SOCHI GAMES: Meet the women's hockey teams
Coach: Katey Stone.
Olympic history: The U.S. has medaled in all four Olympics, winning gold in 1998, silvers in 2002 and 2010 and a bronze in 2006.
Local connections: Forwards Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux are Grand Forks natives and played at UND. Defenseman Gigi Marvin played at Warroad High School.
Scouting report: The U.S. is the most talented team at Sochi with a lot of speed to burn. The larger Olympic ice sheet should play into USA’s advantage with talented forwards like the Lamoureux twins, Brianna Decker, Amanda Kessel, Kendall Coyne and Kelli Stack. The concern for this team is defensively. The Americans need to be better on the back end and need a goaltender to step up and solidify that spot.
Our pick: Gold.
Coach: Kevin Dineen.
Olympic history: Canada has won three straight gold medals at the Olympics (2010, 2006 and 2002) after getting bronze at the 1998 Nagano Games.
Local connections: None.
Scouting report: Canada isn’t as explosive as the Americans, but they are better on the back end. The Canadians only allowed two goals in five games at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Forward Marie-Philip Poulin, the hero of the 2010 Games and the women’s hockey version of Jonathan Toews, is set to make a big impact in Sochi.
Our pick: Silver.
Coach: Mika Pieniniemi.
Olympic history: Finland has medaled twice, earning bronze in 2010 and 1998. The Finns finished fourth in 2002 and 2006.
Local connections: Forwards Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani are current UND students. Video coach Max Markowitz holds the same position at UND.
Scouting report: If anyone can upset the U.S. or Canada it’s Finland. Goaltender Noora Raty is the consensus best goalie in the world and can take over games. Up front, Karvinen is one of the most explosive players in Sochi and can add offense if given the chance. Tapani is emerging as a top threat, too. Mira Jalosuo leads the Finns on the back end.
Our pick: Bronze.
Coach: Niclas Hogberg.
Olympic history: Sweden won the bronze medal in 2002 and pulled off a shocking upset of the U.S. in 2006 en route to the silver medal. Sweden finished fourth in 2010 and fifth in 1998.
Local connections: Current UND associate coach Peter Elander was Sweden’s head coach at the 2006 and 2010 Games.
Scouting report: Sweden has been in disarray lately, and at one point, there was a question whether the Swedes would even participate. But here they are in Group B, hoping to make the quarterfinal round. Up front, Pernilla Winberg is a three-time Olympian and a shootout hero of the 2006 Swedish Miracle win over the U.S. The Swedes need great goaltending to have a chance.
Our pick: Fourth.
Coach: Mikhail Chekanov.
Olympic history: Russia finished fifth in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and sixth in both the 2006 and 2010 Games.
Local connections: Many of the Russian players were on the team that played a pair of exhibition games against UND earlier this season.
Scouting report: Russia hopes to parlay home-ice advantage into its best finish ever at the Olympics. Iya Gavrilova, a former Minnesota Duluth star, is a legit threat up front. Ekaterina Pashkevich, a 41-year-old wonder, doesn’t have a lot of speed but uses her size and frame to be a strong power forward.
Our pick: Fifth.
Coach: Rene Kammerer.
Olympic history: Switzerland has participated in two Olympics, finishing seventh in 2006 and fifth in 2010.
Local connections: None.
Scouting report: Like Finland, Switzerland is capable of pulling upsets because of its goaltender, Florence Schelling. The 24-year-old was a Patty Kazmaier top three finalist her senior year at Northeastern, posting a .950 save percentage. On the back end, Lara Stalder is a WCHA rookie of the year candidate for Duluth.
Our pick: Sixth.
Coach: Peter Kathan.
Olympic history: This is Germany’s first Olympic appearance since 2006 when it finished fifth. Germany also participated in the 2002 Games.
Local connections: Defensemen Tanja Eisenschmid and Susanne Fellner are both UND products. Eisenschmid is a sophomore at UND. Fellner is a former player.
Scouting report: Germany is back in the Olympics after missing out in 2010. Eisenschmid and Fellner are both solid on the back end and Franziska Busch figures to add the most pop up front. Germany won’t likely compete for a medal, but making the quarterfinals would be considered a successful tournament.
Our pick: Seventh.
Coach: Yuji Iizuka.
Olympic history: This is Japan’s first appearance at the Olympic Games since 1998, when it was the host country. Japan went 0-5 and got outscored 45-2 in Nagano.
Local connections: None.
Scouting report: The Japanese haven’t been in the IIHF’s top division for a while now, so the competition level may be a bit of a shock. Last year, they finished fourth of six teams at the second-division tournament.
Our pick: Eighth.