Author: NationalTeamsOfIceHockey (page 1 of 92)

World Juniors: Sweden Junior Hockey News

By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

The Swedish national team narrowly missed in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, falling 3-1 in the Gold Medal game to Canada in January. The Swedes outshot the Canadians 36-28 but couldn’t turn the shot advantage into a win, though they did take the game to the wire, as Canada scored both the game winner and an empty-net goal with less than two minutes left in the third period.

Going into this year’s World Championship, to be held in British Columbia, Sweden has to be considered a favorite for the gold. But that’s expected. The Swedish national junior team has not finished lower than fourth in the U20 IIHF World Championship tournament since 2006 — when it was fifth.

The 2019 rosters haven’t been set yet, but the recent World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, Canada, gives us some idea of which players are expected to be Sweden’s core contributors.

“Top offensive defenceman Adam Boqvist, entering his first World Juniors, could see a heavy workload,” Lucas Aykroyd recently wrote in a tournament preview on the IIHF’s 2019 World Junior Championship website.

Forwards Jonatan Berggren and Isac Lundestrom “are capable of generating offense,” said Aykroyd, but head coach Tomas Monten might also find in “under-the-radar prospect” Marcus Sylvegard, an “undrafted, hard-hitting 19-year-old,” a key tournament player.

“He works hard and I think he had a really good run at home before the World Juniors last year,” Monten told Aykroyd.

Undrafted forwards Rickard Hugg (three goals, one assist in five games) and Marcus Sylvegard (one goal, two assists in five games) performed well for team Sweden in the showcase, and could be vital cogs in Sweden’s 2019 tournament team. Forward Lucas Elvenes also had a solid showcase, scoring once and setting up three in five games. Though he had only one goal in four games, Lundestrom was “arguably was Sweden’s best player,” according to Adam Kimelman of NHL.com.

Goalies Olle Eriksson Ek and Samuel Ersson were tremendous at the showcase and they could make things hard on opponents if they’re part of the 2019 team.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old defensemen Philip Broberg and Tobias Bjornfot might get invitations from Monten to attend camp for the World Championship, says Edmonton Journal hockey writer Jim Matheson.

“Broberg is built along the lines of Oilers’ first-rounder Evan Bouchard, having more offensive chops, while Bjornfot is a quieter, Jonas Brodin-type,” according to Matheson.

The veteran journalist also likes “six-foot-six winger Elmer Soderblom, who goes against the grain these days with scouts looking more at five-foot-six danglers rather than gangly kids.”

For Sweden, each year is just a reload. The pipeline of junior players is rich. They just keep coming.

World Juniors: Japan Junior Hockey News

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By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

Japan will compete in Group B of Division I in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Junior Championships in Tychy, Poland, this December after being promoted from Division II. It will compete in the same division with Italy, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and Japan.

Last year’s team earned the promotion with four regulation wins and one overtime win in five games. It was a Division II powerhouse, scoring 23 goals and allowing only seven, and finishing first in the IIA group. The squad was led by 1999-born forward Tohi Kobayashi, who scored four goals and added six assists in those five games. He was tied for second in overall scoring for the tournament, and was a plus-7, a mark no other top-10 scorer was able to reach.

Kobayashi was also a force in the tournament the year before, scoring once and setting up four in five games.

The Japanese team was particularly strong in goal. Ryota Koda, a 1998, and Eiki Sato, a 2001, were the core of the team.

Koda led all goalies with a 0.99 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in a pair of appearances. Sato played in five games, recording a 1.66 GAA and a .917 save percentage, good for second among all goalies. Sato put down a 1.80 GAA and .937 save percentage in five games in the U18 Division IB play last season. He was named Best Goaltender for 2017-18 in the U18 WJC.

Daiki Ayoama won the top defenseman award in the 2018 Division IIA world tournament. The 1999-born blueliner scored four times and had one assist in five games. In five games in previous U18 play he scored once and assisted on four goals.

Other junior players from Japan who are worthy of mention include 1998 forwards Hiroya Tokuda (two goals, four assists in the 2018 Division IIA World Junior Championship), and Jin Sawade (one goal, five assists), as well as 1999 defenseman Daika Miura (two goals, three assists).

The Division IB tournament starts Dec. 8 and runs through Dec. 14.

Okinawa warms up to ice hockey

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By Shoji Kudaka – Stripes Okinawa

It may sound odd to say Okinawa is a good place to start playing ice hockey, but there are a bunch of stick-wielding, puck-slapping players on the island who would disagree.

“People are always surprised to find out hockey is played on the island,” said Neil Reid, club president and a player on Okinawa SniperZ. “Sometimes, they are surprised to find out that there is even an ice rink in Okinawa.”

Although Neil grew up in Canada, he only played field hockey as a youth. The first place he laced up his skates to play hockey was on this subtropical island. Neil and other members play regularly at the Sports World Southern Hill in Haebaru Town.

The team roster is diverse, featuring Americans, Okinawans, men and women, military and non-military. “We welcome everybody,” said Neil. “We are trying to build community relations through hockey. A large part of that is due to the military being here. I am not a military person. I am from Canada, so it’s kind of an international thing. The service members have been a huge part of the SniperZ.”

The relationship reaches well beyond international borders.

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Just recently, the inaugural Ryukyu International Ice Hockey Tournament was held at the rink, bringing five teams from Okinawa, South Korea and Thailand together for a weekend of competition. The SniperZ was a driving force to launch the tournament.

“I have been down to Bangkok, played in Thailand. I started talking to these guys, and I went on Facebook,” said Kevin Mingoia, a member of SniperZ. “I put it out there, and Korea came along, saying ‘hey. we are interested in playing.”

“A lot of our players have friends in Korea and Bangkok,” Neil chimed in. “They played in tournaments before, so connecting through social media, and through long-lasting relationships . . . we’ve had pretty good success so far.”

The tournament literally brought people from remote corners of the world to the island.


Joe DeBlois from Portland, Oregon, was at the rink to root for his son who was playing for the Korean team.

“I have been reading about the SniperZ, and they got quite a program here,” said the seasoned ice hockey fan. “It’s very interesting to see hockey on a tropical island.”

And if the players on SniperZ had their way, there will be more to watch in the near future.

“We have an interesting mix of people and are going to go bigger next year,” Mingoia stressed. “I am looking at trying to do a Memorial Day classic next year.”

Although the tournament was meant to be a friendship game, heated competitions were often played out on the rink. But once the tapped their sticks on the ice to end a game, they had big smiles on their faces.

Neil, who is expecting more people to join the club, says it’s all about getting on the rink and enjoying yourself.

“All levels are welcome,” he said. “If you like hockey or want to learn about hockey, come on out. We welcome everybody.”

For more info, contact Marvin Floer at docdetroitusn@yahoo.com or Mark Cooley at mark.d.cooley@gmail.com

 

 

Kuwait’s ice hockey team wins Hong Kong’s int’l amateur tourney

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By menafn.com

Kuwait’s ice-hockey team won HKAHC Invitational Amateur Ice-Hockey Tournament on Saturday night by defeating the HKAHC Giants counterparts by 6-3 scoreline in the final match.

Fuhaid Al-Ajmi, the Head of Kuwait’s national ice-hockey federation, said in a press release obtained by KUNA that the Kuwaiti team earned this victory due to their extreme effort.

He mentioned that the tournament was a beneficial experience to the team playing against many strong squads, adding that the players scored 21 goals, while receiving only six goals only during four games.

Bucifalova ready to shine as RDC Queen

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By Danny Rode – Red Deer Advocate

Growing up in the Czech Republic Veronika Bucifalova had a dream of coming to Canada to play hockey, so when she was 15 she made a decision to leave home and join the Ontario Hockey Academy.

Because of that move she’s now a member of the RDC Queens.

“I wanted to improve my hockey as hockey at home isn’t a good level for girls,” explained the 19-year-old forward. “I had a dream of playing in Canada as Canada is the hockey place.

“And I knew how to speak English so that was nice.”

In fact she’s fluent in Czech and English and understands German, French and Russian.

“It’s awesome to speak several languages as you meet so many great people. I have friends all over the world.”

Veronika spent two years in Ontario, working on her game and finishing high school.

Last season she moved to Switzerland and joined the Neuchatal Hockey Academy.

“Mainly I wanted to take a year off and make some money,” she explained.

This year she was ready to return to Canada, although she didn’t know much about Red Deer.

However, her coach in Ontario gave her Queens head coach Kelly Coulter’s contact number and the rest is history.

“A friend of mine, through connections when I was in Grande Prairie, was coaching in Ontario and he helped make contact,” explained Coulter. “I didn’t know much about Veronika, but I’m certainly happy we made the connection.

“She’s very skilled, has a passion for the game, has an excellent attitude and is a great teammate,” said Coulter.

“She has excellent hands, has great vision and can take a pass on her forehand or backhand and make a quick pass. She also protects the puck and plays a gritty game.

“She’s already a great addition and will be for years to come.”

With a quick release Bucifalova has shown she can score, but enjoys passing.

“I love to see my teammates celebrating a goal,” she said. “It’s a great feeling when you play as a team.”

Coming up through minor hockey Veronika played goal, defence and forward.

“I think that helped as I got a complete perspective of the ice and helped me as a player,” she said. “I wanted to be a goalie, but my dad didn’t want me to.”

She does play goal for her inline team. She also plays ball hockey for the Czech national team, finishing third in the open division and second in the U20 world finals.

“It helps prepare me for hockey with the running and ball handling,” she added.

She also has experience at the world level with the Czech U18 team and women’s team. She played three years with the U18 team and the 2014-15 season with the Czech women’s team.

She first got into women’s hockey when she was 12 and even played with a men’s U18 team for a season, scoring 10 goals and 11 assists in 12 games.

“That helped me a lot in my career, but I still have a lot to learn. I’m a rookie here and will work hard to get better.”

Veronika is listed at five-foot-two and is solid on her skates.

“I say I’m fat … make fun of myself,” she said with a laugh. “But I do feel I’m strong on the puck and hard to push off it.”

In only four exhibition games you can see the skill Bucifalova brings to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference squad.

“We already can see each other and we’re already getting better and better,” she said.

As for the competition, she’s impressed.

“I have a friend who plays at NAIT and she told me about the league. Other than that I didn’t know much about it. But it’s fast with good game plans … I didn’t expect it to be this good.”

Veronika is taking kinesiology as she “wanted to have something to do with sports and to help people.

“I hope to be here for a few years and keep pushing myself every day to get better.”

She’s also impressed with the new Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre.

“I saw pictures, but this is awesome. Much better than the facilities we have at home.”

Ice Blacks claim historic series win over Australia in Queenstown

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Queenstown Ice Arena was the scene of a decisive victory for the New Zealand national ice hockey team on Friday night. The Ice Blacks triumphed 6-1 over the Australian Mighty Roos, earning New Zealand both their largest-ever margin of victory over Australia as well as their first-ever series win against their Trans-Tasman rivals.

NZ set the pace of play for the entirety of the game, coming out strong in the first period with an early goal from Matt Schneider – Australia had done well defending Schneider and linemate Alex Polozov in the previous day’s game, but their line had something to say about that in game two. Polozov, who assisted on the first goal, continued his dominant play, scoring at the halfway mark of the period.

Rather than coming out swinging during the second period, Australia frequently looked flat-footed and caught off guard. They could not seem to find an answer defensively for the duo of Polozov and Schneider, who combined for a third goal five minutes in. The goal went to Polozov, but Schneider had several more excellent opportunities as the game progressed.

It was only the hard work of goaltender Alexandre Tetreault that kept the Roos in it – However as the minutes ticked by, New Zealand worked Australia over hard in the corners, seeming to have a counterpunch for every strategy the struggling Roos employed.

Veteran Ice Blacks Dale Harrop and Jordan Challis, who normally play for intense NZIHL rivals West Auckland Admirals and Botany Swarm, both scored before the buzzer sounded, signalling the end of the second. Australia remained scoreless after a would-be goal was waved off immediately due to the officials’ decision that it was kicked in by a skate.

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The Roos finally found their footing in the third period, but it was too little too late, and every time they generated momentum, the Ice Blacks pushed back.

Australia got on the board within the first minute of play courtesy of a rocket shot from Lliam Webster that beat kiwi goaltender Rick Parry up high. Webster was a presence on the ice all night for the Roos, but New Zealand never sat back or buttoned off, and his goal ended up the lone tally for Australia.

As minutes raced off the clock, the Ice Blacks put one more on the board courtesy of a well-positioned shot from Chris Eaden that popped up and over Tetreault’s shoulder much to the delight of the hometown crowd.

MVP of the match for Australia was awarded to Kieran Webster and MVP of the match for New Zealand went to, very unsurprisingly, Alex Polozov.

NZ holds early advantage in test series

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By Sean Nugent – Otago Daily Times

The New Zealand Ice Blacks have drawn first blood in the three-game test series against the Australian Mighty Roos as part of the Winter Games, with a comfortable 4-2 victory thanks to some clinical finishing and outstanding goaltending by Daniel Lee.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult was on hand for the ceremonial puck drop before the start of the game.

The Ice Blacks were aggressive from the beginning, but it was the Roos who opened the scoring after five minutes.

But that lead did not last long as the home side hit back as Dale Harrop turned the puck in after some quick link-up play in the final third.

The home side was on the front foot and took the lead moments later, going into the first break with all the momentum.

The physicality ramped up in the second period and the Roos went searching for an equaliser, but were continually denied by some sharp work from Ice Blacks goaltender Daniel Lee.

After looking strong in the first period, the men in black hardly threatened the Roos’ goal in the second, until Alexandr Polozov found some space down the left flank and picked out Ryan Strayer waiting in the centre to easily turn it in and double their lead.

The Roos did not roll over, and got one back through Patrick Nadin right before the end of the period, leaving it all to play for in the final 20 minutes.

It was end-to-end play at the start of the third period, and the Ice Blacks increased their advantage through Benjamin Gavoille to give themselves a two-goal cushion with just seven minutes to play.

The home side continued to push for a fifth goal up until the final buzzer without success, but it did not matter as it took a 1-nil lead in the series.

The New Zealanders will be wary not to become complacent as a similar situation occurred in the first game of last year’s series, only for the Roos to hit back in games two and three to spoil the party.

Game two will be played tonight and game three tomorrow evening.

World Juniors: Slovakia Junior Hockey News

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By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

Heading into the 2018 World Junior Championship, the Slovakian team was thought to have “the potential to emerge as a surprise contender,” according to SB Nation, and had “as good a chance as any of the lower clubs to sneak into the medal round.”

The Slovakian s never got past the quarterfinals, where they fell 3-2 to eventual silver medalist Sweden.

Roman Durny was solid in goal in that game, giving only three on 39 shots. The Anaheim Duck draft pick (147th, 2018) is a ‘98 and eligible for the 2019 tournament coming to Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. Durny was also in goal on Dec. 28, when the Slovaks upset Team USA 3-2. He had to make 43 saves for that win.

Two other goalies likely to be on the 2019 team are Dávid Hrenák and Jakub Kostelny, both of whom were on the 2018 squad. Hrenák is property of the Los Angeles Kings and will play his second season at St. Cloud State year. Kostelny is an undrafted 1999-born player. At 5’9”, 154 pounds, Kostelny doesn’t fit the mold of a modern goalie, but he did turn in a stellar performance in the 2017 U18 World Junior Championship, where he had a goals-against average of 0.58 and save percentage of .974 in a pair of games.

Defenseman Marek Korencik, also a ‘99, is an interesting undrafted prospect who will play another season in Sweden’s junior system. The big blueliner — he’s 6’3” and weighs more than 200 pounds — played five games in last year’s WJC, but recorded no goals or assists. He’s never put up big points. Will this be his breakout year?

Forward Filip Krivosik, who scored two of the Slovakian s three goals in their win over Team USA, is another fascinating prospect. He is also a ‘99, big (6’4”, 207), and undrafted. While he’s known for physical edge and corner worker, one preview noted before the 2018 WJC that he sometimes is able to make plays with the puck.

Milos Kelemen is another big forward who might impress at the 2019 WJC. He’s an undrafted ‘99 who could crack the top six in British Columbia. If he does, he’ll be expected to contribute more than just the single point — an assist — he put up last year.

Perhaps Slovakia’s most exciting player is 1999-born Milos Roman. The forward is only 5’11” and less than 190 pounds, but he is an elite playmaker. He had two goals and no assists in the last WJC, but another year of development with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, and a bit of a “home-ice” inspiration, should lead to some far better numbers.

Slovakia opens the tournament on the day after Christmas against the U.S. The Slovakians will be wanting to show it was no fluke. They’ll have to get A+ efforts from everyone to do that.

Women’s Hockey is Growing Strong

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By

We’ve all heard those three little words a lot, to the point where it has started to become a somewhat monotonous mantra. We hear them sprinkled into half of the interviews we read and hear with players and league commissioners. We see the phrase everywhere on social media. Even the name of this very site was inspired by those three words.

Whether you like it or not, “grow the game” is attached to women’s hockey, and it’s not going anywhere soon.

The Global View

Women’s hockey is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. The evidence of that growth goes beyond the record-setting television audiences for gold medal games, the continued involvement of NHL teams with pro women’s teams, and the groundbreaking purchase of the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts by Pegula Sports and Entertainment. We have the data to prove the women’s game is growing all over the world.

At the inaugural IIHF Women’s Ice Hockey Workshop in Copenhagen in July, IIHF Women’s Committee Chairwoman Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer shared that there are now nearly 200,000 women playing hockey across the world; in 2010 there were just over 170,000. That’s a growth of 17.64 percent in eight years.

Growth in the States

Thanks to USA Hockey’s public registration numbers, we have a better idea of what that growth looks like for one of women’s hockey superpowers. USA Hockey breaks down its registration numbers by gender, age group, and geography. The numbers paint a clear picture. There are more women playing hockey in the U.S. than ever before, and the numbers just keep growing.

In 2017-18 the rate of growth in USA Hockey’s women’s registrations was nearly 6.5 times greater than the growth in men’s registrations. There are still far more men than women playing hockey in the U.S. and across the world, but that is hardly surprising when we look at the big picture.

The NHL has existed for a century, whereas Title IX has only been in place in the NCAA for less than half a century. The first NCAA women’s hockey program was established at Brown University in 1965, and the National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey Championship began back in 2001. Even the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award has only been around since 1998, which is the same year of the first women’s hockey tournament in the Winter Olympics.

In many ways, women’s hockey is still just getting started. But that doesn’t change the fact that this rate of growth is significant. And, if history has taught us anything, we are about to see another boom in registrations in the wake of Team USA’s gold medal victory in Pyeongchang.

After Sochi 2014

2013-14: 67, 230 female players registered

2014-15: 69,744 female players registered

After Vancouver 2010

2009-10: 61,612 female players registered

2010-11: 65,509 female players registered

After Torino 2006

2005-06: 54,162 female players registered

2006-07: 57,549 female players registered

Today, there are more than 79,355 women registered with USA Hockey. What’s even more noteworthy is the rate of growth in girls registering with USA Hockey. There are 33,236 girls 10 and under who are registered with USA Hockey. To put that number into context: there were 6,336 total female registered players in the United States in 1990.

The Next Generation

A closer look at the registration numbers — especially in youth hockey — tells us an even more promising story. USA Hockey’s numbers show that the growth of participation among girls 8 years and younger is growing at a historic rate. So, where is this growth coming from? One of the clear catalysts is the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).

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The NWHL’s inaugural season took place in 2015-16. In that same season the number of girls 8 years and younger who registered with USA Hockey went from 16,539 to 18,350 — that’s a 10.9 percent rate of growth. When we compare that number to the growth rates of the previous two seasons, we can safely say that the NWHL has changed the landscape of girls hockey in the United States of America.

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When looking at these numbers it’s important to remember that they only reflect those players who have registered and paid fees to have a membership USA Hockey. There are a lot more women — in all age groups — playing hockey in America.

The future of women’s hockey is bright not just in the United States, but across the globe. According to the IIHF, there are 86,925 female players in Canada, 6,527 female players in Finland, and 5,505 female players in Sweden. An IIHF survey from 2017 tells us that 8.54 percent of all Finnish hockey players are women; that same ratio stood at 8.61 percent in Sweden. Whereas in Canada (13.7 percent) and the United States (13.5 percent), those numbers are significantly higher. So, there is still abundant room for the game to grow, even in countries that have a strong tradition in the sport.

Beijing and Beyond

It’s hard to know just how much the game is going to grow over the next four years, but it is exciting to think about.

In addition to the expected boom in interest after Team USA’s gold medal victory in Pyeongchang, there’s also the new frontier of women’s hockey in Asia. With Beijing 2022 on the horizon, China is investing in women’s hockey on a major scale. In June 2017, China announced plans to build 750 new rinks by 2022. Little girls in China also have the opportunity to watch members of Team Canada and Team USA compete against their own CWHL team in Shenzen, the Shenzen KRS Vanke Rays. Two years ago that sentence would have been complete fiction. What fruit will all these measures to accelerate the growth of the game in China bear? We will have an answer sooner than you might think.

The world map of women’s hockey continues to grow every year. Pyeongchang’s gold medal game between Canada and the U.S. had 3.7 million viewers (streaming and broadcast numbers combined). Oh, and that game wrapped up a little after 2:00 a.m. ET.

Hockey is one of the least accessible sports in the world because of how much it costs to even learn the game, let alone play it at a competitive level. Despite that significant roadblock — which, unfortunately, is just one of many — the game is still growing strong. And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

“Grow the game” is a mission statement and a philosophy. But it’s also a constant reminder to appreciate the movement that is happening around us, all over the world.

Clara Rozier: Forging France’s Future in Women’s Hockey

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By Nathaniel Oliver – The Hockey Writers

France’s Women’s National Ice Hockey Team is in the process of creating hockey history. After winning gold at the 2018 Women’s Division IA World Championship – played on their own home soil in the town of Vaujany – the French women have been promoted to the top division in women’s hockey for the first time ever. The 2019 Women’s World Championship will be played from Apr. 4 to Apr. 14, 2019 in  Espoo, Finland. All of the big names will be there – Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and more. When France takes the ice against those countries, one of their young players will be 21-year-old Clara Rozier. She is one of the players who got France there in the first place, and rightfully so.

While France has never really been considered a “hockey hotbed”, Rozier is not only incredibly proud of what she and her teammates accomplished, but also very proud of all hockey players who have come from France and made the spotlight. Appreciating today’s current stars, her fellow countrymen hold a special place in her heart.

“Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Cristobal Huet, Antoine Roussel, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare,” Rozier rattled off some of her favorite names. “Crosby and Ovechkin because they are the best players in the world, for me. They have a lot of qualities. Crosby with his stick is very amazing – he can do everything he wants. And the others because they are French players and they played in NHL. Huet is an example. At the last World Championship (2017), he was very impressive at 40 years old!”

THW talked one on one with Rozier recently. We learned more about how she got started playing hockey and her story up until now. Perhaps more importantly, we got a sense of her aspirations for the upcoming Women’s Worlds in April 2019.

Learning the Game in France

Too often when North Americans think of France, we typically imagine only places like Paris or maybe the French Riviera locations like Cannes or Nice. We tend to overlook the more mountainous or colder climates of the country. Locations in the French Alps such as Chamonix, Grenoble and Albertville have each played host to a Winter Games. The mountain terrains also happen to be where Rozier is from, and it is where she learned to play hockey.

“I live in Morzine, a ski resort in the French Alps,” Rozier explained. “In this little town most of the children are skiing, playing ice hockey or both. I’m very happy to live in mountains! I started hockey at seven years old. Nobody in my family plays ice hockey. It was my best friend who was playing hockey and gave me the desire to play.”

However, chances to play the game in Morzine were quite sparse. The town itself has a population of not even 3,000 people, and hockey opportunities were slim, particularly for girls. Enough so that as Rozier got into her teenage years it was necessary to move to a more populated portion of the Alps. Rozier’s residence during her formative years had approximately 56,000 more residents.

“There are not a lot of opportunities to play hockey because it is a little city and they don’t have a women’ hockey team,” Rozier stated. “So I played with the boys when I was young, and at 15 years old I left Morzine for Chambéry to play with Pôle France. It is a women’ hockey team which gathers the best girls in France in sports studies. I stayed in Chambéry during five years, and this year I came back to Morzine because I’m ski instructor too. But I still play with the Pôle.”

Playing for Pôle France Féminin

The goal of Pôle France is to bring together the best female players in the country and centralize them in Chambéry. Although Crozier just entered her early 20s, she and a number of players her age have continued to play for Pôle in competitive hockey throughout France. Because France has a limited number of female players, it promotes better overall development and competition by having a team mixed with teenagers and young adults, and having them compete against younger male teams.

Crozier explained a bit more about how Pôle works:
“Like I mentioned before, Pôle regroups women from 15 years old and we play in the U17 French Men’s Championship because the women’s league is too poor to progress, and playing against boys is very good for us. They skate faster, shoot harder so it’s not so bad. We are just 2,408 girls playing hockey in France, whereas in the USA you have 75,832. So it’s difficult for us, but a lot of little girls are coming now and I think we have good players to take over of French hockey in the future.”

Through 75 career games with Pôle France, Rozier has scored 26 goals and 23 assists for 49 points. Her finest season offensively was this past 2017-18 campaign when she scored 16 goals and eight assists in only 20 games to lead the squad in scoring. Rozier is a winger with a right-hand shot. At 5-foot-3 and close to 140 pounds she possesses quickness, but is more of a heady, cerebral player. Rozier is also modest too, and found it difficult to speak about herself when asked what her best attributes are as a hockey player.

“For playing ice hockey, you have to be very strong in your head because it’s a very hard sport!” she stated. “For me I think I have a good vision. It’s difficult for me to speak about myself. I think I’m a complete player, but I have to work hard for becoming stronger everywhere. When you play ice hockey you have to be good in a lot of attributes – it’s a difficult sport.”

Representing Her Country on the International Stage

During Rozier’s teenage years, she represented France in IIHF U18 tournaments for three different World Championships at the Division I level and one qualification tournament. With her on their roster, France won the 2013 Women’s Division I qualification tournament outright, before going on to win the bronze medal at the corresponding World Championship. Rozier ensured that the French followed that up with a silver at the 2014 tournament and then gold in 2015. She served as an alternate captain for the gold medal team, but may have had her finest performance at the U18 level in 2014. There she was a point per game player with three goals and a pair of assists in the five tournament games.

“When I put the jersey on to represent my country I feel very proud,” Rozier shared. “It is real pride to put this jersey on and a dream! I think a lot of people want to represent their country and not all can do it. So it’s a privilege and I’m very proud of this. I feel really excited because I’m going to play an international game.”

Since the U18 level, Rozier has played for France Women’s National Team at three World Championships at the Division IA level and at an Olympic qualifier, beginning in 2016. While she would go goalless for her first two Worlds and the Olympic qualifier, she saved her first goal at a Women’s World Championship for just the right time. Played in Vaujany, France, the 2018 Women’s Division IA World Championships were held and the French were at the top of the podium – winning gold and advancing for the first time ever into the top tournament. Rozier scored the second goal of the game, which held up to be the decisive game-winner in the final game of the tournament, a 7-1 win by France over Slovakia.

“It’s amazing – I have no words to explain it,” Rozier said when asked what advancing to the top division means to her. “It’s one of the best days of my life. I already know this feeling because three years ago we won the World Championship with the U18 French team (at Division I). But my generation (1997), it was our last year with the U18 team so we won but we did not have the opportunity to go to the top division the following year. But today I can go to the top division, so it’s not really the same feeling. I can see what is happening at the top, and I really look forward to being there! It’s just a perfect moment with an amazing team. And we won in France! The ice rink was full, a lot of noise, my family was here, so it was perfect!”

https://i2.wp.com/thehockeywriters.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Clara.Rozier.France.2.jpg?resize=323%2C480&ssl=1At three different IIHF U18 tournaments
Clara Rozier medalled with France each time.

They’re Not Done Yet!

The work of Rozier and the French National Women’s Team is not done yet. Yes, they have made history and have reached a distinct pinnacle. However, it is not the pinnacle. Rozier has no intention of falling out of the top division and facing demotion once the 2019 Women’s Worlds take place in April. Furthermore, she and France are focused on Olympic qualification as well.

“With the team, the goal is to try to stay in top division next year and be qualified to the next Olympics Games,” Rozier explained. “Personally, I want to progress in the speed of my skating and my shots. To become stronger, and have more playing time – have a more important role on the team and on the ice.”

https://i0.wp.com/thehockeywriters.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Clara.Rozier.France.jpg?resize=575%2C395&ssl=1

Clara Rozier (bottom center) and Team France celebrate a promotion to the IIHF’s
top division with a bottle of champagne.

There is no question that Rozier will be able to accomplish her personal goals for skill improvement. She has the drive and the motivation to continuously improve. In terms of her role and value to the team, France needs her more than ever right now. This is no easy road that the French are going down. At the 2019 Women’s Worlds they are in Group B, which includes Sweden, Japan, Czech Republic and Germany. In order to avoid relegation Rozier and her teammates will need to finish better than at least two of those teams. Rozier is fully aware that anything can happen – she is embracing it and making the most of her chances.

“The most important thing I’ve learned about life from playing hockey is that anything could happen,” she said. “And it could all go away in an instant. So you have to push yourself up until the end, whatever happens!”

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