While hockey fans anxiously await next month’s World Cup of Hockey and the start of the 2016-17 National Hockey League season in October, there’s quality hockey underway in Calgary where women’s teams from the United States and Canada are resuming one of the fiercest rivalries in sports.
Forget Flyers-Penguins, Red Sox-Yankees, Cowboys and the Washington football team we shall not name, this rivalry between the world’s two best women’s hockey programs has more snarl, more grudge, more passion than any of them.
There’s little friendly in the friendlies that the U.S. and Canadian Under-22 and Under-18 teams will play in the series, which started Wednesday night.
The series has all the ingredients, including talented players of color and, of course, a Nurse.
Forward Sarah Nurse is one of the captains for Canada’s U-22 squad. The Hamilton, Ont., native led the University of Wisconsin women’s team in scoring last season with 25 goals and 13 assists in 36 games.
She is the cousin of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, who starred for Canada in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, and Kia Nurse, point guard for the 2015 and 2016 NCAA champion University of Connecticut women’s basketball teams. She played for Canada at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Sarah Nurse was the difference-maker in Canada’s 2-1 win over the U.S. Wednesday, scoring the game-winning goal at 19:37 of the second period.
Joining Nurse on Canada’s U-22 squad is Harvard defenseman Kaitlin
Tse, who registered an assist on Bach’s goal Wednesday night. Tse played 32 games in 2015-16 as a freshman for the Crimson, tallying a goal and 10 assists.
She was a member of Canada’s Silver Medal-winning team at the 2015 IIHF Under-18 World Championship and the 2014 Canadian squad that defeated the U.S. in a three-game series in 2014
Like Nurse, she comes from an athletic family. Her older brother, Matthew Tse, plays for Hong Kong’s national lacrosse team.
Nurse and Tse will face Team USA’s Kelsey Koelzer, a defenseman from Princeton University. The junior from Horsham, Pa., notched 17 goals and 16 assists in 33 games for the Tigers last season and finished second on the team with 8 game-winning goals.
Her game balances with offense and defense: she took 122 shots and blocked 61 pucks last season. The New York Riveters chose Koelzer in the first round of the 2016 National Women’s Hockey League Draft last month.
Defenseman Avery Mitchell is representing Canada
on its U-18 squad. She’s a blue-liner for the Toronto Jr. Aeros of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League.
Mitchell tallied 3 goals and 11 assists in 34 games for the Aeros last season. She collected a Bronze Medal playing for Ontario Blue at the 2015 National Women’s Under-18 Championship in Huntsville, Ont.