OTTAWA, Ont. – Silver at the Women’s Worlds is starting to get a little old for Jayna Hefford.
One of 29 players chosen Thursday to attend the selection camp for this year's women’s world championship, Hefford (Kingston, Ont./Brampton, CWHL) hopes to help end Canada's recent gold medal drought at the tournament.
The Canadians have lost to their rival Americans in the final at the last three world championships.
“We've had a few silver medals at the world championships the last number of years and it's been disappointing,” Hefford said at a press conference at SBP Arena. “As you know, when you play for Canada and you play hockey, gold is what's expected from the players, as well as the rest of the country.''
Eighteen of the players invited to the March 26-April 1 selection camp played in the tournament last year. Other returning veterans include Gillian Apps (Ruthven, Ont./Brampton, CWHL), Tessa Bonhomme (Sudbury, Ont./Toronto, CWHL) and Hayley Wickenheiser (Shaunavon, Sask./University of Calgary, CIS).
Following the Ottawa camp, head coach Dan Church (Toronto, Ont./York University, CIS) and assistants Doug Derraugh (Arnprior, Ont./Cornell University, ECAC) and Danielle Goyette (St-Nazaire, Que./University of Calgary, CIS) will select 23 players for the final squad that will travel to Burlington, Vt., for the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, taking place April 7-14.
Hefford expects it to be a competitive camp.
“It's going to be tough getting out of camp and getting down to that final roster,'' the 34-year-old forward said. “The depth we have in our country is so good now.”
“Heading into the world championship, I have so much faith, and I know that we have a group or we will have a group put together that can win a gold medal in Burlington,” she said.
Despite having several returning veterans, Church said each player will have to earn her spot.
“I think that's the beauty of the depth of players in our country,” he said. “We need everyone to come prepared to battle for their position and really bring skill and a level of sandpaper to their game, that grit and determination.”
One familiar face will not be at the camp. Goalie Kim St-Pierre (Châteauguay, Que./Montreal, CWHL) is taking time off after recently giving birth to her first child.
“It's great for her and her family and we knew that all year, but I'm sure she's looking forward to coming back next year,” Church said.
The three goaltenders in camp include Charline Labonté (Boisbriand, Que./McGill University, CIS) and Shannon Szabados (Edmonton, Alta./Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, ACAC), both part of Canada’s gold medal team at the 2010 Olympic Games, and Genevieve Lacasse (Kingston, Ont./Providence College, Hockey East).
“We're blessed with a lot of depth at that position,” Church said. “I think Shannon, Charline and Genevieve, being the newest player in the mix, are all going to push to be in the pipes.''
The highlight of the selection camp will be an exhibition game against the United States on March 31 at the Ottawa Civic Centre.
“Of late we've been on the other side of the score,”Church said.
“I think the challenge for us is to come prepared and play our best when the best matters, and that's the gold medal game,” he said. “The key is for us from the time we get together here in Ottawa and our preparation camp, that we're really working on those fundamental habits that are going to allow us to be successful in the gold medal game.''
The Canadians opens the world championship April 7 against the defending champion Americans at the University of Vermont.
Canada and the U.S. have met in the final of all 13 women's world championships.
The U.S. have won four of the last five. The Canadians won eight straight before that.
In contrast, the Canadian women have won gold at the last three Olympics, beating the Americans in two finals. The U.S. defeated Canada in the gold medal game in 1998.
A change to international women's hockey this year is the change from 21 to 23 players on rosters, the same as at the men's world championships.
The International Ice Hockey Federation also altered the format of the world championship, and it's likely the same format will be used for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The top four seeded teams are in one pool and teams seeded fifth to eighth are in another. The top six advance to the playoff round, while the bottom two teams play a best-of-three relegation series. Canada will play the U.S., Finland and Russia in the preliminary round.