10 Players to Look Out for at the 2013 IIHF Women's World Championships

Mark Staffieri@@MarkStaff100Contributor IIApril 2, 2013

10 Players to Look Out for at the 2013 IIHF Women's World Championships

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    As the city of Ottawa prepares to host the IIHF Women’s Worlds for the second time (it also hosted the first-ever event in 1990), all eight competing countries offer sensational stars that have the potential to provide remarkable hockey heroics.

    After the classic gold-medal match from the 2012 Worlds (Canada fought back from a 4-3 deficit to win in overtime against Team USA, 5-4), expectations are high among fans that Ottawa will set the stage for another classic clash.

    With Canada having never lost an IIHF Women’s Worlds on home soil, the stakes are very high for the defending world champions. Caroline Ouellette and Meghan Agosta will be counted upon to make things happen, while young stars like Natalie Spooner and Brianne Jenner comprise the next generation of Canadian stars.

    During a 2012-13 season that saw Megan Bozek and Amanda Kessel help the Minnesota Golden Gophers to an undefeated season, they are hoping the momentum will carry over to the United States team. A gold medal would give the United States great confidence heading into the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

    Many players from Europe are hoping to propel their nations onto the medal podium. The Czech Republic is competing in the IIHF Women’s Worlds for the first time. With a roster that features NCAA stars (Lucie Povova, Alena Polenska) and the first European to win the Clarkson Cup (Katerina Mrazova), they are looking for a positive first impression.

    Switzerland and Finland continue to be medal threats as their clubs boast the finest women’s goaltenders in the world: Florence Schelling (Switzerland) and Noora Raty (Finland). The German squad also features a top-notch goaltender in Jenny Harss, while Sara Seiler is representing her homeland of Germany in her adopted hometown of Ottawa.

    Having won a silver medal at the 2006 Torino Winter Games, Sweden is capable of upsets. With Elin Holmlov, Danijela Rundqvist and Pernilla Winberg headlining the offensive attack, this titanic trio is highly skilled.

    With Russia hosting the 2014 Winter Games, the squad is hoping for a positive showing in Ottawa. The proud Russians are aiming to finish on the medal podium at Sochi, and the 2013 IIHF Worlds will be the litmus test to gauge their capabilities.

    Though the 2013 edition of the Worlds features remarkable subplots and ambitious nations looking to compete with the likes of Canada and the United States, the real aspect to remember is that the event is a celebration of the game.

Honorable Mention: Jenny Harss, Germany

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    A former goaltender with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, Harss helped the squad capture an NCAA Frozen Four championship in 2010. As one of the few European goaltenders (along with Florence Schelling) to excel at the NCAA level, Harss will be counted upon as a leader for the German squad.

    Her experience and grace under pressure will be key factors in Germany hoping to compete for a medal in Ottawa. While at Minnesota-Duluth, she played for Shannon Miller, who led Canada to gold at the 1997 IIHF Women’s Worlds.

    Having qualified for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the Germans enter the tournament with positive momentum. Leading into Sochi, Harss will continue to have a strong presence between the pipes.

Honorable Mention: Iya Gavrilova, Russia

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    Currently competing with the Calgary Dinos in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, Gavrilova was an essential part of the squad competing for the national championship in 2012 and 2013. One of her teammates with the Dinos is Canadian national team member Hayley Wickenheiser.

    As one of the few Russians to have competed in the NCAA (with Minnesota-Duluth) and the CIS, Gavrilova will occupy a strong leadership role for the Russian team.

    Having played in the Torino Winter Games as a teenager, Gavrilova is already a veteran. Quickly emerging as one of the premier players on the Russian team, Gavrilova will be one of the catalysts on offense. Leading into the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the Russian team is hoping to build some positive momentum.

Honorable Mention: Pernilla Winberg, Sweden

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    Winberg will forever be remembered for the game-winning goal she scored against the United States at the 2006 Torino Winter Games. The goal not only helped Sweden advance to the gold-medal game, but Winberg was the youngest player on the squad.

    Since then, she has continued to emerge as one of the bright young stars for the Swedes. The following year, she would help Sweden claim bronze at the 2007 IIHF Women’s Worlds.

    An alumni of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (where she played for former Canadian national head coach Shannon Miller), she accumulated 111 points in 139 games played. One of the most dangerous snipers at the tournament, Winberg is capable of helping Sweden to an upset.

10. Lucie Povova, Czech Republic

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    Having played with U.S .national team member Kendall Coyne with the NCAA’s Northeastern Huskies, Povova’s game has grown by a quantum leap. Her fast skating and strong passing skills make her a strong asset for a Czech Republic squad making their debut at the IIHF Women's Worlds.

    As one of the leaders on the Huskies, Povova has enjoyed two Beanpot championships and a Hockey East regular-season title. Her experience at the NCAA level will make her a key component of the Czech Republic offense.

9. Elin Holmlov, Sweden

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    Having competed with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs under head coach Shannon Miller (who led Canada to a silver medal at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games), Holmlov is highly prepared to compete among the world’s best.

    In 135 career games with the Bulldogs, she accumulated 170 points. Fellow Swede Pernilla Winberg was a teammate of Holmlov’s with the Bulldogs. The familiarity between the two should produce remarkable results.

    With Sweden, she won a bronze medal at the 2007 IIHF Women’s Worlds. A skilled scorer, she will be counted upon to anchor the offensive production for a Swedish squad looking to return to the medal podium.

8. Natalie Spooner, Canada

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    As the first Canadian woman to compete at the under-18, under-22 and senior levels, the prodigious Spooner will be expected to produce on offense.

    After a sterling season with the Toronto Furies of the CWHL, in which she set the franchise record for most goals in one season, Spooner should expect more ice time compared to the 2012 IIHF Worlds. The future of women's hockey in Canada, Spooner is reminiscent of Jennifer Botterill.

7. Sara Seiler, Germany

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    Having competed in Ottawa at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level and in the National Women’s Hockey League, Seiler is an emotional fan favorite. She brings a lot of experience to a German team that has qualified for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

    Representing her home country in her second country (she resides permanently in Canada), the spotlight is ready to shine on Seiler.

6: Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Canada

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    Selected as the Most Outstanding Player at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Agosta-Marciano is one of the key performers on the Canadian squad. Her goal against the United States in the gold-medal game of the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds forced the game to go into overtime. It would prove to be a significant goal, as it put the momentum in Canada’s favor. Caroline Ouellette would score in overtime to give the team its first IIHF gold since 2007.

    As one of the best women’s ice hockey players in the world, Agosta-Marciano always gives the Canadian team an opportunity to win. A terrific playmaker (and a two-time scoring champion in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League), any team that hopes to beat Canada will only be able to do so if they can minimize Agosta’s impact with the Canadian offense. 

5. Noora Raty, Finland

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    After going undefeated during the 2012-13 regular season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Raty has solidified her legacy as one of the greatest goaltenders in the world.

    With a heartbreaking loss to the Swiss in the bronze-medal game of the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Raty has a lot to prove. Coming into the tournament off of her remarkable NCAA season, Raty may have the drive to bring Finland back into the medals.

4. Florence Schelling, Switzerland

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    Her performance at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds was nothing short of legendary. Having led the Swiss to their first-ever medal in IIHF Women’s hockey history (bronze), Schelling established herself as one of the world's elite goaltenders.

    This year, the expectations and pressure will rise for Schelling and the Swiss. With the bronze medal comes a promotion to Pool A. Besides the Swiss, Pool A also consists of the top nations in the world: Canada, the United States and Finland.

    After a frustrating regular season with the Brampton Thunder of the CWHL, Schelling will be expected to bring her A-game to the Women’s Worlds.

3. Caroline Ouellette, Canada

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    Having scored the gold medal-winning goal at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Ouellette only added to her remarkable legend. Having spent over a dozen years with the Canadian national team, Ouellette is one of the veteran leaders on a team looking to maintain its status as the world’s best.

2. Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, United States

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    Both members of the NCAA 200-point club, the Lamoureux sisters are quickly establishing themselves as the most remarkable scoring combination in the entire world.

    Their on-ice presence was evident during the summer of 2012, when the dynamic duo represented the United States under-22 team. In a three-game summer series versus the Canadian U22 squad, the Lamoureux sisters led all scorers in points, as the Americans swept the beleaguered Canadians.

1. Amanda Kessel, United States

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    The leading scorer during the 2012-13 NCAA women’s hockey season, Amanda Kessel is quickly emerging out of her older brother Phil’s shadow. Every bit a superstar as her brother, Kessel represents the future of USA Hockey.

    With an injury to Kelli Stack, it will be up to younger players like Kessel to shoulder the load on a talented U.S. squad. Should the talented Kessel bring a gold medal to the U.S. squad, it may be a preview of what to expect at Sochi 2014.