Women’s hockey weekend extravaganza — Kristen Richards talks returning to the ice — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, Novemver 12, 2021

You didn’t join the PWHPA to play the game. You joined to change it.

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Kristen Richards, Team Sonnet (PWHPA)

WoHo Weekend Extravaganza

It’s a big weekend for hockey.

For the first time in the 2021-22 season, this weekend will see games played in the NCAA, PHF, PWHPA, and on the international stage. There’s so much hockey on that you can catch a game pretty much 24/7 — and that’s a great, great thing.

First up, the NCAA, which enters its eighth week of competition this weekend. Though much of the WCHA and, consequently, about 40% of the nationally-ranked teams, will have this weekend off, that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of games — in fact, there are nearly thirty matches scheduled for today and tomorrow alone. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to nab those ESPN+ (ECAC), B1G+ (WCHA), and Stretch Internet Portal (CHA, NEWHA) subscriptions because you don’t want to miss any of the action. (You can also stream Hockey East games on College Sports Live for free if you’re outside the New England area, otherwise they’re likely on NESN).

The Connecticut Whale and Boston Pride kick off the second week of the PHF in Danbury, Connecticut, on Saturday and will play a two-game series before all six teams are in action again next weekend. Last week, the Whale split their series opener with the Metropolitan Riveters (including a glorious comeback win that saw them score six straight goals), while the Pride swept the Minnesota Whitecaps to handily defend their Isobel Cup title. You can catch the games on ESPN+ (US) or on TSN Direct (CAN/Int’l).

On the other side of the border, the PWHPA is starting their 2021-22 season with a bang in Truro, Nova Scotia, as four of the organization’s five regional training hubs meet up for a mini-tournament. While many of the PWHPA’s stars have departed for their respective national teams’ centralization camps for the season (think Hilary Knight, Lee Stecklein, Marie-Philip Poulin, Victoria Bach, and more), there’s still a heck of a lot of talent on each roster. A bunch of new faces have joined the organization, so it’ll be extremely exciting to see if a new leader emerges amongst the training hubs. Four games will be played between the four teams this weekend — two preliminaries, a consolation game, and a championship game — and you can catch them all on CBC.ca (everywhere).

Finally, we have the final Olympic qualifying round, which features twelve teams vying for the three remaining spots in the 2022 Winter Olympics tournament. The qualifiers aren’t a true “tournament”, per se, but three separate round-robin series that will see the team with the most points at the end of the series qualify for the Olympic tournament. Does that sound confusing? It is to me, a little, but my colleague Michelle Jay at The Ice Garden made a super handy run-down of all the teams competing and their respective schedules, so be sure to check that out. Each group has today off, but the action resumes tomorrow and continues until Sunday, so you have plenty of time to get caught up with yesterday’s results and tune in for the next couple of games.

This Week in Women’s Hockey

PHF Recap: Pride Start Season with a Roar; Riveters, Whale Split Series; Toronto Beats Buffalo (The Victory Press)

Bolzano Eagles’ Team Italy players are ready to prove themselves (The Ice Garden)

NCAA approves increasing women’s post-season tournament field from eight to 11 teams (USCHO)

Statue faceoff at HHOF aims to address game’s gender gap (The Globe and Mail)

Former CWHL star Katia Clement-Heydra takes love for the game from the ice to the bench (Offside)

Students barred from games after chants at female goalie (Sports Illustrated | The Hockey News)

Kim St-Pierre to be inducted into HHOF Monday (NHL.com)

PWHPA will return to Toronto, Ont., for second stop of 2021-22 Secret Deodorant Dream Gap Tour in December (PWHPA)

As US women’s hockey battles Canada, PHF and PWHPA stay separated (Just Women’s Sports)

Five at the IX: Team Sonnet’s Kristen Richards talks Tim Horton’s Showcase, PWHPA

Kristen Richards is a forward for the PWHPA’s Team Sonnet (Toronto) and will be in action today in Truro! The IX caught up with the Clarkson Cup champion before she shipped up to Nova Scotia to chat about the upcoming season and what being a part of an organization like the PWHPA means to her.

Question: First off: how excited are you to get back onto the ice in a game setting for the first time in nearly six months?!

Kristen Richards: I  really can’t put into words how excited we are to play games again. Our coaches have done a great job of keeping things competitive in practice with small area games, battle drills, and team scrimmages but it will be awesome to see some game action as a team. 

Q: The Tim Horton’s Showcase in Truro, NS, will be the first time you’ve competed against a formalized American regional training hub — ever. What do you think that’ll be like to play against the Americans again, even with all the new faces on each hub’s respective roster?

Richards: While we didn’t get to play against an American regional training hub last year, you would be hard pressed to find a Canadian player that wasn’t watching their showcases. There is so much talent in North America and it will be a lot of fun to play against regions south of the border again!

Q: Team Sonnet suffered a pretty heartbreaking loss to Montreal the last time you squared off on the ice in the Calgary Showcase championship. Does that loss fuel your team at all heading into this showcase and this season?

Richards: It’s a brand new year! There are so many new faces on both Toronto and Montreal this season. We learn from every game that we play, win or lose, and we are always ready for the next one. 

Q: Team Sonnet doesn’t have many “true” rookies, so far as players without professional experience. Do you think the veteran status of so many players on your team gives you an advantage compared to the rosters with much younger players?

Richards: There is so much young talent coming out of university and the game is constantly evolving. What I’ve learned is that experience at this level goes a long way. I hope that our veteran status proves that this weekend! 

Q: You’ve been reunited with some of your Markham Thunder teammates on Team Sonnet for the first time since the dissolution of the CWHL — players like Becca King, Jess Jones, and Kelly Gribbons, who weren’t on Team Sonnet last year. What has it been like playing alongside teammates whom you might not have played with since 2019?

Richards: Teammates become family very quickly. It’s awesome to be reunited with character players and feel like we never missed a beat. Each of them play such a strong role in the locker room and on the ice and I’m excited that you get to see it again this year!

Q: Lots of new faces have joined the PWHPA this season. If you could say one thing to these new players, many of whom are returning to/making their debut in pro hockey after a lengthy time off the ice, what would it be?

Richards: You didn’t join the PWHPA to play the game, you joined to change it. Challenge hockey culture and take every opportunity to listen, learn, and make a difference.

Written by Anne Tokarski