Cana­dian women’s team led by a new group of quiet lead­ers

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER

Team cap­tain Poulin has big skates to fill, but one team­mate al­ready calls her ‘ir­re­place­able’

Marie-Philip Poulin is the strong, quiet type whose play does the talk­ing. Meghan Agosta is the mother hen. Bri­anne Jen­ner is the big­pic­ture thinker and Jo­ce­lyne Larocque in­jects calm con­fi­dence.

For the first time in a long time at a Win­ter Olympics, the Cana­dian women’s hockey team isn’t led by war horses Hay­ley Wick­en­heiser, Caro­line Ouel­lette and Jayna Hef­ford.

With that trio now re­tired after win­ning four straight gold medals, a new lead­er­ship group has been groomed since 2014 with Poulin wear­ing the cap­tain’s C in Pyeongchang.

“Caro, Wick and Jayna, they’ve taught us so much,” Poulin said. “Ob­vi­ously, be­ing able to fol­low in their foot­steps is some­thing I take with me ev­ery day.”

No one has scored big­ger goals for the Cana­dian women lately than the 26-year-old from Beauceville, Que.

Poulin’s equal­izer and over­time win­ner in the Olympic fi­nal four years ago is now part of Cana­dian hockey lore.

At the age of 22, she scored both of Canada’s goals in a 2-0 win over the United States in the 2010 cham­pi­onship game.

By her own ad­mis­sion, Poulin is quiet and shy. Cana­dian head coach Laura Schuler says Poulin doesn’t need to be an or­a­tor with a game and at­ti­tude that de­mands re­spect.

“It’s the en­ergy she brings on the ice and off the ice ev­ery sin­gle day,” Schuler said. “She’s got a heart of gold.”

“She never takes a mo­ment off. For her, some­times we have to scale her back just in terms of

the im­por­tance of rest and recovery and how that can in­flu­ence your per­for­mance.”

Rookie for­ward Jill Saulnier of Hal­i­fax calls Poulin “ir­re­place­able.”

“She has the right to cel­e­brate the most suc­cesses that any ath­lete has had in the world,” Saulnier said. “She is quiet, but when she plays and gets on the ice, her pres­ence is cer­tainly not quiet.”

Canada con­cludes the pre­lim­i­nary round on Thurs­day against the ri­val Amer­i­cans, with the game start­ing late on Wed­nes­day night in Canada.

Both coun­tries have al­ready gained byes to the Feb. 19 semi­fi­nal with 2-0 records in Pool A.

Agosta, from Ruthven, Ont., Jen­ner, from Oakville, Ont., and Larocque, from Ste. Anne, Man.,

are Poulin’s al­ter­nates in Pyeongchang.

“The four of us of­fer dif­fer­ent things, but I think what char­ac­ter­izes this group is lead­ing through ac­tion,” Jen­ner said.

“We’re four play­ers that like to be con­sis­tent per­form­ers, that like to show up to the rink ev­ery day.

“Cer­tainly our cap­tain, Marie Philip, her work ethic is un­par­al­leled and I would say the same about Agosta and Larocque.”

Agosta, 31, is the elder stateswoman com­pet­ing in her fourth Olympics. The for­ward was Canada’s lead­ing scorer and the tour­na­ment’s most valu­able player in 2010. “She’s kind of that glue, the mother fig­ure of our team,” Schuler said.

Jen­ner, a 26-year-old for­ward,

and Larocque, a 29-year-old de­fender, were among the fi­nal play­ers cut from the 2010 Olympic team be­fore mak­ing the squad four years later.

“Jen­ner is so in­cred­i­bly in­tel­li­gent and she al­ways has that big pic­ture in the back of her head,” Schuler said. “She re­ally un­der­stands what’s im­por­tant for our team.”

“Jo­ce­lyne is prob­a­bly one of our most com­posed play­ers. I think she’s able to re­ally calm things down in terms of her play. That rubs off on ev­ery­body and al­lows us to play the hockey we need to play.”

The re­tire­ment of Wick­en­heiser, Ouel­lette and Hef­ford, as well as three-time Olympian Gil­lian Apps, post-2014 led to sig­nif­i­cant turnover in the na­tional

team’s lead­er­ship group.

“For­tu­nately for the four of us, we played with them for many years,” Larocque said. “We learned so much from them. We try to carry that for­ward to this group.”

She picks Hef­ford has her lead­er­ship men­tor. Poulin and Jen­ner grav­i­tate to Ouel­lette, who was Canada’s cap­tain in 2014.

Agosta goes fur­ther back and chooses Cassie Camp­bell, who cap­tained Canada to back-to­back gold in 2002 and 2006.

“It didn’t mat­ter if she was play­ing or not play­ing, she was al­ways that per­son that gave taps on the pads to say ‘Hey, girls you know we’ve got this,’ ” Agosta said.

Team Canada cap­tain Marie-Philip Poulin scores a goal against goal­keeper Noora Raty of Fin­land in an Olympic pre­lim­i­nary-round match at Kwan­dong Hockey Cen­tre in Gangneung, South Korea, on Tues­day.

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