Intense women's hockey rivalry between Canada and U.S. heats up in London
Published Monday, February 11, 2019 3:53PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 11, 2019 4:17PM EST
It’s a rivalry renewed as the Canadian women's hockey team squares off against the U.S. in the Women's Rivalry Series.
“There is going to be grit, grind and competitiveness” says Team Canada head coach Perry Pearn.
Canada and the No. 1- ranked Americans will play a three game series starting Tuesday at London's Budweiser Gardens.
“They are the world champs, and Olympic champs, so we need to win some of these games and set the tone,” says veteran Canadian forward Natalie Spooner.
Making her senior national team debut is St. Thomas native Brittany Howard. The rookie professional with the Toronto Furies of the CWHL got the call to put on the Canadian jersey for the first time.
“It’s definitely fast," says the 23-year-old former London Devillette. “It’s a high tempo game out there with good contact, so you have to skate fast and keep your head up”.
She’s adjusting to her surroundings already and Furies' teammates like Spooner and Sarah Nurse are helping her gain confidence with the national team.
“She’s a threat when she gets that puck, because she can really shoot it,“ says Spooner. “Giving her that confidence that she belongs here is important. Being a rookie can be intimidating, but we’re helping her get comfortable."
Pearn says Howard is a dynamic scorer, but is “not quite as successful early on at the CWHL level.” He feels she needs to work on both sides of her game and bring that to the national team.
With 20 skaters dressing Tuesday night, Howard and Londoner Katelyn Gosling will be in the lineup for sure in game one.
Pearn adds these games are important, but also an opportunity to give big game experience to younger players.
That’s big news for area girls hockey players who will fill the stands as part of a sellout crowd at Budweiser Gardens.
“It’s a great opportunity for the Devillettes as well as surrounding area teams like St. Thomas, Belmont and Dorchester to see these elite players in a small centre like London” says Howard.