Goalie trio battling for Olympic starts
CALGARY—Three goalies already know they’ll represent Canada in women’s hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is a certainty their teammates currently don’t possess.
Each country will have three goaltenders on their 21-player rosters at the Olympic women’s hockey tournament in Sochi, Russia next February.
But the three women insist that doesn’t take pressure off their shoulders. The stakes are different—but no less high in their minds.
Nine defencemen are chasing six jobs while 15 forwards are vying for the dozen openings on the Olympic roster.
Church intends to name his Olympic team by the end of December.
The skaters chosen will dress for every game in Sochi. The goaltenders don’t have that luxury and thus are competing for Olympic starts.
“People say, ‘You guys are lucky you are going,’ but there’s only going to be one of us playing in that gold-medal game,” Lacasse noted.
“All three of us, that’s our goal, to be the starting goalie in the gold-medal game.”
Canada will meet reigning world champion U.S. in a preliminary-round game Feb. 12 in Sochi. Finland and Switzerland also are in Canada’s pool.
The Canadians and Americans are expected to meet again for gold Feb. 20.
The majority of players trying out for Canada’s Olympic team are from outside of Alberta and have relocated to Calgary for the next six months.
They’re skating and training daily, and are playing intra-squad games this week.
The women will play 50-60 games before departing for Sochi.
Included in that schedule are games against Alberta Midget ‘AAA’ men’s teams, as well as eight games against the U.S. women—six exhibition ones and two at the Four Nations Cup in November.
In a non-Olympic year, the women’s world championships and the annual Four Nations Cup provide less than 10 international starts in total for Canada’s three goalies.
So Labonte, Szabados, and Lacasse will have opportunities this winter they don’t normally get to play themselves up—or down—the national team’s depth chart.
The head coach stressed there isn’t an incumbent No. 1 for the Olympic Games.
“Going into the year, it’s wide open,” Church remarked.
“In my mind, all three are on equal footing right now.”