Team USA Women’s Players to Watch at Beijing Olympics

When it was announced that the NHL players wouldn’t be going to the Olympics, many were frustrated that there would be yet another tournament that didn’t feature the world’s best players. On the women’s side, however, the world’s best will be there and they will star in the Olympics once again. This time around, Beijing is the host of what is anticipated to be a great tournament with the two giants of the sport meeting in the gold medal game. Before they get there, however, here are three players that will play integral roles in getting the Americans there.

Hilary Knight

There have only ever been four American players named to the Olympic women’s ice hockey team four times. Jenny Potter, Angela Ruggiero and Julie Chu now have company in the record book as Hilary Knight returns for her fourth tour of duty with the team. At the age of 32, there is a chance that this could be Knight’s final Olympics, although it is possible that she could continue well into her late 30s chasing even more hardware.

Hilary Knight Team USA
Hilary Knight (Photo Credit: Troy Parla)

“It is one of those things where you kind of look around and say, ‘Wait a second. How am I approaching an opportunity for a fourth Olympic Games? What happened?’ You go to tell a story and you realize no one in the room has been there,” said Knight. “But honestly, you never lose sight of why you signed up and every day at the rink is a special day because you get to do this and just have fun. There is always something to learn and yes, I might have seen something over my years where I can interject my thoughts and pass along my knowledge, but at the same time, there is so much to learn about this game and that’s very humbling.”

The native of Sun Valley, Idaho has nearly 200 games of experience with the US National Team to her name to go along with another 246 between pro hockey and the NCAA. In her experience with the National Team, Knight has scored at well over a point per game clip, scoring 126 and adding 93 points in her 190 games. She also comes to these games as a quite decorated athlete. In past Olympic games, she has a gold medal and two silver medals to her name, but she also has a long list of accolades including eight gold medals at the IIHF Women’s World Championship.

Related: 2022 Olympic Men’s Hockey Team USA Preview

For all of the accomplishments she has, some people were only first introduced to Knight when she participated in the 2020 NHL All-Star game. She competed in both a three-on-three game against Team Canada and in the newly-minted “Shooting Stars” challenge where players shot pucks at targets from a platform in the stands. In that challenge, she finished in fifth place, tied with three other NHL players. In the game, she scored a goal as the Americans lost 2-1 to the Canadians.

If this does happen to be Knight’s final time at the Olympics, there’s no doubt she will want to go out with a bang. She has a chance to add to her legacy in Beijing in February and another gold medal at the Olympics could go a long way to solidifying her status as the greatest female hockey player of all time.

Kendall Coyne Schofield

Another player who dropped some jaws at the NHL All-Star game in 2019 is Kendall Coyne Schofield. She participated in the fastest skater competition and put in a time of 14.226 seconds, beating Zach Werenski, Noah Hanifin, and Josh Bailey, 14.413. Of course, like Knight, this was far from the first time people should have taken note of her, but for many, this was the eye-opener that made them realize that Coyne Schofield is one of the best players in the women’s game right now.

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Coyne Schofield is more than just a fast skater, however. She has built herself into a serious threat offensively for the Americans over the years, averaging just over a point per game in her 155 games played with the national team. That has also been the case in her pro career after an exceptionally productive career with Northeastern University in the NCAA. In her time in college, she scored 249 points including 141 goals in 133 games, averaging over a goal per game and nearly two points per game.

United States' Kendall Coyne
United States’ Kendall Coyne (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Coming in at just 5-foot-2, Coyne Schofield is tied for smallest on the team with Cayla Barnes, but she has never let her size slow her down. Her motto is, “you don’t need to be big to dream big.” It’s safe to say that her dreams have been more than big as she heads into her third Olympic games in search of her second gold medal. In the past two trips to the Olympics, Coyne Schofield has scored four goals and nine points in 10 games, but the gold at the end of it is more important.

Maddie Rooney

A team is only ever as good as their goaltender. If they give up goals they shouldn’t, you will find yourselves clawing back on a nightly basis. That problem only becomes worse when the goaltender on the other side of the rink is Ann-Renée Desbiens, someone you know is going to stand on their head when the games get big. For this reason, Maddie Rooney is arguably the most important player on the American roster at the Olympics.

Maddie Rooney Team USA
Maddie Rooney Team USA (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Rooney was key in the last Olympics for the Americans and started the gold medal game against the Canadians before ultimately securing gold. In that tournament, Ronney stood tall for the Americans with a 1.16 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage. She also backstopped the team to a 2-1-0-1 record and a shutout.

Rooney is coming off of an injury that has held her out of competition this season, but she will be back before the Olympics. She has previously been successful with the national team in the past as well, winning two gold medals in the World Championship. Those are the only three times that Ronney has suited up internationally, she is a proven winner. When the Americans step on the ice with Rooney in the net, they will know that their goaltender can and will be a difference-maker for them, leaving them with a better than good chance to win their second-consecutive gold medal at the Olympics.

Can the Americans Repeat?

The world still has some catching up to do when it comes to catching the Americans and the Canadians in women’s hockey. As of now, it’s likely still a two-horse race between the two powerhouses, and it’s hard to see a world where they don’t meet in the gold medal game. For the Americans, there is a good route to a repeat, but the Canadians have given them problems in the Rivalry Series this year. It should be a good, competitive tournament that the Americans can come away with gold in.

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