2022 Winter Olympics: Previewing the United States Men’s and Women’s Hockey Teams

Andrew Bialek, Contributing Writer

Men’s Tournament

On Sept. 3, 2021, the hockey world rejoiced after the National Hockey League (NHL) officially announced their plan to allow NHL players to make a return to the winter Olympic Games. Fans were elated, eager to soon see players like Auston Mathews, Patrick Kane and Keith Jones of the United States square off against Connor McDavid, Sydney Crosby and Alex Pietrangelo of Canada. 

However, in December, faced with rising COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant and a sense of skepticism amongst players about China’s quarantine rules, the NHL pulled out of the Olympic Games. With the NHL not participating in the Olympics, U.S. hockey had to rethink plans for their Olympic roster.

The United States men’s Olympic hockey roster is made up of players playing professional hockey in Europe, the American Hockey League (AHL) and in college. Leading the veteran side of things for the United States is Brian O’ Neill, the lone returning player from the 2018 Olympic team and currently playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). 

Currently, O’Neill is third in assists in the KHL with 33, and eleventh in points with 42. O’Neill’s experience stands out among this U.S.A. men’s hockey team, which is the youngest since 1994 with an average age of just over 25. Also on the KHL leaderboard from team U.S.A. is Nathan Smith, whose 20 goals and 40 points put him in 7th and 14th, respectively. 

Compiling the team’s youth core are fifteen college hockey players. One such player is Matty Beneirs, who has 15 goals and 32 total points this year with the University of Michigan. Joining Beneirs is his linemate, Brendan Brission, as well as the leading point-getter in the NCAA this season, Minnesota State University’s Nathan Smith. 

Rounding out Team U.S.A.’s senior wing are former NHL players Nick Shore, Stephen Kamper, Aaron Ness and Kenney Agostinio. Between the pipes is Strauss Mann; Mann currently leads the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) in goals against average (GAA) with a score of 1.77. Other team U.S.A. goaltenders include Pat Nagle from the AHL and Drew Commesso of Boston University and the 2022 World Junior Team. 

The United States has their work cut out for them. In the group stage, they will face Germany, which won the silver medal in 2018; Canada, which went with older players than the U.S. did; and China, the host team. 

The United States should be able to win at least one game in the group stage but their slate will get even harder if they advance to the knockout stage if faced with Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic or the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), teams which are made up of players from their respective domestic leagues. However, even with a young roster, the United States men’s hockey team has talent and a medal is possible.   

Women’s Tournament

In the 2018 Olympics, the United States women’s hockey team ended their 20-year gold medal drought, beating Canada in a shootout. The final score was 3-2 with the United States winning 1-0 in the shootout, notching their desired gold medal. The 2022 tournament should look no different than 2018 in terms of the contenders, considering the United States and Canada have dominated women’s hockey since international competition began in 1990.

The roster for the United States team features mostly returning and experienced players from the 2018 Olympics and prior. The 2022 team features 16 members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), four Division I NCAA players, two players from the Russian Women’s Hockey League (WHL) and one from the North American Hockey Academy (NAHA). 

Among the leading veterans is Hillary Knight, the only player on the team who competed in the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Kendal Coyne Schofield, the first woman to participate in the NHL All-Star skills competition in the fastest skater competition in 2019, also joins Knight as a veteran. 

Returning to the Olympics after getting cut in 2018 are Megan Bozek and Alex Carpenter. Carpenter led the United States team in goals during the 2014 tournament and Bozek made the All-Star team in 2014. Making their Olympic debuts for the United States are Caroline Harvey, Abby Roque, Savannah Harmon, Haley Samurra, Jesse Compher, Jincy Dunce and Abbey Murphy. 

Fans should expect the United States women’s hockey team to make it to the gold medal game. The only threat they face is Canada, against which they will play once in the group stage, and which will most likely be their opponent should they make the championship match.