Canadian National Women’s Team Shows Promise at Capital City Challenge

The Capital City Challenge is officially underway. The first game of the tournament featured the Canadian National Women’s Team and Team Canada White, a team comprised of some of the best U17 talents the nation has to offer. Anyone hoping to see the women knock off the boys left the arena a touch disappointed after Team White won the game 7-3 and dominated on the shot clock, but there was plenty to like about the women’s team on the day. Regardless, it was a fantastic opportunity to watch some of the best female players on the planet play hockey and they certainly did not disappoint.

Marie-Philip Poulin Has a Big Afternoon

By now, this country should be used to seeing Marie-Philip Poulin score goals and points in bunches. Against Team White, she showed just how talented she is by scoring two goals in the third period and being all over the game the entire way. Her chemistry with her linemates (Emily Clark and Jesse Eldridge) was top-tier, and it showed in her two goals. Both goals came off of beautiful passing plays that left the goaltender with little chance to make a save.

Marie-Philip Poulin Team Canada
Marie-Philip Poulin Team Canada (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)

“Obviously, it’s a tough stretch of our process right now and I think we have been traveling a lot and played lots of games in not many days,” said Poulin. “For us, we just have to find a way, and wearing that jersey, it’s going to be easy to find that way.”

Related: Previewing the Capital City Challenge

These games serve as a tune-up for the women’s team, of course, as they continue to prepare for the Olympics in Beijing, China. There were aspects of the game that needed work, but overall, you can see them coming along and progressing from where they were in the past few months. There’s a lot to like, a thought that Poulin shares.

“I think the mix of veterans and rookies together, I like the energy on the ice,” said Poulin. “We have a great group, we connect very well, so it’s been a great journey so far and we’re looking forward to many more memories for sure. I think the hard work is something that this group does every day coming to the rink, getting ready to go for the next day.”

Natalie Spooner One of the Best Players on the Ice

Throughout the game, there was one player that I kept noticing. Natalie Spooner was everywhere at all times, it seemed. She was all over the ice making plays and showing her exceptional pace. Spooner’s pace was simply something to behold, but there were a couple of other players who showed that off too. Those include Sarah Fillier, who had one of the fastest rushes I have seen watching live hockey and of course Poulin, who skates like the wind.

Natalie Spooner Team Canada
Natalie Spooner is a talented scorer and even better leader for Canada (Photo Credit: BDZ Sports (CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)), via Wikimedia Commons)

Spooner’s afternoon was really impressive, but it’s not something we should really be too shocked about anymore. She has been a rock-solid player for the Canadians for years. She scored the game’s opening goal for the women on the power play, a goal that tied the game at the time. It came after some great puck movement, showing that the power play was starting to click before Spooner buried it.

Her motor all afternoon long was phenomenal. They got down by five goals in the third period and it would have been really easy to pack it up and turn their attention to their next game, but they didn’t. They kept their foot on the gas and went back to work. Spooner was among the key contributors for them and it’s clear that her veteran leadership will go a long way with some of the young players on the roster.

Kirsten Campbell Impresses

It’s not too often that you would say a goaltender played well when they give up seven goals, but the context changes just a little bit when you find out that they faced 48 shots. That’s the situation that Kirstin Campbell was thrust into. The young goaltender made save after save and gave her team a better chance to win. Most of the goals scored on her left her little chance to make a save, but she did well to turn aside numerous quality chances.

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Cambell is one of the Canadians’ younger players and she has a chance to prove herself in a very tough competition. If you had to evaluate her play, it wouldn’t come away with a perfect score, but you could confidently say that if Canada were forced to have her start for whatever reason, she could get the job done. Her rebound control was good and she moves exceptionally well, making her fun to watch.

Playing Team Red

Things aren’t going to get any easier for the women’s team in this tournament. They will next play Team Red on Saturday evening from the Arena at TD Place. Team Red had a tough night on Friday, losing 7-2 against an excellent Team Black that should be considered favorites in this tournament.

“They probably feel the same way we do, something to prove after getting beat,” said Kris Mallette, the head coach of Team Red. “They were in Kelowna and practicing earlier this year, so I’m well aware of the work ethic and the structure that they bring, and I think that today’s game for them, 48 shots against, I don’t think the score was indicative of how they played. I know that they are a proud bunch and they are going to be coming out to push us. It’s a close game for both teams, and ideally, we’d be on top.”


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