Poulin leads Canada into women’s world hockey championship

Canada's Marie-Philip Poulin (29) celebrates with her gold medal after the women's gold medal hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Led by captain and golden-goal scorer Marie-Philip Poulin, Canada’s roster for the women’s world hockey championship resembles the lineup that won an Olympic gold medal in Beijing in February.

Canada opens the first women’s world championship held in the same calendar year as an Olympic Games on Aug. 25 against Finland in Herning, Denmark.

READ MORE: Canada wins gold in women’s hockey at Beijing Olympics with 3-2 win over U.S.

The Canadians are also the defending world champions having beaten the United States 3-2 in overtime in last summer’s final in Calgary.

Canada will attempt to win world titles in back-to-back years for the first time since a run of three straight gold from 1999 to 2001.

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Poulin scored the overtime winner last year in Calgary and also scored twice in the Olympic final in Beijing.

“We had a great year, we had the world championship, we had the Olympics, we had a moment where we celebrated, but now we’re back to work,” Poulin said.

READ MORE: Montreal Canadiens hire Marie-Philip Poulin as player development consultant

Eighteen players among the 23 named to the world championship roster Monday won Olympic gold just six months ago in Beijing under head coach Troy Ryan, who remains behind the bench in Denmark.

“I think what we had in Beijing was really special,” forward Blayre Turnbull said.

“We want to keep building on that and see how far we can push ourselves and push our team.

“Although it was a pretty quick turnaround, I think don’t think there was much hesitation with the older girls on the team to get back here and to get back to this environment.”

Click to play video: 'N.S. Olympians return from Pyeongchang'
N.S. Olympians return from Pyeongchang

Forward Brianne Jenner, who was named the Olympic tournament’s most valuable player, as well as starting goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens are also among the returning players on the roster announced by Hockey Canada.

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“I love my teammates and I love what we’re doing here,” Jenner said.

“I love the culture we’ve created and the direction we have for this season and the years moving forward. I just want to be a part of it.”

The roster was chosen following a two-week, 142-player camp in Calgary that included under-18 and under-22 prospects.

Four members of the Olympic team — Rebecca Johnston, Melodie Daoust, Natalie Spooner, Claire Thompson — didn’t report to camp for various personal reasons, said director of hockey operations Gina Kingsbury.

Spooner is pregnant. Thompson, named to the Olympic tournament all-star team, has been accepted into medical school.

Click to play video: 'Natalie Spooner says silver in women’s hockey ‘tough pill to swallow’'
Natalie Spooner says silver in women’s hockey ‘tough pill to swallow’

“These are women that have careers, these are women who are starting families, these are women we care about,” Kingsbury said.

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“We want our athletes to be happy. They have to be satisfied and happy in their personal lives in order for them to be able to perform and impact our program as well.

“Of course, we would have loved to have all of them back, but it opens the door to other athletes who will get the opportunity to represent Canada.”

Forwards Victoria Bach, Kristin O’Neill and Jessie Eldridge, who were released from Canada’s centralized roster last winter before the Olympic Games, were named to the world championship squad.

Forward Sarah Potomak is also back in the lineup. She played in the 2017 world championship and was released from the 2018 Olympic roster during centralization.

Veteran Meaghan Mikkelson returns to Canada’s blue-line after rehabilitating a knee injury that kept the 37-year-old out of a fourth Olympic Games.

The International Ice Hockey Federation added a top-tier women’s championship into an Olympic year largely to make for more streamlined promotion and relegation from lower-division championships, but also to encourage federations to invest more consistently in women’s hockey.

Canada’s pool of top-five seeds in Herning includes the United States, Finland, Switzerland and Japan.

The IIHF has barred Russia from competing in international hockey tournaments because of that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Czechia, Germany, Sweden, Hungary and host Denmark comprise the sixth to 10th seeds in Pool B in Frederikshavn.

The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed competition for Canada’s women for two years.

The 2020 and 2021 world championships in Halifax and Truro, N.S., were called off with the latter rerouted to Calgary last summer.

That reshuffling has Canada playing for a third major title in the span of a year.

“Coming off the end of a season like that, and especially coming off the end of the season with a world championship and an Olympic Games, the challenge of a summer world championship is that you’re giving players enough downtime,” Ryan said.

“They never really had a break through the whole pandemic, through the whole centralization because they were always on standby, ready to go. They were trying to peak for three years.”

Canada’s under-18 and developmental teams host the United States in three-game exhibition series Wednesday to Sunday in Calgary, while the national squad heads to Copenhagen for a pre-tournament camp and exhibition games Saturday against host Denmark and Aug. 23 versus the United States.

Combining the talent pool from the under-18 to the senior levels in a massive camp for the first time, as well as selecting rosters for international competition, gave Kingsbury a head start on planning for the 2026 Olympic Games in Milan and Cortina, Italy, and beyond.

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“This is an opportunity to really set our depth chart from top to bottom,” Kingsbury said.

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