid. Canada won that one 4-2 thanks to goals from Jenner, Spooner, Haley Irwin and Mélodie Daoust.

All-time record: Canada leads 104-78-1 (23-19 in OT/SO)
Canada goals: 508
United States goals: 444

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Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Czechia

Sunday, April 7 | 3 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Preliminary Round

Nicholas Pescod
|
April 06, 2024

GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. CZECHIA (APRIL 7) 

Canada’s National Women's Team looks to make it three in a row in prelim play when it takes on Czechia at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship on Sunday afternoon.

Last Game 

Canada made it back-to-back wins with a 3-0 shutout victory over Switzerland on Friday. Emma Maltais got Canada on the board just 70 seconds after the puck dropped, Sarah Nurse scored less than seven minutes later and Sarah Filler added an empty-netter late in the third period. Emerance Maschmeyer was terrific in a 17-save effort, posting her sixth career shutout in just 13 starts at Women’s Worlds.

The Czechs found themselves on the wrong end of a 6-0 result against the United States on Friday. Klara Peslarova stayed busy between the pipes, making double-digit saves in every period and finishing with 42 stops. Czechia had five power plays in the first 25 minutes but couldn’t find the back of the net, and no skater registered more than two shots.

Last Meeting 

It was exactly one year ago to the day that the Canadians and Czechs clashed for the first time, meeting in the preliminary round at Women’s Worlds in Brampton. Marie-Philip Poulin scored pair of goals, including the 100th of her decorated international career, Blayre Turnbull added a goal and three assists, and Brianne Jenner and Jocelyne Larocque had two helpers each as part of a 5-1 win for Canada.

What to Watch 

How about the trio of Maltais, Nurse and Natalie Spooner? All three found the scoresheet against the Swiss – Maltais and Nurse with goals, Spooner with an assist – and Maltais has tallied the game-winner in both games in Utica. Add in the pre-tournament win over Finland in Kingston (Maltais and Nurse had a goal and an assist each, and Spooner added a helper) and the PWHL Toronto teammates have been driving the offence for Canada.

Seventeen-year-old Adela Sapovaliova is the one to watch on the ice, but we’ll turn our attention behind the bench. The Czechs have won 11 of 16 games and a pair of bronze medals since Carla MacLeod took over as head coach prior to the 2022 Women’s Worlds, with all five defeats coming at the hands of Canada and the U.S. The PWHL Ottawa bench boss is no stranger to international hockey; she won two Olympic gold medals (2006, 2010) and a world title (2007) with Canada’s National Women’s Team, and was MVP of the 2009 Women’s Worlds.

A Look Back 

Not much history to talk about here; as mentioned above, the meeting last year in Brampton was their first.

All-time record: Canada leads 1-0-0
Canada goals: 5 
Czechia goals: 1 

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Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Switzerland

Friday, April 5 | 3 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Preliminary Round

Nicholas Pescod
|
April 05, 2024

GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. SWITZERLAND (APRIL 5) 

It’s a very quick turnaround for Canada’s National Women's Team, which resumes preliminary-round play Friday when it takes on Switzerland at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, less than 18 hours after closing out its tournament opener.

Last Game 

Canada opened the prelims on a historic note, picking up its 100th Women’s Worlds win by downing Finland 4-1 on Thursday night. Ella Shelton had a goal and two assists, Julia Gosling scored in her world championship debut and Ann-Renée Desbiens was terrific in a 32-save performance.

The Swiss started with a 4-0 loss to the host Americans on Wednesday. Andrea Brändli was busy between the pipes, finishing with 51 saves, but Switzerland could manage just 11 shots on the U.S. goal, with a team-high three coming from 18-year-old Ivana Wey in her first Women’s Worlds game.

Last Meeting 

Canada and Switzerland last faced off in the semifinals at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Brampton. Sarah Fillier scored a hat trick, Natalie Spooner set up three goals, and Jamie Lee Rattray and Rebecca Johnston added a goal each as the Canadians booked their place in the gold medal game with a 5-1 victory.

What to Watch 

Two words. Sarah Fillier. She may have been held off the scoresheet against the Finns, but the Georgetown, Ontario, product has been historically good against the Swiss. In eight career games, Fillier has recorded 15 points (9-6—15), including four goals and a helper in two meetings a year ago in Brampton. Of course, she has been pretty darn good against anybody at Women’s Worlds, putting up 28 points (15-13—28) in 22 games on the international stage.

For the Swiss, it has to be Alina Müller. The lone PWHL player on the Swiss roster, Müller – the No. 3 pick in the inaugural PWHL Draft – is having a great season for Boston, putting up a team-leading 13 points (3-10—13) in 19 games. She’s also been pretty good internationally, recording four goals and 10 points in seven games a year ago in Brampton – including the lone goal for Switzerland in its semifinal loss to Canada – and posting the same stat line at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

A Look Back 

Canada hasn’t played the Swiss often in the grand scheme, facing off just 19 times since 1997, but they’ve been frequent foes lately, facing off in the prelims and semifinals at each of the last three Women’s Worlds, and in Beijing.

Prior to their final-four face-off in Brampton, the Canadians and Swiss met in the prelim opener for both; in that one, Spooner and Sarah Nurse led the way with a goal and an assist each, and Desbiens posted a 12-save shutout in a 4-0 win for Canada.

All-time record: Canada leads 19-0-0
Canada goals: 152 
Switzerland goals: 9 

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Canada vs. Finland

Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Finland

Thursday, April 4 | 7 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Preliminary Round

Nicholas Pescod
|
April 04, 2024

GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. FINLAND (APRIL 4) 

Let the games begin! Canada’s National Women's Team kicks off preliminary round play Thursday at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, facing off against Finland at the Adirondack Bank Center. 

Last Meeting 

Canada earned an 8-2 pre-tournament victory over Finland last Saturday in Kingston, Ontario, scoring the game’s final seven goals to erase a second-period deficit. In all, seven different skaters found the back of the net, led by Blayre Turnbull, who scored twice and added an assist in the exhibition win. 

Last Game 

We already talked about the last game, so how about the one before that? Canada scored a 6-1 victory over the United States in Game 7 of the Rivalry Series on Feb. 11 to complete the reverse sweep for the second year in a row in St. Paul, Minnesota. Natalie Spooner and Emma Maltais finished with two goals and an assist each for the Canadians, while Ann-Renée Desbiens made 24 saves.

Finland fell 4-0 to Czechia in its preliminary-round opener on Wednesday. Sanni Ahola stopped 29 of the 31 shots she faced — the Czechs had two empty-netters — in what was the first penalty-free game in Women's Worlds history. Noora Tulus led the way with four shots on goal for the Finns, who were outshot 33-21.

What to Watch 

With an average age of 28 years, two months and 20 days, Canada is icing its oldest roster ever at Women’s Worlds, with captain Marie-Philip Poulin back for her 12th appearance, veteran defender Jocelyne Larocque set for her 11th, and Spooner and Brianne Jenner both ready for their 10th. But head coach Troy Ryan has a few young guns at his disposal, including Sarah Fillier and Danielle Serdachny, both of whom were top-10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best player in NCAA women’s hockey, and cousins Julia and Nicole Gosling, who both registered their first Team Canada goals in the exhibition win Saturday.

Jenni Hiirikoski is returning for a record 16th Women's Worlds. The Finnish captain – seven times the Top Defender at the tournament – continues to be a big part of Finland's success on the international stage — she finished tied for fifth in scoring (3-8—11) a year ago in Brampton, second among all blue-liners. Petra Nieminen is also back following her stand-out performance last spring when she finished second in tournament scoring (6-7—13). The 24-year-old was red hot this year with Luleå HF in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League, leading the league with 24 goals and sitting fourth with 45 points in 33 regular-season games. 

A Look Back 

Canada may have the upper hand all-time, having lost just twice and tying once in 89 meetings, but the Finns are no pushover. 

These two teams have faced each other six previous times in the Empire State, the most recent coming in the 2013 4 Nations Cup gold medal game in Lake Placid, when Canada downed the Finns 6-3 to capture its 13th tournament title. Vicki Bendus had a goal and two assists, Jenelle Kohanchuk scored twice, and Jenner, Jennifer Wakefield and Haley Irwin were the other Canadian goal-scorers. 

All-time record: Canada leads 86-2-1 
Canada goals: 460 
Finland goals: 114 

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Canada vs. Finland

Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Finland

Saturday, March 30 | 3 p.m. ET | Kingston, Ontario | Pre-Tournament

Shannon Coulter
|
March 30, 2024

GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. FINLAND (MARCH 30)

Ahead of the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, New York, Canada’s National Women's Team faces off against Finland in a pre-tournament tune-up Saturday at Slush Puppie Place in Kingston.

Last Meeting

Ahead of last year’s Women’s Worlds, Canada earned a 3-1 pre-tournament win over Finland in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Brianne Jenner broke a scoreless tie midway through the second period and added an assist on Marie-Philip Poulin’s insurance marker in the third. Emily Clark also scored for the Canadians, who got 19 combined saves from Ann-Renée Desbiens and Emerance Maschmeyer.

Last Game

Canada completed the reverse sweep again in the Rivalry Series, defeating the United States 6-1 in Game 7 in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Feb. 11. Natalie Spooner opened the scoring on the power play midway through the first period—her first of two goals. Poulin and Ashton Bell found the back of the net in the second period, and Emma Maltais scored two goals of her own in the third.

What to Watch

With the NCAA season complete, Canada’s roster has been bolstered by the addition of young talent. Sarah Fillier finished her senior season at Princeton with 30 goals and 43 points, and was named a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best player in NCAA women’s hockey. Julia Gosling recorded career-highs during her senior year at St. Lawrence, notching 22 goals and 51 points, while Nicole Gosling (Julia’s cousin) finished her senior year at Clarkson with 14 goals and 39 points and was named a First Team All-American.

Petra Nieminen returns to Women’s Worlds after finishing second in tournament scoring (6-7—13) with the Finns a year ago in Brampton. The 24-year-old had 24 goals and 45 points during the regular season with Luleå HF in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League. In the PWHL, Susanna Tapani has been making an impact with Boston, recording a plus-12 rating along with three goals and eight points.

A Look Back

Although Canada has only a pair of losses and a tie in 88 all-time meetings with the Finns, the Nordic nation is always a tough matchup.

The teams have met before in Kingston. Throwing it back to 1996, Canada and Finland faced off at the inaugural 3 Nations Cup, with the Canadians winning 3-1. Lori Dupuis opened the scoring, while Amanda Benoit notched the game-winning goal off a pass from Angela James. Nancy Deschamps added an insurance goal in the third period.

All-time record: Canada leads 85-2-1
Canada goals: 452
Finland goals: 112

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Canada’s National Women’s Team announced for 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship

Twenty silver medallists from 2023 will wear Maple Leaf in Utica, NY

NR.012.24
|
March 07, 2024

CALGARY, Alberta – Hockey Canada has announced the 23 players named to Canada’s National Women’s Team who will look to reclaim the gold medal at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, April 3-14 in Utica, New York.

Three goaltenders, seven defence and 13 forwards were selected by general manager Gina Kingsbury (Rouyn-Noranda, QC/Toronto, PWHL), head coach Troy Ryan (Spryfield, NS/Toronto, PWHL) and Cherie Piper (Scarborough, ON), senior manager of player development and scouting. Assistant coaches Kori Cheverie (New Glasgow, NS/Montréal, PWHL), Courtney Kessel (Mississauga, ON/Boston, PWHL) and Caroline Ouellette (Montréal, QC/Concordia University, RSEQ), along with goaltending consultant Brad Kirkwood (Calgary, AB/Toronto, PWHL), also provided input.

The 23 players selected include:

 

  • Two players who will be making their IIHF Women’s World Championship debut (Julia Gosling, Nicole Gosling)
  • 20 players who captured a silver medal at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Brampton (Ambrose, Bourbonnais, Campbell, Clark, Desbiens, Fast, Fillier, Jenner, Larocque, Maltais, Maschmeyer, Nurse, O’Neill, Poulin, Rattray, Serdachny, Shelton, Spooner, Stacey, Turnbull)

 

“It is always a difficult decision when it comes to the final selection process, but we challenged our coaching staff to look at our entire athlete pool and determine who we felt would give us the best chance at competing for a gold medal,” said Kingsbury. “We are extremely excited and confident in these 23 players, a group with championship experience, veteran leadership, character and youth, and we are excited for the journey to begin.”

The 10-team tournament features Canada in Group A with Czechia, Finland, Switzerland and the host United States, while Group B includes China, Denmark, Germany, Japan and Sweden.

Canada opens Women’s Worlds against Finland on April 4, and faces Switzerland on April 5 and Czechia on April 7 before closing out the preliminary round against its rivals from the United States on April 8.

Prior to the start of the tournament, Canada will play a pre-tournament game against Finland at 3 p.m. ET on March 30 at Slush Puppie Place in Kingston, Ontario, home of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Fans can secure their tickets when they go on sale to the public on Friday, March 8 at 10 a.m. ET. Tickets start at $20, plus applicable fees, and are available at HockeyCanada.ca/Tickets.

TSN and RDS, the official broadcast partners of Hockey Canada, will carry extensive game coverage throughout the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, broadcasting all preliminary-round games, quarterfinals, semifinals and medal games from the Adirondack Bank Center. RDS will provide coverage of all Team Canada games, in addition to two quarterfinalss, both semifinals and medal games.

For more information from the International Ice Hockey Federation, please visit the official tournament site at 2024.womensworlds.hockey.   

In 22 appearances at the IIHF Women’s World Championship, Canada has captured 12 gold medals (1990, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2012, 2021, 2022), in addition to nine silver (2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2023) and one bronze (2019).

For more information on Hockey Canada and Canada’s National Women’s Team, please visit HockeyCanada.ca or follow through social media on Facebook, X and Instagram.

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Jaques ready for what comes next

After a decorated academic and athletic career at Ohio State University, Sophie Jaques is using her place in the game – with Team Canada and in the PWHL – to inspire the next generation

Jonathan Yue
|
February 21, 2024

Sophie Jaques had plans to pursue a career in civil engineering.

Instead, the 23-year-old finds herself living out her dream as a professional hockey player with PWHL Minnesota.

“It’s been a really exciting time for women’s hockey,” Jaques says. “It’s been great to play alongside the best players in the world and learn from all their experiences.”

Jaques was born in Toronto and grew up in the city's west end, where she developed an early love for hockey.

“I started playing hockey at Rennie Park by my house,” she recalls. “I really liked it, so my parents put me in a learn-to-play program and I fell in love with the game from there.

“I remember always having a smile on my face and enjoying the time with my friends, enjoying hot chocolate and those little things like jumping into the snowbank after the Zamboni came off the ice.”

While attending Silverthorn Collegiate in Etobicoke, Jaques played three seasons with the Toronto Aeros of the Provincial Women's Hockey League — now called the Ontario Women's Hockey League — winning league championships in 2016 and 2018.

Jaques recalls spending countless hours working on her game throughout her early years.

“I went to a lot of shooting clinics when I was younger, working on my shot in the backyard, and I think that helped take my shot to the next level and [it is] something I continue to use every time I step on the ice now.”

That level of commitment is what helped set Jaques apart, whether it was hockey or academics — something that became extremely evident in her five seasons at Ohio State University.

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Making history at OSU

Jaques’ teammates and coaches in Columbus describe her as an easygoing and brilliant student-athlete, but it was on the ice where her character and strength shone through with the Buckeyes.

“Things come naturally for Sophie,” says Nadine Muzerall, women’s hockey head coach at Ohio State. “Seeing her maturity grow over the years, her confidence was a big piece of that growth, and finding success on the ice, she became a leader.”

As a rookie in 2018-19, she led all OSU rookies with 21 points (6-15—21) before topping that with 24 points (9-15—24) as a sophomore.

After posting just two goals and four points in 20 games during the COVID-affected 2020-21 season, Jaques exploded as a senior. her 59 points (21-38—59) in 38 games rank as the second-most by a defender in Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) history and the most in Ohio State history. Her contributions led the Buckeyes to their first NCAA national championship and put the women’s hockey world on notice.

“It finally all just clicked that season,” says Jaques. “I developed more confidence in myself, and it allowed me to play at my best. The next season, I wanted to prove that it wasn’t a one-off season, that it wasn’t a fluke that senior season, and that I could play that way."

Jaques returned for a fifth year and picked up right where she left off. Not only did she earn a fellowship from OSU to fund her final year to complete her master’s degree in civil engineering, Jaques put up another 48 points (24-24—48) in 41 games, becoming the first Black woman and only the 10th Canadian to be awarded the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the best women’s hockey player in the NCAA.

“She’s one of the best defencemen to play college hockey and the fact that she joined before OSU was number one in the country, and she helped build this program, that says a lot about her character and being a builder,” Muzerall says.

Jaques filled her trophy case at Ohio State; in addition to the Kazmaier Award, she was a two-time First Team All-American, two-time WCHA Defender of the Year, WCHA Player of the Year, WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete and a four-time member of the WCHA All-Academic Team.

In 2022, she won the Arthur Ashe Jr. Female Sport Scholar of the Year, an honour presented to a minority woman who has distinguished herself in her academic and athletic pursuits..

“I’ve coached a lot of people who had success, but I’ve very rarely coached someone as successful as Sophie,” says Muzerall. “In terms of point production as a defenceman, she’s the only person from Ohio State and all its respected programs to win the Arthur Ashe award, and she humbly accepted it. She was receiving national recognition, not just as a hockey player, but as a brilliant student-athlete, and that has never been done before.”

Reaching out to the community

Jaques’ achievements on and off the ice as a student-athlete only grew the game as her influence and leadership were felt among the young girls and boys in the community.

After finishing her college career last spring, Jaques returned home to Toronto to team up with Saroya Tinker to host the first Black Girl Hockey Club Canada summer camp, sharing her knowledge and experience with the next generation in the community she grew up in.

“At the beginning, it was something that I didn’t really know was happening, but I’m grateful to be in the position where I can inspire others,” Jaques says. “I want to help get more girls into hockey, and hopefully break down more barriers surrounding the game. It’s incredible to know now that I can play a small part in continuing to grow the game.”

Her reach only grew last November when she made her debut for Canada’s National Women’s Team in Los Angeles during the Rivalry Series.

“It was an incredibly grateful feeling to represent my country,” Jaques says. “Playing alongside someone like Jocelyn Larocque, who I watched when I was a young girl, and being around all those girls who have been pioneers for the women’s game, to finally get the chance to wear that jersey with that group, was incredible.”



Emma Maltais, who played with Jaques at Ohio State, was more than happy to welcome her friend to the national team. Before the game, it was Maltais who handed Jaques her Team Canada jersey.

“Sophie’s been dreaming of that moment for a long time,” says Maltais. “She’s so humble and for someone who is so good, there’s a calmness to her while she plays at such a high level. She’s so driven as a person too, in athletics and academics, and that speaks a lot to her as a person and her willingness to go the extra mile to find success.”

Trailblazer once again

After her outstanding college career, Jaques made history by becoming the first-ever Black player and the first Buckeye to be drafted into the PWHL when she was taken 10th overall by Boston — something that wasn’t even an option for her a year ago.

She made history once again earlier this month by being part of the very first PWHL trade when she was dealt to Minnesota.

“I'm really grateful that this year, it is a sustainable league with liveable wages so that I could pursue hockey,” she says. "With the PWHL being here, it helps with the next generation of Black hockey players see representation and show them that it is possible and keep them motivated in their journeys."

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For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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Edmonton, Alta., Canada
Date: Aug 3 to 10