Halifax, NS- They’re going to be tested against the best. U Sports women’s hockey teams from the Maritimes are going to get the chance to play against some of the national teams from countries across the world.
The international ice hockey federations (IIHF) women’s world championships are being played in Nova Scotia in April, including games that will be held at Scotiabank Centre, the same arena which is hosting the U Sports national men’s hockey championship.
While the major international tournament is set to hit the ice on March 31st, five U Sports teams will take part in pre-tournament games throughout the maritime provinces. The participating teams will be the University of New Brunswick, St. FX, St. Mary’s University, St. Thomas University and the University of Moncton.
Each team will get the opportunity to play against one of the national teams who will be at the tournament. However, none of them will get to play against the star-studded teams of Canada or the USA. The women’s game was once dominated by the two aforementioned countries, however, in recent years that gap has grown sizeably smaller. With this, the weaker teams which will challenge the U Sports sides with higher quality competition than they may be used to.
The international sides, although not Olympic medal hopefuls, will still have to be at the top of their games as the tournament is to serve as the first qualification step for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
What is the game being played? The UNB Reds will be taking on the German national team who are one of the teams who have undergone immense improvement in the last couple of years. That being said, UNB has a strong women’s program and could very well find a win against the Germans. This matchup will happen in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia despite the neighbouring province’s university being the participant. It will also be the first time any hockey related to the international tournament arrives in the Maritimes as it is the inaugural pre-tournament game.
March 26 will see two university teams take on national teams as the St. FX X-Women battle it out with the Czech Republic, meanwhile, the STU Tommies are set to duel with the Hungarians. Neither the Czechs nor Hungarians have had strong women’s hockey programs in the past. However, when compared, the Czechs, who have been ranked higher, have still never qualified for the Olympics. These would be two games that I would give the U Sports teams the win in.
Although UNB is only playing one game against international competition, U de Moncton, STU and St. Mary’s will also play in a second set of games, two of which against teams who have qualified for the Olympics before.
While Moncton will play Hungary, the eyes will be on STU and St. Mary’s who will take on Team Denmark and Team Germany, two of the teams who have enjoyed a measure of success since starting their women’s hockey programs.
Whatever the result in the games, the experience will be invaluable for the U Sports teams who get the opportunity to play against some of the top women’s players in the world. It will also give them a different perspective on the women’s game as many of the international players they will face have not been affected by the current discourse in North American women’s hockey.
The pre-tournament scheduling featuring U Sports teams is below:
March 25th, New Glasgow N.S: UNB Reds vs Germany
March 26th, Antigonish, N.S: St.FX X-Women vs the Czech Republic
March 26th, Liverpool, N.S: St.Mary’s Huskies vs Hungary
March 27th, Yarmouth, N.S: St. Mary’s Huskies vs Denmark
March 27th, New Glasgow N.S: STU Tommies vs Germany
March 27th, Liverpool N.S: Moncton Aigles Bleus vs Hungary