The Next Wave

USA Hockey Has Created A Golden Pipeline With Its U18 Women’s Program

When members of the U.S. Women's National Team gathered in Chicago for the Four Nations pre-camp in November, they were joined by six players who weren't members of the team.

Well, at least not yet anyway.

Getting a chance to practice with and workout alongside some of the best in the game were six rising stars-Hadley Hartmetz, Caroline Harvey, Hannah Hogenson, Abbey Murphy, Dominique Petrie and Skylar Vetter-who will compete at the IIHF U-18 World Championship in Obihiro, Japan. 

With four straight Under-18 World Championships to its credit, USA Hockey has built a foundation for excellence through its U-18 program that permeates up to its Women's National Team, which recently backed up its gold-medal effort at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games with a fourth consecutive Four Nations Cup title.

In total, 14 members of the U.S. squad that won gold in PyeongChang, South Korea cut their competitive teeth with the U-18 program.

One of those young players who had an immediate impact at the highest level is Cayla Barnes, a 19-year-old defenseman who won Olympic gold one year after captaining the U-18 squad. 

And now, inviting U-18 players to skate with the National Team enhances those bonds by giving the youngsters an opportunity to see what it takes to get to the next level. 

"I remember being a U-18 myself and being able to train with the National Team," said two-time Olympian Kendall Coyne Schofield. 

 "For them to see our habits, what we do on and off the ice, how we approach our nutrition, our sleep, our practice habits, it's important because those are the things they're going to have to do if they want to continue to put on the U.S. jersey."

The initiative has made the transition easier when players are ready to make that jump, as it provides a sense of familiarity and cohesiveness, leaving one less hurdle to deal with while trying to raise their level of play.

"It's seamless, it really is. That's part of the culture," said current U.S. Women's National Team head coach Bob Corkum. 

"The younger girls come in, they're immediately taken under the wing of the older veterans. Showing them how we do things here. It's part of the fabric that has made up USA Hockey and women's hockey at this point."

For Abbey Murphy, the opportunity to skate with some of her idols was a surreal experience, especially with the camp located 30 minutes from her home in Evergreen Park, Ill.

"Honestly, it was unbelievable when I heard about it," said Murphy, who is committed to the University of Minnesota. "The experience to be able to play with all these older girls was an unbelievable feeling. Especially looking up to all of them, it's crazy. It was a lot of fun. I'm glad I got invited."

U-18 Women's head coach Maura Crowell, who was on hand at the Four Nations pre-camp, feels like the experience will be an important piece as the U.S. shoots for a fifth straight gold in January.

"It's such an awesome opportunity for those guys to get on the ice with the national team players," said Crowell, who is getting her first experience as head coach of a U.S. national team, and is the current head women's ice hockey coach at Minnesota Duluth. 

"Being pushed to play at a faster pace, move pucks quicker and just overall be stronger and think the game faster is such a benefit for the U-18s. They also learn about leadership and what it takes to excel at that next level. I think it was very inspiring to all of the six players that were there."

It didn't take long for the youngsters to see that they would need to elevate their game. For 15-year-old goalie Skylar Vetter, staring down more experienced shooters meant those lessons, like the shots she faced, came fast and furious. Fortunately, the Lakeville, Minn., native was up to the challenge.

"They don't take it easy on me, especially as a goalie. They are trying to get better, like I am," said Vetter, who is also committed to attend the University of Minnesota. "It's really fun because they're all so competitive."

The week allowed the younger players to grow on the ice and off it, as their experiences left a lasting impression that will carry over once they return to their respective teams. 

"Just seeing how these players focus for practices and lifts, it's the little details like that that that add up and make the difference," said Dominique Petrie, a 17-year-old freshman at Harvard University. "For me, being able to come in and listen and learn from what they do, what they say, how they act, just shows you what the National Team and the culture is all about."

Armed with this experience, these six players will look to share that knowledge with their teammates as they head to Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. 

"Where we can help elevate each one of our teammates' game and hopefully that will lead us to winning another gold medal out in Japan this year. That's the ultimate goal," said Petrie, who captained the U.S. Under-18 Women's Select Team in a summer showcase against Canada. 

The interaction also provides an extra source of motivation, with players realizing that they are on the right path to get to their desired destination as a National Team contributor.

"My takeaway is seeing how hard these girls work," Murphy said. "Every day to get better and push themselves, I think that's a main takeaway that I've seen and want to keep with me throughout my whole process."

For National Team members, having the chance to see up close what the future of the U.S. program looks like gives them confidence that their winning tradition is in good hands.

"They were all awesome," Coyne Schofield said. "The future of our program is so bright and I know there are a tremendous amount of U-18 players that are going to fill our shoes one day in such a positive way."

 

Issue: 
2019-01

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