Team Canada celebrates the game winning goal against Team USA during overtime National Women’s Team series hockey action in Edmonton, Alta., on Sunday December 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Team Canada celebrates the game winning goal against Team USA during overtime National Women’s Team series hockey action in Edmonton, Alta., on Sunday December 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Fresh off U.S. series, decision time coming for Canada’s women’s hockey team

EDMONTON — Laura Schuler remembers how anxious she felt before her meeting with coach Shannon Miller to learn if she had made Canada’s first Olympic women’s hockey team.

“The set-up is similar to what they do now where you’re down to your final selections and the core of the team that is still remaining gets individually brought into a room one by one and you’re there with the head coach and two assistants,” Schuler said. “Obviously then your fate is determined.

“I remember being very nervous before walking in the room.”

Schuler received happy news on that day two decades ago as she and the Canadian team went onto win silver at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. She also knows what it feels like to not make the cut as she was left off the 1994 world championship team.

The first former player to coach the Olympic team, the 47-year-old from Toronto is now the one making those decisions of joy and heartbreak ahead of February’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Twenty-eight women were summoned to try out for the team attempting to defend the gold won in an overtime thriller against the U.S. in 2014.

After a gruelling boot camp in June, the women congregated in Calgary in August to begin full-time preparation for Pyeongchang.

Schuler, assistants Dwayne Gylywoychuk of Winnipeg and Troy Ryan of Spryfield, N.S., and general manager Melody Davidson of Oyen, Alta., have been scrutinizing players in practices and games.

Forward Amy Potomak of Aldergrove, B.C. and defender Erin Ambrose of Keswick, Ont., were released Nov. 20.

Three more skaters will be cut to get to the roster of three goaltenders and 20 skaters, compared to the previous limit of three and 18 in 2014.

Goaltenders Shannon Szabados of Edmonton, Genevieve Lacasse of Kingston, Ont., and Ann-Renee Desbiens of Malbaie, Que., will be Canada’s three goalies in Pyeongchang. They’re competing for coveted starts.

Having experienced both acceptance and rejection, Schuler says there is no way to make what will be painful for some players less painful.

“No, absolutely not,” she said. “Obviously we had to let go of two players there and it was one of the hardest things we had to do as a staff and as a team because they become a part of your family.

“It’s a matter of finding what works into your puzzle. Getting all the pieces to come together, it’s a really challenging process and what lies ahead of us is really tough.

“It’s so close with our players. That’s just what’s going to be so hard. It’s so close. I’m talking paper thin.”

Hockey Canada has until Jan. 21 to submit its women’s roster to the Canadian Olympic Committee.

If history is an indicator, the Olympic team could be named as early as this week. Players in previous centralizations have gone home for their holiday break knowing their status.

“We have no idea when releases are going to be made,” two-time Olympic defender Meaghan Mikkelson said.

“It’s my third time around and it’s still stressful. It’s still hard. If you think you might be on the team, you want to know if you’re going to be on the power play or the penalty kill.

“You’re always thinking about one thing or another, but speaking from personal experience, I’ve just tried to never get complacent and just to try to stay in the moment because you can make it a lot harder on yourself than it needs to be.”

The Canadian women wrapped up their six-game pre-Olympic series against the U.S. with a 2-1 overtime win Sunday in Edmonton. Canada took the series 5-1.

The women have back-to-back games against male midget triple-A teams Tuesday and Wednesday. Since the 2006 Olympics, the women have made Alberta Midget Hockey League games part of their centralization schedule.

Rookie defender Micah Zandee-Hart of Saanichton, B.C., says she’s tried to concentrate on her performance and not think about the final cuts.

“There’s definitely ups and downs. I won’t lie to you,” the 20-year-old said.

“There have been times throughout this process that has been on my mind, but I think going into these last few games, it’s really important to play your best game and not really think about that happening, even though we know it is going to happen.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver as Liberal on Wednesday February 8, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon headed for minority government as two main parties in a tie

Liberals came into the election looking to build on their surprise 2016 majority win

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Sajjan took aim at recent Chinese military expansions into the South China Sea this evening even as he faced questions about the Liberal government’s ties to Beijing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Sajjan targets Chinese claims in South China Sea, battles Tories over Beijing ties

HMCS Calgary shadowed for at least part of the voyage as it passed near the disputed Spratly Islands

Transport trucks approach the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. North American trade is facing a “critical moment” in the ongoing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, say Canadian business leaders as they embark on a concerted campaign to fortify ties with the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canada-U.S. trade faces ‘critical moment’ that demands urgent action, businesses warn

Will fall to Canada to ensure its best interests are represented

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Children at the Port Angeles Boys & Girls Club practice social distancing throughout the day to minimize the spreading of germs and potentially the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula
Opinion: Teach young people these five principles

At all ages, young people may be the subject of mean behaviours… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: MLAs need to think about all Albertans

I was surprised to find more than a dozen UCP MLAs were… Continue reading

Most Read