THE national women's hockey team camp starting today in Ottawa is head coach Dan Church's last look at players before he names his world championship team.
Ottawa is the host city of the 2013 women's world championships April 2-9 at SBP Arena and the Nepean Sportsplex. The Canadian women will attempt to defend the gold medal they won in 2012 in Burlington, Vt.
Church says he will name the players he wants to try out for the 2014 Olympic team shortly after the world championships.
Three goaltenders, seven defenders and 13 forwards will hit the ice Monday at Carleton University for a five-day camp.
All but one of the players invited to the camp play in the Canadian Women's Hockey League. The exception is Winnipeg forward Jenelle Kohanchuk, who plays at Boston University.
Kohanchuk was sidelined last season with a concussion. She played for Canada's under-22 team earlier this month at the Meco Cup in Germany.
"We wanted to see her a little more extensively," Church said.
Captain Hayley Wickenheiser will not attend because of school commitments at the University of Calgary.
"For Wick, it was school," Church said. "She's closing in on the end of her academic undergrad degree. We talked about it. She wanted to come. I said 'If it's too much stress and pressure, why don't you stay?' She's in a good club environment there in Calgary."
Wickenheiser plays for the U of C Dinos and gets regular practices and games, the coach pointed out.
The practice and game schedules of the CWHL players are more erratic than those of the players in school, which is why so many CWHL players have been summoned to Ottawa, says Church. He also didn't want to pull his college and university players out of school and interrupt their studies at this time.
"We want to continue with our skill development, work on the fine skills and the technical aspects of the game," he said. "That's definitely a goal for this camp. It's definitely an opportunity to polish up some of our tactical play five-on-five and specialty teams.
"Whenever they come together in a camp, we're always looking at evaluation and this will be our last opportunity to see people together before we name the worlds team in March. It will definitely give us some more information on what we're going to do, both looking at worlds and centralization."
The CWHL's Clarkson Cup is March 20-23 in Markham, Ont., and the NCAA women's Frozen Four is March 22 and 24 in Minneapolis. The majority of Canada's world championship team will come from the CWHL and NCAA.
Church, who also coaches the York University women, says that doesn't give him enough time to hold both selection and training camps for the Canadian team prior to the world championship.
He'll name his world championship roster in March and get players to Ottawa as soon as he can after the Clarkson Cup and Frozen Four to start preparing.
"We have a week, which is adequate," he said. "Depending on who is in the Clarkson Cup and the Frozen Four, we may bring some players in a little bit earlier and get them on the ice together. We probably won't have the full group, but we're looking at that as an option."
The camp lineup features 16 players from the team that beat the U.S. in overtime for gold at last year's world championship, as well as 10 from the victorious 2010 Winter Olympic team.
Caroline Ouellette, Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps, Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Tessa Bonhomme, Catherine Ward and goaltender Charline Labonte will be among the veterans at the Ottawa camp.
Goaltender Shannon Szabados, who plays college hockey for Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, will not attend. CWHL goalies Christina Kessler of Mississauga, Ont., and Genevieve Lacasse of Kingston, Ont., join Labonte at camp.
Church invited 2010 veterans Sarah Vaillancourt, Cherie Piper and Kim St. Pierre to the Ottawa camp, but they will not be there. Those three players haven't suited up for Canada at a major international tournament since the 2011 world championships.
St. Pierre took last season off to have a baby. The three-time Olympian has said another Winter Games is unlikely for her. Piper was finishing her education degree and is now nursing a knee injury, says Church.
"I think they still want to be under consideration. We're going to keep them under consideration," Church said. "As we move through the rest of the year, as we get closer to world championships, we'll see some final decisions being made."
Ottawa was the site of the first women's world championship in 1990.
-- The Canadian Press