The Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey tournament will begin on Saturday, Feb. 10 and conclude with the gold medal game on Saturday, Feb. 22. Here’s a quick look at what to expect from Team USA’s perspective.
1. The Format
Unlike the men’s tournament, the best four teams in the world are grouped together in the preliminary round. This guarantees at least one game between the teams that have dominated the sport to this point, Canada and the United States.
United States, Canada, Finland, Russia
Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Korea
All four teams from Group A are guaranteed a spot in at least the quarterfinals. The third-place team will face the second-place team from Group B in one quarterfinal, while the fourth-place team will face the winner of Group B. The top two Group A teams are given byes into separate semifinals — increasing the odds that the best two teams, the U.S. and Canada will play for the gold medal.
Women’s ice hockey was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1998 at the Nagano Games. The U.S. has medaled at every Olympic Winter Games, winning the gold right off the bat in 1998 to go along with three silvers (2002, 2010, 2014) and one bronze (2006). Canada has won every gold medal since 2002, defeating the Americans in the final every time except for in 2006, when Sweden made the final with a shootout victory over the U.S. in the semifinals. There’s good reason to believe the U.S.-Canada rivalry will again be renewed twice in the coming weeks, the second time for gold.
While Canada has dominated the Olympic gold medals, the Americans have come on strong since losing the gold in overtime in 2014. The U.S. has played Canada in seven international tournaments since the last Olympics and won 11 of 14 head-to-head meetings while claiming six of the seven titles. Including exhibitions and the 2017-18 season in preparation for these Games, the U.S. has won 12 of the last 22 meetings.
3. Get to Know Team USA
The U.S. team features a mix of Olympic experience and young talent. Ten players — Kacey Bellamy, Kendall Coyne, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Gigi Marvin and Lee Stecklein — were on the Olympic team that won silver four years ago, and six of those (Bellamy, Duggan, Knight, Lamoureux-Davidson, Lamoureux-Morando and Marvin) also won silver in 2010.
One key area that will feature new faces will be in goal, where none of the three keepers on the roster have any Olympic experience. But Alex Rigsby (who was the final goalie cut in 2014), Nicole Hensley and Maddie Rooney have all performed well on the international stage in recent years.
4. Behind the Bench
Former NHL goaltender Robb Stauber will be the head coach of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team. Stauber has served as head coach of both the 2017-18 U.S. Women’s National Team and the U.S. team that claimed the gold medal at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan, this past spring. He was an assistant coach for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team in Sochi, Russia. A native of Medina, Minnesota, Stauber became the first goaltender ever to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey player in 1988. He played five seasons in the NHL, appearing in 62 games for the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres. He retired as a player after the 1998-99 season.
5. Family Affair
It’s often said that the hockey world is one big family, and there are several literal examples on Team USA. The most recognizable name may be Amanda Kessel, whose brother Phil is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and has represented Team USA in the past as well. Amanda Kessel is a two-time Olympian and won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey, in 2013. Twin sisters Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando have been part of various U.S. teams since 2006 and will be playing in their third Olympics.
Most interesting, though, is the story of another set of sisters, Hannah and Marissa Brandt. Hannah Brandt will be playing in her first Olympics for Team USA after representing her country in the 2012, '15 and '17 World Championships. Now she could have the opportunity to play against her adopted older sister, Marissa Brandt, who will play for the host Korean squad. While Marissa grew up playing hockey in Minnesota with Hannah, she was born in South Korea and adopted by the Brandts when she was only four months old.