Canada will be less green at this year’s women’s world hockey championships.
The return of Hayley Wickenheiser, Meghan Agosta and Meaghan Mikkelson to the lineup, plus several players who made their world championship debut a year ago make for a seasoned lineup.
Hockey Canada announced the host country’s 23-player roster Monday for the tournament from March 28 to April 4 in Kamloops, B.C.
Seventeen played last year in Malmo, Sweden, where Canada lost 7-5 to the Americans in the final. Of the 10 who made their world championship debut for Canada there, seven have been named to this year’s squad.
"We wanted to build a team that had a lot of world’s experience, a lot of leadership and that had speed, strength and talent," head coach Laura Schuler said Monday on a conference call from Kamloops.
"Ninety-five per cent of our players now, after introducing some new players at our last year’s, have a world’s under their belts."
The Canadian roster includes 13 players who beat the U.S. in overtime for Olympic gold in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
Canada opens the preliminary round at the Sandman Centre against the defending champion U.S., which has won six of the last eight world titles. Canada’s last world championship win came in 2012.
This year’s team was chosen by general manager Melody Davidson, Schuler and her assistant coaches.
"We wanted to make sure we were building a team that was capable of playing fast hockey, quick transition, quick on loose pucks, quick thinking on the ice — a team also willing to go to the tough areas of the ice and battle and compete," Schuler said.
Wickenheiser, from Shaunavon, Sask., will play in her 13th world championship. Canada’s all-time leading scorer didn’t participate in Malmo because of season-ending foot surgery.
"It’s obviously been a pretty long road for me to come back from what was a major surgery," Wickenheiser said. "I’m pretty happy with my progress. The road I’ve taken to this point has not been an easy one."
Forward Meghan Agosta of Ruthven, Ont., returns to the national team after a year away for police training. Defender Meaghan Mikkelson of St. Alberta, Alta., is also back on the squad after having a baby.
Defenders Jocelyne Larocque of St. Anne, Man., Lauriane Rougeau of Beaconsfield, Que., Laura Fortino of Hamilton, Ont., and Tara Watchorn, as well as goaltender Charline Labonte are among the 2014 Olympians playing in this year’s world championship.
Marie-Philip Poulin of Beauceville, Que., Rebecca Johnston of Sudbury, Ont., Jennifer Wakefield of Pickering, Ont., Toronto’s Natalie Spooner and Brianne Jenner of Oakville, Ont., are the forwards returning from the Sochi side.
Poulin was captain of last year’s team and Canada’s heroine in Sochi, scoring the equalizer and overtime winner for gold.
"Every team that Canada puts together always has a chance to win a world championship and be competitive," Wickenheiser said. "This one is no different.
"The focus is on speed of play and puck movement and puck possession. Those are the types of qualities we have to have to win the big games when they matter the most."
Eighteen play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Ontario led all selections with nine players, Manitoba had four and Quebec three. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia were each represented by two players and Newfoundland one. There were no players selected from the host province.
"B.C. had a bit of a gap probably six or seven years ago in how they delivered their female minor hockey program. They recognized that and realized that and really put a lot of time and work into it," Davidson said.
"There were some B.C. players close this time around. They just weren’t quite ready. I think in the future you are going to see players from British Columbia."
Emerance Maschmeyer, Bruderheim, Alta., Harvard University (ECAC); Charline Labonte, Boisbriand, Que., Montreal (CWHL); Erica Howe, Orleans, Ont., Brampton (CWHL)
Jocelyne Larocque, Ste. Anne, Man., Brampton (CWHL); Brigette Lacquette, Mallard, Man., Calgary (CWHL); Lauriane Rougeau, Beaconsfield, Que., Montreal (CWHL); Laura Fortino, Hamilton, Ont., Brampton (CWHL); Meaghan Mikkelson, St. Albert, Alta., Calgary (CWHL); Tara Watchorn, Newcastle, Ont. Boston (CWHL); Halli Krzyzaniak, Neepawa, Man., University of North Dakota (WCHA).
Meghan Agosta, Ruthven, Ont., Rebecca Johnston, Sudbury, Ont., Calgary (CWHL); Jamie Lee Rattray, Kanata, Ont. Brampton (CWHL); Jennifer Wakefield, Pickering, Ont., Linkoping HC (SWE); Jillian Saulnier, Halifax, Calgary (CWHL); Bailey Bram, Ste. Anne, Man., Calgary (CWHL) Brianne Jenner, Oakville, Ont., Calgary (CWHL); Hayley Wickenheiser, Shaunavon, Sask., Calgary (CWHL); Natalie Spooner, Toronto (CWHL); Marie-Philip Poulin, Beauceville, Que., Montreal (CWHL); Sarah Davis, Paradise, N.L., Calgary (CWHL); Emily Clark, Saskatoon, University of Wisconsin (WCHA); Blayre Turnbull, Stellarton, N.S., Calgary (CWHL).
Head coach: Laura Schuler, Toronto; Assistant coaches: Doug Derraugh, Arnprior, Ont., Cornell (ECAC); Howie Draper, Edmonton, University of Alberta (CIS); Dwayne Gylywochuk, Winnipeg, Hockey Manitoba.