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USA vs. Canada U18 Summer Series Preview

After a seemingly endless string of evaluation camps this summer, the United States and Canada have each settled on a roster for this week’s U18 Summer Series, a three-game set between the two hockey powerhouses that will take place in Calgary.

The Summer Series is a tune-up/evaluation event to help the two countries prepare for this winter’s World U18 championships, which will be held in Obihiro, Japan.

Here is the roster for the US team.

The US returns all three players from their top line that dominated last year’s tournament in ‘01 Casey O’Brien(Wisconsin) and ‘02s Makenna Webster(Wisconsin) and Abbey Murphy(Minnesota). They were terrific in last year’s tournament, and there’s no reason to expect anything other than the same this year. It’s unlikely they’ll play together much at the Summer Series since experimenting and seeing what else the US has is more valuable than going all out for the win, but they’ll form the basis of the US attack in Japan this winter.

Anchoring the second line will be winger Dominique Petrie, who has won gold medals with the US in the previous two tournaments. Petrie will be the youngest player in college hockey this year, after accelerating schooling to join Harvard this year.

The other two returning forwards from last year’s gold medal winner are Hannah Bilka(BC) and Sydney Shearen(Minnesota). Both were relegated bottom-six roles at last year’s tournament, and didn’t see a ton of ice time in critical moments, but should play a bigger role in this year’s tournament. Bilka played on the wing last year, but has the skating and playmaking ability that she could move to center.

With so much of the forward line-up already set with returning players, there are only three other forwards from the oldest ‘01 age group. Addie Burton(Minnesota) is a strong power forward-type with good skill that has really improved her skating ability in the past year or so. There’s a possibility of her filling the role of second line winger played so well by Britta Curl in last year’s tournament. Danielle Hartje(Yale), is an athletic forward that should be a solid lower line asset. Finally, Sydney Bard(Colgate) is a native-New Yorker that plays in the Toronto area. She was close to making the team last year, and will get a good shot at going this year.

Rounding out the forward group are ‘02s Lacey Eden, Clara Van Wieren(UMD) and Kiara Zanon(Penn State), who will be looking to make names for themselves as underagers on this team.

The defense is a little less settled. Gracie Ostertag and Madeline Wethington finally aged out of this event after eating significant minutes in the last three tournaments, so there is a lot of ice time up for grabs. The only two returners are Hadley Hartmetz(BC) and Maggie Nicholson(Minnesota). Both will likely see significant power play time, with Hartmetz as more of a puck-mover and Nicholson utilizing her big shot from the point.

Again, the US will use this tournament as an opportunity to see what they have in some younger players. Selects Academy D Lauren Bernard(Clarkson) is the only other ‘01 on the blue line.

Maddy Samoshkevich(Quinnipiac), Ashley Messier(Cornell), and Caroline Harvey(Wisconsin) round out the ‘02s invited. There’s not a lot of size in that group, but they are good skaters that can move the puck.

And finally, Clarkson commit Haley Winn is the only ‘03 to be invited among the skaters. The pedigree of past players invited to play the U18s as double underagers is pretty impressive for the US, so Winn is in strong company.

In goal, the US has to replace Lindsay Reed, who logged all the minutes in last year’s tournament. ‘01 Natalie Ferenc(Vermont) is a smaller, quick goalie, while ‘03 Skyler Vetter is young, but has tremendous upside. Vetter was extremely solid playing boys AA bantam hockey last winter in Minnesota and has a really bright future with USA Hockey.

As for Canada, here is the roster they will bring to the Summer Series.

Unlike the US, Canada tends to favor a much older, more experience roster and this year is no exception. While the US split their final U18 roster 11/11 between ‘01s and underage players, Canada invited just eight underage players to their pre-tournament camp, with only six underagers making the final roster.

Because Canada opts for an older team, there is a ton of turnover for them from year to year at this tournament. Just four players on the Summer Series roster were part of last year’s bronze medal winning team, though as one would expect with such a high bar, they’re all pretty elite.

Julia Gosling(SLU) had three goals in last year’s tournament. She’s a tall forward with smooth hands. Gosling’s younger sister Nicole was one of the few ‘02s to make this team as a defenseman.

Grace Shirley, younger sister of former Team Canada U18 star and Wisconsin commit Sophie Shirley is the other returning forward. She didn’t see a lot of ice time in last year’s tournament, but should be a bigger factor this year.

Returning on defense are Maggie MacEachern(Colgate), a speedy, offensive-minded defenseman and Alexie Guay(BC), who averaged over a point-per-game from the blue line in last year’s tournament.

One newcomer to watch for Canada is ‘02 F Anne Cherkowski(Minn). Cherkowski is a tremendous skater that could neutralize some of the speed advantage the US has had over Canada in recent tournaments.

Overall, I would expect three close games at this Summer Series, with one team winning 2-1 either way. I think the US has a slightly deeper roster and their high-end is much better than Canada’s, but add in the factors of Canada playing home, this week being more about experimentation and examination, and the fact that it’s just always close when these two meet and I could see it going either way.