By Matthew Wuest
Chanda Gunn hopes the third time's a charm at the Women's World Hockey Championship this week.
Although it's the goaltender's third time making Team USA's roster, Gunn still hasn't played a game for the team. She tore her medial collateral ligament the night before flying to Sweden for the Four Nations Cup in November, and last year's World Championship in China was cancelled because of the SARS virus outbreak.
Gunn's bags were packed for her flight to China when she got the call from U.S. coach Ben Smith about the cancellation.
"It was really disappointing," said Gunn, a native of Huntington Beach, California. "Being one of the younger kids, I was like 'I don't care if I live a day after the tournament. I just want to play."
That didn't happen, and it didn't get any easier sitting out at the Four Nations Cup.
"Every single day, I cried," she said. But now, the 24-year-old is in Halifax, healthy, and ready to go. "I get another chance, and I'm very fortunate," Gunn said. "A lot of people don't even get one."
She's certainly earned that chance. Gunn recently capped a tremendous NCAA career at Northeastern University, posting a 2.06 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in 27 games. She earned first-team all-American honours and her third-straight nomination for the Patty Kazmaier Award, annually presented to the NCAA's best player.
"I got really lucky," said Gunn, whose team exceeded expectations and was eliminated by top-seeded New Hampshire in the Hockey East semifinal. "I played for a phenomenal coach (Joy Woog) and a great team, and we were able to be pretty successful."
While the U.S. coaches haven't made a decision on their starting goaltender for the Worlds, Gunn will have some pretty heady competition from 22-year-old Pam Dreyer. Dreyer backstopped Team USA to a gold medal at the Four Nations Cup, stopping all 11 shots in a sudden-death shootout against Canada in the championship game.
Both goaltenders are trying to fill the void left by retired veteran Sara DeCosta-Hayes, who ended her seven-year career with the program in December to start a family. Gunn has always looked up to DeCosta-Hayes. "Someone once asked me if there is any pressure trying to fill her shoes, and I told them no one can take her place," said Gunn. "She's one of a kind, a phenomenal goaltender. I just hope I can make her proud this week."
That could happen if Gunn helps the U.S. team capture its first World Championship gold medal, and she's already having the time of her life. "I'm having a lot of fun, and I've only been here one day," said Gunn. "We're just all out here to play. We're all excited to be here and we want to win every game and do our best."