For the first time in 2021, the Dream Gap Tour is back on.
The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, made up primarily of national team talent across the United States and Canada, will begin its second touring event with a new twist this time around; they have some NHL partnerships, and starting with the New York Rangers and Madison Square Garden this weekend, will be playing in those arenas.
There won’t be a chance for fans to attend due to Covid restrictions, but it’s still a larger arena than women’s hockey has traditionally received.
Both games in the States over the next two weeks will include the Minnesota and New Hampshire hub teams in order to have the best safety protocols.
New Hampshire has had some action playing against USPHL teams in Tampa Bay a handful of times since the beginning of January.
This will be a good opportunity to look at some Team USA Olympic projections and hopefuls, especially with a most-likely shortened schedule at the international level this year; these PWHPA contests might be the public’s best chance to see the players most likely to be at Beijing in 2022.
There are, of course, some familiar names like Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker and Amanda Kessel, but this will also, for most people, be the first time watching some of the future stars of the sport.
The teams will face off on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. in New Jersey — streamed on CBC’s app — before Sunday’s event at MSG. They will regroup and play in Chicago next week as well, with the main event on March 7 on Sportsnet.
Unlike a traditional league, the standings have a unique scoring system, including two standings points for a win, one for an overtime win, and half of one for an overtime or shootout loss. There will also be an emphasis on hat tricks, shorthanded goals, goalie shutouts and if there are five goals or more scored by a team.
Jincy Dunne: Dunne is projected to make her Olympic debut next year if all goes well, so for those who didn’t watch her much at Ohio State, this should be an exciting look. Dunne, who almost was the youngest player ever on the USA Olympic squad in 2014, is expected to make a big impact in next year’s Beijing Olympics. The 23-year-old defender had 31 points as a senior with Ohio State and has a ton of potential as a puck mover from the blue line.
Emily Field: Field was one of the most consistent forwards with the Boston Pride of the NWHL for four seasons before joining the PWHPA. She played in the New Hampshire event over the fall after participating in the Dream Gap tour last season. The Boston College alum was underrated in her NWHL career, but could continue to carve out a niche in the PWHPA with teammates she’s been around her whole career.
Alex Cavallini: Any chance to watch Cavallini in net is a fun time. Goalies haven’t had a ton of competition to prepare for the Olympics, especially with no international events in the last year, so games and showcases like this are huge to see some shots against elite competition. Cavallini played in the PWHPA last tour but last consistently played in a league for the Calgary Inferno of the CWHL in 2019, where she had a .916 save percentage. She’ll be opposite her likely Olympic goalie teammates, Maddie Rooney and Nicole Hensely, as well for an extra spark.
Anne Pankowski: Every move Pankowski makes right now could affect if she gets a chance to make the Olympic team. After missing the cut last time around and then didn’t make the Worlds roster for the event that never was in 2020. If she wants to play her way back into favour though, she might have an opportunity to on this stage against her would-be teammates. She might be one of the most intriguing players for the entire tour.
Savannah Harmon: It’s funny Harmon and Dunne are opposing each other, because they’re the most likely young defenders to crack the Olympic roster. The former Clarkson star has made a ton of progress at international events in the past couple of years, and her time in the NWHL with Buffalo surely helped make a case. She’s on the cusp trying to make that roster for Beijing, and should have a good chance of it, and these games on the tour can only help.
Abby Roque: Roque was stellar in the Rivalry Series in 2019-20 and already had made a name for herself with Wisconsin. The 23-year-old scored 26 goals as a senior with the Badgers for a career high, and has been on a roll ever since. She injected some spark into the Americans in 2020 and projects to be one of the young players to break into the Olympic roster for the first time. Either way, she’ll be one of the most electric players on the ice this weekend.