U.S. women’s hockey invite list tells story of where program is headed

Marisa Ingemi
·4 min read

Team USA women’s hockey announced their invite list for training camp ahead of May’s IIHF World Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The expected stars are all there, along with some new talent, but a few omissions stand out, and tell a story of how the program is navigating its future, and the ever-chaotic women’s hockey post-collegiate landscape.

One of the most disappointing developments of Team USA has been the relegation of Katie Burt. Burt has been a star in the making since she was starting net for Boston College at 17 years old, her rapid rise in the NWHL, and assimilating into the U.S. program.

Unfortunately, it stagnated from there; the inconsistent PWHPA schedule hasn’t helped her stay sharp (.859 save percentage in two games) and her numbers with USA (.892 save percentage since 2018) have struggled too.

The top two goalies in the program — Alex Cavallini and Maddie Rooney — are a lock always, and Aerin Frankel of Northeastern feels more and more like the future of USA, even with Nicole Hensley playing some great hockey in the PWHPA the past few weekends.

[Nicole Hensley shines in PWHPA weekends, but what’s next?]

Frankel is returning to Northeastern for a grad year, and by the time she is done the pro women’s hockey landscape could look a lot different, but one wonders if she looks at Burt’s progression as a blueprint of how to avoid a similar fate.

It’s of note no current NWHL players were invited, which isn’t too unusual, since it’s been a while. A few players, such as Hayley Scamurra, previously made the team based off their NWHL play, though, so it’s not unheard of; just in the PWHPA era.

The two omissions of note are both with Boston in McKenna Brand and Sammy Davis. For Brand, it’s been a few years and a bit startling each time; at Northeastern she was a 20-plus goal scorer and has honed in as an elite scorer at the pro level.

Then there’s Davis, the most glaring oversight. The former Boston University star isn’t a stranger to the program and played before with Team USA rising star Jesse Compher with the Terriers.

When reached for comment about if the NWHL was consulted about the camp being the same week as the Isobel Cup playoffs, the league did not respond; Pride head coach Paul Mara, though, told NBC Sports last week he would have encouraged them to represent their country if invited.

Hopefully, the omissions aren’t because they are merely members of a league that isn’t the PWHPA.

[NWHL to finish 2021 Isobel Cup Playoffs March 26-27]

One of the more stunning omissions on the college side is Natalie Snodgrass from UConn. The Huskies season will be well over, like every other NCAA player, and the Hockey East star was a part of the fall camp and seemed on the fast track to fighting for a roster spot.

There’s a few college longshots on the invite list, including Wisconsin’s Lacey Eden and Anna Wilgren. It’s tough to believe that Snodgrass couldn’t edge out any of them.

USA’s roster has some young stars for sure, such as Compher and PWHPA leading scorer Abby Roque, but there’s a lot to be desired on the young talent side. Meghan Duggan and the Lamoureuxs retired in the past year, freeing some spots that weren’t there in the 2018 Olympics.

After 2022, it’ll look a lot different, too; perhaps Amanda Kessel makes another run, but maybe a Kacey Bellamy or Brianna Decker doesn’t. What does the program look like from there? Now is the time to start asking those questions and hope some of the younger, potential Olympic hopefuls aren’t being squandered. Especially since the landscape of women’s hockey changes so routinely.

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Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

U.S. women’s hockey invite list tells story of where program is headed originally appeared on NBCSports.com