Canadian women’s goalie to practice with Edmonton Oilers

Shannon Szabados
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A female goalie is getting an NHL opportunity — in practice.

Canadian Shannon Szabados, the starter for the last two Olympic champion teams, was called in to practice with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, according to the team’s social media accounts.

The Oilers are short on goalies after trading Ilya Bryzgalov and getting Viktor Fasth in a separate deal, both on Tuesday. Szabados got the practice time because Fasth had yet to arrive, according to this tweet:

Szabados said last year her goal after the 2014 Olympics was to play men’s professional hockey.

“Being a girl, I don’t think anyone’s going to just offer up an opportunity,” she told the Canadian Press. “Probably have to do some digging and get an in some where.

“I think it’s something I would regret if I didn’t at least try.”

Don’t get any hopes up of Szabados getting game time soon, though Oilers GM Craig MacTavish didn’t rule it out down the line in comments to the Edmonton Jounal on Tuesday.

“I really like Shannon as a goaltender,” MacTavish said, according to the newspaper. “I think she had the goaltending performance of the year.

“I’ve spoken with her a few times over the years. I saw her play against my son at the midget level a couple of years ago – she shut him down a couple of times on a couple of glorious chances – so I have a good appreciation of her level as a goaltender. She’s very capable. To have her name enter the discussion when we’re talking about that is a real accomplishment to her and her level of play.

“Yeah it would be something that we’d consider but not at this point in time.”

Szabados, 27, is not seen as the world’s best women’s goalie. That distinction goes to Finland’s Noora Raty, who led Minnesota to an undefeated season last year and an NCAA Championship.

But Szabados was statistically the best goalie at the Sochi Olympics, giving up three total goals for a 0.96 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage.

She also has plenty of experience playing against men. The Canadian Press detailed her experience in a feature last year:

Szabados just completed her fifth year of college eligibility with her hometown Northern Alberta Institute of Technology men’s team. The Ooks won their first Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship in 16 years.

Szabados posted a 15-2 record during the regular season and carried the league’s lowest goals-against average at 1.58. She was 6-0 in the post-season with a save percentage of .930.

Prior to playing in the ACAC, Szabados spent five years in the Junior A men’s Alberta Junior Hockey League for Sherwood Park, Bonneyville and Fort Saskatchewan.

She was named the AJHL’s top goaltender in 2007 after helping Fort Saskatchewan to a 45-11-4 record in her final season. Szabados played for the Grant MacEwan men for three seasons before transferring to NAIT for the last two.

Canadian 1998 Olympic goalie Manon Rheaume is the only woman to play in the NHL, doing so in exhibition games in 1992 and 1993.

Russia Olympic hockey coach done after poor Sochi showing

Hilary Knight leads new-look U.S. women’s hockey roster for world championship

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight headlines a U.S. women’s hockey roster for this month’s world championship that lacks some of the biggest names from last year’s Olympic silver-medal team. Changes have been made as the U.S. looks to end losing streaks to Canada, both overall and in major finals.

The full roster is here. Worlds start Wednesday in Brampton, Ontario, and run through the gold-medal game on April 16.

It was already known that the team would be without stalwart forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, who plans to return to the national team after having her first child this summer, and Brianna Decker, who announced her retirement last month.

Notable cuts include the No. 1 goalies from the last two Olympics: Alex Cavallini, who returned from Christmas childbirth for the tryout camp this past week, and Maddie Rooney, the breakout of the 2018 Olympic champion team.

Cavallini, 31, was bidding to become the first player to make an Olympic or world team after childbirth since Jenny Potter, who played at the Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 as a mom, plus at several world championships, including less than three months after childbirth in 2007.

Forward Hannah Brandt, who played on the top line at last year’s Olympics with Knight and Coyne Schofield, also didn’t make the team.

In all, 13 of the 25 players on the team are Olympians, including three-time Olympic medalists forward Amanda Kessel and defender Lee Stecklein.

The next generation includes forward Taylor Heise, 23, who led the 2022 World Championship with seven goals and was the 2022 NCAA Player of the Year at Minnesota.

The team includes two teens — 19-year-old defender Haley Winn and 18-year-old forward Tessa Janecke — who were also the only teens at last week’s 46-player tryout camp. Janecke, a Penn State freshman, is set to become the youngest U.S. forward to play at an Olympics or worlds since Brandt in 2012.

Abbey Levy, a 6-foot-1 goalie from Boston College, made her first world team, joining veterans Nicole Hensley and Aerin Frankel.

Last summer, Canada repeated as world champion by beating the U.S. in the final, six months after beating the U.S. in the Olympic final. Canada is on its longest global title streak since winning all five Olympic or world titles between 1999 and 2004.

Also at last summer’s worlds, the 33-year-old Knight broke the career world championship record for points (now up to 89). She also has the most goals in world championship history (53). Knight, already the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player in history, will become the second-oldest American to play at a worlds after Cammi Granato, who was 34 at her last worlds in 2005.

The Canadians are on a four-game win streak versus the Americans, capping a comeback in their recent seven-game rivalry series from down three games to none. Their 5-0 win in the decider in February was their largest margin of victory over the U.S. since 2005.

Last May, former AHL coach John Wroblewski was named U.S. head coach to succeed Joel Johnson, the Olympic coach.

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U.S. women’s rugby team qualifies for 2024 Paris Olympics as medal contender

Cheta Emba

The U.S. women’s rugby team qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics by clinching a top-four finish in this season’s World Series.

Since rugby was re-added to the Olympics in 2016, the U.S. men’s and women’s teams finished fifth, sixth, sixth and ninth at the Games.

The U.S. women are having their best season since 2018-19, finishing second or third in all five World Series stops so far and ranking behind only New Zealand and Australia, the winners of the first two Olympic women’s rugby sevens tournaments.

The U.S. also finished fourth at last September’s World Cup.

Three months after the Tokyo Games, Emilie Bydwell was announced as the new U.S. head coach, succeeding Olympic coach Chris Brown.

Soon after, Tokyo Olympic co-captain Abby Gustaitis was cut from the team.

Jaz Gray, who led the team in scoring last season and at the World Cup, missed the last three World Series stops after an injury.

The U.S. men are ranked ninth in this season’s World Series and will likely need to win either a North American Olympic qualifier this summer or a last-chance global qualifier in June 2024 to make it to Paris.

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