Veteran forwards Poulin, Johnston lead Canada's bid to reclaim Olympic hockey gold

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  • Rebecca Johnston
    Ice hockey player

CALGARY — Marie-Philip Poulin and Rebecca Johnston will represent Canada in Olympic women's hockey for a fourth time in their careers after winning gold in both 2010 and 2014, and silver in 2018.

The two veterans were among the 23 women named to Canada's roster Tuesday for the Winter Games in Beijing opening Feb. 4.

"It's tough, to be honest, to put into words that emotion when you walk into the opening ceremonies, and realize that you're there. You made it," Poulin said. "It's an honour every time you wear that Maple Leaf."

Three goaltenders, seven defenders and 13 forwards were announced virtually by Hockey Canada.

"The best thing about this group right now right now is we're confident with the work that we've done to date, but we're also eager with the work that's still left to be done to make us successful in Beijing," said head coach Troy Ryan of Spryfield, N.S.

Thirteen women return from the team that lost 3-2 in a shootout to the United States in the 2018 gold-medal game in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Canada opens its bid to reclaim gold the day before the opening ceremonies with a preliminary-round game against Switzerland in Beijing's National Indoor Stadium.

The gold-medal game is Feb. 16.

Twenty-nine players centralized in Calgary in July to begin Olympic preparation. Defender Meaghan Mikkelson and forwards Victoria Bach and Kristin O'Neill were the final cuts from the team.

Defender Jamie Bourbonnais and forwards Jessie Eldridge and Julia Gosling were released Dec. 3.

Mikkelson, a three-time Olympian and the oldest player on the centralized roster at 37, didn't play games until mid-December.

A severe knee injury sustained during a Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association game in May required surgery in June, and a long rehabilitation limited Mikkelson to just four games.

Defenders Erin Ambrose and Micah Zandee-Hart, who were released from the 2018 team, were named to the 2022 roster.

Kristin Campbell, Ann-Renée Desbiens and Emerance Maschmeyer are Canada's goaltenders.

Ambrose, Zandee-Hart, Ashton Bell, Renata Fast, Jocelyne Larocque, Ella Shelton and Claire Thompson round out the defenders.

Emily Clark, Mélodie Daoust, Sarah Fillier, Brianne Jenner, Emma Maltais, Sarah Nurse, Jamie Lee Rattray, Jillian Saulnier, Natalie Spooner, Laura Stacey and Blayre Turnbull join Poulin and Johnston at forward.

Women's Olympic rosters are 23 players compared to the men's 25.

Larocque, Jenner, Daoust and Spooner will compete in a third Olympic Games. Fillier, the youngest at 21, is among 10 making their debuts.

Watching Canada battle for gold four years ago in Pyeongchang fuelled Fillier.

"I remember telling my family members 'I want to be representing Canada and wearing that jersey at the next Olympics,'" she said.

"Something I did from watching 2018 is I've been writing '2022' on the bottom of my stick for four years. To finally say you made that team is really special."

Canada edged the United States 3-2 in overtime Aug. 31 for its first women's world championship since 2012. That world championship was rescheduled and relocated to Calgary after Nova Scotia cancelled the April tournament.

Canada's women have played a combined 27 games since July in the world championship, and games against the United States and Finland women, male Junior A and under-17 teams and Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association (PWHPA) players.

A nine-game Rivalry Series against the U.S. was curtailed to six games, however, due to COVID-19 cases on the Canadian team, which also delayed the Dec. 22 announcement of the Olympic roster to Tuesday.

Canada's last game was a 3-2 overtime win over the American women Dec. 17 in St. Louis. The series' final three games, including two scheduled to be played in Alberta, were called off.

The Canadian women have walled themselves off from the public to avoid more infections, and be able to board a plane Jan. 26 for Beijing, says director of hockey operations Gina Kingsbury.

"From now until then, we're basically in a bubble," Kingsbury said. "We're going to take every precaution that we possibly can as a group to remain safe and to create the right environment, not only to be safe, but also to be at our best and prepare."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2022.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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