CALGARY, AB -- Canada's Women's Olympic Hockey Team, as it prepares for the 1998 Winter Olympics, will play Team USA, its toughest rival at 7:00 p.m., on Saturday, in Salt Lake City, UT.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams since Canada defeated the Americans 5-4 in overtime in the gold medal game at the 1997 Women's World Hockey Championship in Kitchener, ON last April 6. It also is the first of 12 pre-Olympic games between the top two teams in women's hockey as both prepared for the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan February 1998.
The game is being held during the United States Olympic Committee's Nagano Orientation weekend, which will be attended by representative from all competing sports, as well as more than 150 media representatives.
"This weekend is a major part of the Americans' Olympic preparation and we certainly expect to face our toughest opponent so far in our 27-game pre-Olympic schedule," said Shannon Miller, Team Canada Head Coach. "The United States, along with Finland, represent our strongest competition for a gold medal at the Olympics, so our games against the Americans will be an important measuring stick for our own progress."
Canada has fashioned a 6-0 won-lost record so far, with a pair of victories over the Chinese National Women's Team and four victories over Team Sweden as it heads to Salt Lake City, host city for the 2002 Winter Games. Canada's pre-Olympic schedule includes a trip to Finland for a three-team tournament against Finland and Sweden, as well as participation in the second 3 Nation's Cup Tournament, to be held in Lake Placid, and other sites, from Dec. 13-20.
Canada has been carrying 28 Olympic hopefuls on its training roster since the team opened camp at Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary on September 7, but will pare their roster to 20 players by early December and take only 20 to Nagano for the first-ever Women's Olympic Hockey Tournament. That means that pre-Olympic games such as the one against Team USA in Salt Lake City are important for evaluating the Canadian team players competing for Olympic berths, as well as preparing the club for the Olympic tournament.
Team Canada will take 20 players to Salt Lake City for the game, including goaltender Lesley Reddon of Fredericton, NB and Daniell Dube of Vancouver, BC, who shared netminding duties for Canada at the Women's World Championship.
Not making the trip for Canada will be: goaltenders Manon Rheaume and Sammi Jo Small; defenders Geraldine Heaney, Carol Scheibel; and forwards Karen Nystrom, Stacy Wilson, France St-Louis and Nancy Drolet.
Canada will play a three-game series against Team USA Nov. 7, 8 and 10, with games in Bathurst, NB, Saint John, NB and Kitchener, ON before departing on Nov. 11 for Finland. The three country tournament, with Canada, Finland and Sweden, begins in Finland on Nov. 12, with Finland playing Sweden.