|Mulhacen Pavilion, site of the majority of the 2015 World University Games women's hockey tournament|
While most of the Lady Ice Lions are getting back to the typical weekly routine following three decisive wins over the weekend, for one, the big games are just starting.
Senior defenseman Madison Smiddy and 21 other top players from the around the ACHA are presently in Granada, Spain as members of the U.S. National University Select Team, which is set to tackle the 2015 Winter World University Games women's hockey tournament beginning with a contest against China on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. eastern time. The WUG's opening ceremony will take place on Wednesday.
In contrast to busier pre-tournament schedules of previous years, Team USA's coaching staff - led by Colorado's Kristen Wright - elected to play just one tune up this time around after congregating in Chicago last week for a few practices and then flying over to Europe. On Sunday, the U.S. defeated Spain 6-0, a contest shortened to two periods due to ice issues and featuring two goals apiece from Miami RedHawks Rachael Booth and Hayley Williams.
The squad has been placed into Pool A of the competition, along with 2009 silver medalist China, Spain and Japan. The U.S. will play a preliminary-round game against each of those nations, then advance to the semifinals should it finish in the top two of the four following the round robin. Three-time defending gold medalist Canada, defending silver medalist Russia and Kazakhstan occupy Pool B and seek to follow a similar path. All games will be played at the Mulhacen Pavilion, except for the bronze and gold medal games, which are set for the larger Granada Sport Palace.
Excluding Smiddy, seven players from the Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League are on the Team USA roster, a group highlighted by 2011-12 Penn State Lady Icer Paige Harrington, who now plays defense for Massachusetts. Adding in Miami's national-high five representatives means that 12 2014-15 Lady Ice Lions opponents will now be joining forces with PSU's Grand Rapids, MI native.
The group will attempt to match or better the historic bronze medal finish of 2013's squad in Trentino, Italy, which featured Lady Ice Lions alumna Katie Vaughan (who would later win USA Hockey's Adult Player of the Year award, based largely on her tournament performance) and former Lady Icers coach Mo Stroemel. The first women's team USA Hockey commissioned for the biennial competition finished fourth in 2011 in Erzurum, Turkey and included Stroemel, Vaughan, Heather Rossi, Lindsay Reihl and Denise Rohlik, all then of the Lady Icers.
The U.S. World University Games organizing committee has announced that (conditional on advancement, of course) both the semifinals and gold or bronze medal games will be streamed live on its website, wugusa.com, and Ustream channel. Updates from those games and others will be available through Twitter account @USAHockeyScores and through the event's official website, granada2015.org. Additional coverage, including game recaps and interviews, will be found on usahockey.com.
Here is the complete Team USA schedule:
Thu. Feb. 5
Sat. Feb. 7
Mon. Feb. 9
Wed. Feb. 11
Thu. Feb. 12
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