Women gearing up for gold-medal game

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

While the Canadian junior team idles in British Columbia and a nation awaits the selections for the men's Olympic team on Wednesday, the national women's team quietly goes about its business.

A successful vocation of dominating the world.

The Canadian women's centralized roster has 26 players vying for 20 spots on the Olympic team. Based out of Calgary, the women have been preparing over the last four or five months for the Turin games -- with the memory of a rare loss to the Americans in the World Championships in April still fresh in their minds.

"We're doing everything we can, but that means the Americans are doing everything they can, as well," Winnipeg goaltender Sami Jo Small said on a visit to her hometown earlier this winter.

Canada will play an exhibition game against the Calgary Royals (a local AAA midget boys team) tonight. Surprisingly, the women have struggled in the AAA portion of their exhibition schedule, comprising just a 6-8-1 record.

On the flip side, Canada is 17-1 against international competition, their lone loss coming in a shootout against the U.S. three weeks ago.

The Canucks will finish up the international portion of their 46-game pre-Olympic schedule with two games against the Americans -- a Dec. 30 tilt in St. Paul, Minn. and a New Year's Day affair in Winnipeg.

"These games are great and it's such a showcase for women's hockey, but ultimately it's that Olympic gold medal final that we have to be ready for," said Small, who was a member of the gold medal winning team in 2002. "For some reason, it just brings out the best in women's hockey. That's what is so amazing and great, is that Winnipeggers are going to see that up close and personal.

"For me growing up I didn't have the opportunity to play women's hockey. To be able to bring this as a showcase back to the city -- it's pretty special to me and pretty special to our team."

The netminder is one of three Manitobans looking for roster spots, joining forward Jen Botterill (Winnipeg) and defenceman Delaney Collins (Pilot Mound).

It's expected head coach Melody Davidson will determine her 20-woman roster (18 skaters, two goalies) sometime near the end of January. The women's Olympic tournament starts Feb. 11 in Turin.

Roughly 6,000 tickets have been sold for the Jan. 1 game at the MTS Centre (2:30 p.m.). Call Ticketmaster for more information.

NOTE: Hockey Manitoba, together with Hockey Canada, announced last week that the national women's team will hold a women's hockey coaches clinic, prior and immediately following the game at the MTS Centre.

Participants are to arrive 90 minutes before the game and will be asked to stay an hour following the match for a post-game wrap with one of the national team coaches.

Coaches attending the seminar will receive free entry into the game.

Those interested are required to pre-register by Dec. 23. For more details contact Hockey Manitoba.


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