The National Women's Hockey League this week announced its roster for Team NWHL, which will face the United States women's national team in a pair of exhibition games in mid January.
The teams will face off in two exhibition games on January 13 and 15 in Wesley Chapel, Florida. The Olympic team will be named on January 1, so the pair of games will be the first -- and final -- exhibitions with the full Olympic roster prior to the actual Olympics in Pyeongchang.
"We are incredibly excited about this experience for our players, and we're very proud to play this important role in USA Hockey's preparation for the Olympics," said Team NWHL GM Hayley Moore in a league statement. "The depth in our league is so strong that many players were considered for spots on this roster, but we feel confident the group we've assembled will offer excellent competition to Team USA."
Metropolitan Riveters defender Michelle Picard will captain Team NWHL, as announced Friday by the league. Picard is one of 10 Riveters players on the team, including five Metropolitan defenders. In seven games this season, Picard has registered four assists and 10 shots on goal.
Joining Picard on Team NWHL are her Riveters teammates Courtney Burke, Kiira Dosdall, Kelsey Koelzer, and Jenny Ryan. Burke has a league-high 11 assists this season, including six power-play assists, and Ryan has nine points (3G, 6A) in seven games in her first NWHL season.
Alexa Gruschow, the league's leading scorer, is also on Team NWHL. She has 13 points (7G, 6A) in seven games this season. Among the other Riveters forwards on the team: Miye D'Oench and Erika Lawler.
Lawler will be an interesting player to watch, as she faces some of her former teammates. Lawler was a member of the 2010 Olympic team.
"Being a USA Hockey alum, I am a close friend to a lot of players on the current roster," Lawler said.
"My very best friend is Meghan Duggan. We met playing hockey in 8th grade, and were teammates throughout high school and college. In 2010, we found ourselves walking side by side, with our jaws dragging on the floor in disbelief as we took that lap during opening ceremonies in Vancouver. We became Olympians together. We make each other better. We empower one another. We have the best friendship in the world and I couldn't feel more honored to step back onto the ice with her and the rest of my buddies currently on Team USA to help them prep for success in South Korea."
Finally, the NWHL's top goaltender, Katie Fitzgerald, will head to Florida. Fitzgerald is undefeated in seven games this season, with a league-best 1.57 GAA and .931 save percentage.
The Boston Pride will send seven players to Team NWHL in January. Jillian Dempsey leads the way, building off a season where she's registed seven points (4-3) in as many games. Emily Field, Jordan Smelker, and Dana Trivigno will join Dempsey on the forward corps in Florida.
Field has registered six points (2G, 4A) in seven games, while Trivigno has four points (2G, 2A) in five games, along with 23 shots on goal.
Defenders Lexi Bender and Alyssa Gaglardi, and goaltender Brittany Ott, round out the list of Pride players heading to Florida.
Ott has gone 2-4-1 this season while facing 197 shots against, a league-low among the NWHL's main four netminders. In seven games, she's registered a .904 save percentage, and a 2.86 goals-against avergae, second-best in the NWHL only to Fitzgerald.
"I have a lot of friends on that team, so I'm also looking forward to a nice reunion with them over a couple of highly-competitive hockey games in sunny Tampa, Florida," Ott said.
The majority of Team NWHL consists of Riveters and Pride players, as the Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale have a regular-season game that same weekend. That being said, there will be a few players missing from the game and heading to Florida.
Connecticut will be missing their powerhouse forward Kelly Babstock, who has registered six points (2G, 4A) in seven games this season. She's also notched a league-high 32 shots on goal.
Meanwhile, the Beauts will be missing four players. Captain Corinne Buie will be joined by fellow forwards Jess Jones and Hayley Scamurra, along with defender Sarah Edney.
Scamurra has five points (2G, 3A) in six games, while Buie has five points (2G, 3A) in seven games. Edney and Jones have each registered four points on the season.
The players were selected by Team NWHL GM Hayley Moore in consultation with the coaches of all four NWHL teams. Riveters head coach Chad Wiseman will be behind the bench for the game, with assistance from Boston's Thomas Poeck and Lindsay Berman.
Tickets for the game will cost $10. Broadcast information has not been released yet but is forthcoming.