Olympic Women’s Hockey: Team Canada Roster Preview

With puck drop for the 2014 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament set for Saturday, Feb. 8, here’s a look at Canada’s roster of 21 players. The Canadians are three-time defending Olympic gold medalists and will set out to defend that streak in Sochi.

For the full Canadian Olympic women’s hockey roster, click here.

Goaltenders

#1 – Shannon Szabados

Hometown: Edmonton, Alta.

2012-2013 Team: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (ACAC)

Shannon Szabados (s.yume/Flickr)

Shannon Szabados (s.yume/Flickr)

Szabados is one of the top goaltenders in the world and will almost certainly be Canada’s go-to netminder in Sochi. She backstopped the team to a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, posting a .984 save percentage, 0.33 goals against average, and two shutouts en route to being named the tournament’s Best Goalkeeper. She also helped the team to a gold medal at the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championships and the 2013 Four Nations Cup. Her numbers fell off a bit this year (3.00 GAA, .863 save % in four international games; 2.59 GAA, .909 save % in 12 games in the Midget AAA series; 3.00 GAA, .727 save % at the Four Nations), but there’s no doubt that she can reach the level she was at in 2010. Canada will need her to be consistent in this tournament, especially since they’ll go up against the U.S. right off the bat in the preliminary round.

#31 – Geneviève Lacasse

Hometown: Kingston, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Boston Blades (CWHL)

Lacasse was named to Team Canada for both the 2012 and 2013 World Championships, though she didn’t see any playing time in either of those tournaments. She hasn’t gotten enough of an opportunity to show it yet at the international level, but she’s definitely got potential. As a rookie with the Boston Blades in 2012-2013, she was named the 2013 Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Year. Statistically, Lacasse was actually Canada’s best goaltender in international play this year with a 2.02 GAA and a .925 save percentage, though she only played in two games. She’s probably penciled in as third on the depth chart, but if goaltending problems arise and she’s given a chance, she could make things very interesting.

#32 – Charline Labonté

Hometown: Boisbriand, Que.

2012-2013 Team: Montreal Stars (CWHL)

Labonté won gold with the Canadians at both the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, as well as at the 2007 and 2012 World Championships. She’s been a member of the team since the 2003 Air Canada Cup and has played in six World Championships as well as the two Olympics. In 12 games in the Midget AAA series this season, she posted a 2.40 GAA and a .909 save percentage, to go along with a 2.69 GAA and .894 save percentage in three international games this year. Labonté also helped the team win gold at the Four Nations, with a 2.00 GAA and a .904 save percentage. She should slot in behind Szabados but her wealth of international experience likely has her ahead of Lacasse to start.

Szabados is normally a rock in net, but there have been some struggles there this year. We’ve seen what she can do when she’s on her game, though, and that’s completely shut down opponents. Canada will hope that she can reach the level she was at in Vancouver in 2010. If not, Labonté’s a capable back-up despite the fact that she’s getting older now, and Lacasse has really started to show some promise.

Defense

#3 – Jocelyne Larocque

Hometown: Ste. Anne, Man.

2012-2013 Team: Calgary Inferno (CWHL)

Larocque was centralized with the national team before the 2010 Winter Olympics, but was cut from the final roster. She broke through with the senior national team at the 2011 World Championships and then won gold with Canada at the 2012 Worlds. She played her college hockey at Minnesota-Duluth and was a two-time First Team All-American with the Bulldogs. Larocque is one of the squad’s most efficient stay-at-home defensemen, and she’ll likely be featured in that kind of role for the Canadians as part of a shutdown pairing.

#5 – Lauriane Rougeau

Hometown: Beaconsfield, Que.

2012-2013 Team: Cornell Big Red (ECAC)

At Cornell, Rougeau was named the ECAC’s Best Defensive Defenseman three years in a row. In 27 games in Canada’s Midget AAA Series this season, she put up a solid two goals and nine points, good enough for third in defensemen scoring on the team. Like Larocque, Rougeau is comfortable in a shutdown role, but there’s also some skill to her game. She’ll be counted on to be responsible in her own end and add a physical presence, but she’ll also be somewhat involved offensively and will have to help Canada move the puck well.

#8 – Laura Fortino

Hometown: Hamilton, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Cornell Big Red (ECAC)

As Rougeau’s teammate with the Big Red, Fortino was named a First Team All-American twice in her career there. As a freshman, she led all NCAA defensemen in scoring and showed plenty of promise through the 2012 World Championships with Team Canada. She’s fallen off a bit since then, with a down senior year at Cornell last season. Her nine points through 27 games in the Midget AAA Series seems a bit low for someone who formerly displayed dynamic offensive abilities from the blue line. Fortino’s still a solid two-way defender, with one of the better puck-moving skillsets among the Canadian defensemen.

#12 – Meaghan Mikkelson

Hometown: St. Albert, Alta.

2012-2013 Team: Calgary Inferno (CWHL)

Mikkelson will definitely provide a veteran presence on the blue line. She was a part of the gold-medal winning squad at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and has played in five World Championships, winning gold in 2012. She was named Best Defenseman of the 2011 World Championships and was named to the All-Star Team at the 2013 World Championships. As a former forward turned defensemen, Mikkelson is one of the most skilled defenders that Team Canada has. She’ll be counted on to generate some offense from the back-end but will also have to be strong in the defensive zone for the Canadians.

#18 – Catherine Ward

Hometown: Montreal, Que.

2012-2013 Team: Montreal Stars (CWHL)

Ward is one of the top three defensemen in the world and is without a doubt the leader of this blue line. She won a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics and also won gold at the 2012 World Championships. She was named CWHL Defenseman of the Year last season after leading all defensemen in scoring, and also led the blue line in scoring in the Midget AAA Series with 14 points in 26 games. Ward’s two-way abilities are all top-notch; she’s a good skater who sees the ice extremely well and takes care of things in her own end. She’s the cornerstone of this defensive corps and will likely see big minutes in all situations for Canada.

#27 – Tara Watchorn

Hometown: Newcastle, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Calgary Inferno (CWHL)

Watchorn played for Team Canada at the 2011 World Championships, winning a silver medal with the squad, but wouldn’t suit up for Canada at either of the next two Worlds. She was pretty efficient from the blue line in her NCAA career with Boston University, scoring 25 points in each of her last two seasons with the Terriers. Watchorn showed that she was capable of stepping up and playing big minutes with them, and though she won’t do the same with the Canadians, she’s proven that she’s a reliable defender. She adds decent depth to this defensive corps.

Early on in the season, Canada had a lot of success against the U.S. because they were able to slow down their attack. They’ll want to do the same in Sochi, and the defense will obviously play a huge part in that. They’ll need to set the tone physically, especially to slow things up in the neutral zone. Rougeau and Larocque will be important players in that regard, but Canada also needs big tournaments from Fortino and Mikkelson in order to move the puck well. Their skill can help get the attack started from the back-end.

Forwards

#2 – Meghan Agosta-Marciano

Hometown: Ruthven, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Montreal Stars (CWHL)

Meghan Agosta (VancityAllie/Flickr)

Meghan Agosta (VancityAllie/Flickr)

Agosta-Marciano’s only 26 years old, but she’s already been to the Olympics twice, winning gold with the Canadians in 2006 and 2010. She was especially dominant at the 2010 Games, where she scored nine goals and six assists on her way to being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Agosta-Marciano led the team in scoring at the 2013 Four Nations Cup with five points, and scored seven goals and eight points in 18 games in the Midget AAA Series. She’s a dominant scorer with pure offensive talent who will be a central part of Canada’s offense.

#6 – Rebecca Johnston

Hometown: Sudbury, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Toronto Furies (CWHL)

Johnston won Olympic gold with the team in 2010, as well as World Championship gold in 2012. She led the team in scoring in the Midget AAA Series this season, with 17 goals and 27 points in 33 games. Like Agosta-Marciano, Johnston is a scorer; she’s put up points at every level, including 265 in 118 career games at Cornell. She’s got plenty of vision and skill, and her game has developed over the past few years. She’s blossomed into a go-to player for Canada and with her talent will be counted on to help drive the offense in Sochi.

#9 – Jennifer Wakefield

Hometown: Pickering, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Toronto Furies (CWHL)

After centralizing with the squad in 2010, Wakefield was cut from the final Olympic roster, but played in the next three World Championships for Canada. She’s a responsible, versatile player who can fill a few different roles up front, but has really grown into a top-six player at the international level. At the 2013 World Championships, Wakefield was tied for second in the tournament in scoring with eight points in five games. In 32 games in the Midget AAA Series, she was third on the team in scoring with 18 points. Wakefield does a lot of things well in all three zones and has shown that she can come through in a big way for her team when needed.

#10 – Gillian Apps

Hometown: Unionville, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Brampton Thunder (CWHL)

Apps was a part of the gold-medal-winning teams at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, and was named to the Media All-Star Team at the Turin Games after scoring seven goals and 14 points. She will likely fill a bottom-six role instead of factoring into the offensive game plan, but she’s got the ability to chip in a few points. Apps plays with a physical edge, and should also see some time on specials teams as well, providing a big body in front of the net on the power play.

#13 – Caroline Ouellette

Hometown: Montreal, Que.

2012-2013 Team: Montreal Stars (CWHL)

Ouellette will be competing in her fourth Olympics for Canada, after taking part in the 2002, 2006, and 2010 Winter Games, and has competed in 11 World Championships, winning five gold medals. She was recently named captain of the squad, so she’ll no doubt be looked to for leadership. Even though she’s older now, she’ll still likely play some kind of scoring role with the team in Sochi, even if she’s not quite featured offensively. Canada’s looked to her for offense all season; she was second on the team in scoring in the Midget AAA Series with 21 points in 31 games.

#15 – Mélodie Daoust

Hometown: Valleyfield, Que.

2012-2013 Team: McGill University (CIS)

One of the younger players on the roster, Daoust hasn’t yet represented Canada at the World Championships or the Olympics, so this will be her first major tournament with the team. She’s got a ton of offensive potential, though; last season, she was named the CIS Player of the Year after leading the league in scoring with 21 goals and 53 points in 20 games. Daoust hasn’t quite burst through as a true top-six player with Team Canada yet, but she gives the Canadians a lot of depth skill-wise and can jump into an offensive role if needed.

#16 – Jayna Hefford

Hometown: Kingston, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Brampton Thunder (CWHL)

Another veteran on this squad, Hefford debuted with the national team at the 1997 World Championships and will be playing in her fifth Olympics in Sochi. She was second on the team in scoring in the 2010 Games with 12 points in five games. Despite her age, Hefford’s talent and vision has still been on display in recent showings. She was fourth on the team in scoring with five points in eight international games this season, and with 16 points in 30 games in the Midget AAA Series. She still has the ability to make things happen offensively for Canada, and will probably have an offensive role in Sochi even if she’s no longer a first-line player.

#19 – Brianne Jenner

Hometown: Oakville, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Cornell Big Red (ECAC)

In NCAA play as a junior last year, Jenner really broke out scoring-wise and she was named Ivy League Player of the Year and a First Team All-American. At the 2013 World Championships, she looked like she was really coming into her own offensively with the Canadians but her production slowed down a bit this year, scoring two points in seven international games and nine points in 23 games in the Midget AAA Series. Still, Jenner’s developed a lot as a player over the past couple of seasons and is capable of providing a good amount of secondary scoring in Sochi.

#21 – Haley Irwin

Hometown: Thunder Bay, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Montreal Stars (CWHL)

Irwin won gold with Canada back in Vancouver in 2010, and has been a member of the team since the 2009 World Championships. Throughout her career, she’s been able to put up points at a high clip; this season in the Midget AAA Series, she scored a solid 11 points in 19 games played, good enough for ninth on the team. Irwin does a lot of things well offensively, especially when it comes to winning battles, and can be a really productive player when she’s on top of her game, so she should see a lot of time on a scoring line.

#22 – Hayley Wickenheiser

Hometown: Shaunavon, Sask.

2012-2013 Team: University of Calgary (CIS)

Hayley Wickenheiser (VancityAllie/Flickr)

Hayley Wickenheiser (VancityAllie/Flickr)

Wickenheiser’s been with the team since 1993-1994, and first competed in the World Championships when she was 15 years old. Since then she’s won seven World Championships and four Olympic medals, three of them gold. Along with Ouellette and Hefford, Wickenheiser makes up a trio of veterans on this Canadian team. She’s battled injuries lately, missing time at the 2013 World Championships and not competing in the 2013 Four Nations Cup. Wickenheiser led the team in international scoring this year with nine points in seven games, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role she’s given in Sochi considering how banged up she’s been.

#24 – Natalie Spooner

Hometown: Scarborough, Ont.

2012-2013 Team: Toronto Furies (CWHL)

This will be Spooner’s first Olympics, though she’s competed in three World Championships, helping the Canadians to gold in 2012. At Ohio State, she was named a First Team All-American in her senior season. She’s one of the best pure goal scorers in the world, and has shown a knack to come through for Canada when the team needs an answer. Spooner was fifth on the team in scoring in the Midget AAA Series with six goals and 14 points in 30 games. She’s really raised her game on the international level over the past year or two, and can create a lot of things for herself. She’ll be one of the most important players up front for Canada in Sochi.

#29 – Marie-Philip Poulin

Hometown: Beauceville, Que.

2012-2013 Team: Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)

Poulin was sidelined with injury for a pretty good portion of this season, but returned for the team’s last couple of games against the U.S. As an 18-year-old in 2010, she scored both goals for Canada in a 2-0 win over the Americans to win Olympic gold. Now, she’s the best player in the world, and will be an integral part of the Canadian attack in Sochi. Poulin is the total offensive package, and her two-way game is remarkable considering how talented she is. She’s great in the face-off circle and blocks a ton of shots. She’ll be an impact player in all areas.

Agosta-Marciano and Poulin are the two most dominant forwards on this roster and will be driving things offensively. They’ve got a very strong supporting cast in Johnston, Wakefield, Spooner, and Irwin. It’ll be interesting to see where Hefford, Wickenheiser, and Ouellette all slot in, though they’ll likely all be involved in scoring lines. Apps’ size and physical game make her a good fit as a bottom-six player for the Canadians. Jenner and Daoust both also have potential to tap into and could really give Canada four dangerous lines if they’re productive.

Team Canada has one of the two deepest offenses in the world; no one besides the Americans can match them line for line. Lately we’ve seen the Canadians dominate without generating a huge number of shots and chances, just because of their style. With a new coach, though, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of identity their offense takes on in Sochi. They’ve got the skill up front to be creative and make explosive plays, but will need to win their battles so that a lack of speed throughout the line-up isn’t exposed.

Gabriella Fundaro

Gabriella Fundaro

An avid sports and hockey fan, Gabriella began covering NCAA and IIHF women's hockey for The Hockey Writers in 2012. She is currently working towards a degree and career in journalism. She can be reached on Twitter (@gabfun) or via e-mail (gfundaro10@gmail.com).
Gabriella Fundaro

2 Comments

  1. Poulin the best player in the world? Big talk. Remains to be seen how her injuries will have affected her — she didn’t do much in the last game of the series. I would say Agosta-Marciano is the best player on Team Canada at the moment, and if you’re looking for best player other than goalie it’s close between Agosta-Marciano, Stack, J Lam and Schleper.

    I know it’s a contact sport and accidents happen, but I haven’t forgiven Apps for giving Caitlin Cahow her career-ending injury and then not really caring.

    • Gabriella Fundaro says:

      To me Poulin is the best player in the world because she’s the only player I know of who can score four goals in one game and also block that many shots and just do that many things well in all areas. Agosta’s great, but I still think Poulin’s ceiling is even higher. You’re right about the injuries though, that’s definitely a concern.

      This is just me, but I would take her before all of those players you mentioned and I wouldn’t have a hard time doing it, though they’re definitely in the conversation. But if we’re picking defenders I’d go with Bozek, Hiirikoski, and Ward before Schleper.

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