CALGARY, AB -- Canada’s National Women’s Hockey Team departed for Finland on Monday to compete in the 3 Nations Cup tournament in Kuortane, Finland against the United States and Finland, the Canadian Hockey Association announced.
The 21-player roster, led by head coach Danièle Sauvageau of Montreal, includes 14 members of Canada’s silver medal-winning women’s Olympic team, as well as 15 players who have won at least one gold medal at the Women’s World Hockey Championship for Canada.
Sauvageau, along with assistants Ken Dufton, who also coaches the Beatrice Aeros of the Central Ontario Women’s Hockey League, and Karen Hughes, head coach of the University of Toronto varsity women’s team, will use the tournament as an evaluative tool to help choose the players who will represent Canada at the 1999 Women’ s World Hockey Championship in Espoo, Finland from March 8-14.
"I see this as Step 3 of our plan this year," said Sauvageau. "We held our first National Under-22 Evaluation Camp in August, followed by the National Women’s Team Camp in Montreal in October, so the players all will be given a good opportunity to demonstrate their ability at the international level.
"This event (3 Nations) will be a good indicator of where our team is compared to our toughest competitors. This will be the first time we will have played the Finns and Americans since the Olympics. We play the Americans in our first game, which is a good way for our team to get back into it."
The tournament will be the first major international test for goalies Sami-Jo Small of Winnipeg and Kim St-Pierre of Montreal, as well as forwards Amanda Benoit of Welland, ON, Mai-Lan Lê of Montreal, and Sommer West of Toronto. It will also be excellent exposure to international competition for assistant coaches Dufton and Hughes. Dufton is in his first stint with the National Women’s Team, while Hughes was an assistant coach on the National Women’s Team that competed for Canada at the 1996 Pacific Rim Championship. Mai-Lan Lê is a late addition to the roster, replacing Olympian Kathy McCormack, who is unable to compete owing to a broken wrist.
"The 3 Nations Cup is the first important competition on our four-year plan to prepare for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City," said Gaetan Robitaille, the CHA’s General Manager of Female High Performance Teams. "We go into any international determined to perform to the maximum and hoping to win.
"But a key objective of our four-year is also to deepen our pool of top-level players and coaches by providing them with the opportunity to test themselves against the best in the world."
The tournament is a double-round robin in which the teams face each other twice. The team with the best round-robin record wins the tournament. There is no gold-medal game. Canada opens the tournament on Dec. 10 against the USA, plays Finland on Dec. 12, the USA again on Dec. 14 and winds up the tournament against the host Finns on Dec. 16.
In January, the National Women’s Team will play a four-game tour against the Finnish Women’s Team, as further preparation for the 1999 Women’s World Hockey Championship.
"Some of the players who participate in this tournament will not be asked to participate in the January tour," said Sauvageau. "The reason for that is we have to take a look at some other players as we evaluate the talent available to participate in the World.