Chris Iorfida - Thursday Nov. 21, 2013 09:59 ET

Tara Watchorn among rookies trying to crack women's hockey lineup

Part 1: Keeping the puck out

Tara Watchorn, right, celebrates with veteran teammate Jayna Hefford. Watchorn is one of the rookies trying to make the cut for Team Canada. (Mike Groll/Associated Press)

The Canadian women's hockey team is currently centralized in Calgary, playing a series of exhibitions against heated rival the United States, as well as contests against Alberta boys' midget squads. 

In the first of a two-part series, here's an introduction to the Canadian women's hockey players hoping to compete in their first Olympics in February. First up, the players whose primary assignment is to keep the puck out of Canada's net. They range from those who've already suited up for Canada at a number of world championships and other tournaments, to more recent arrivals.

There are 24 players left on Canada's women's hockey roster, trying out for 21 spots on the Olympic team. Thirteen players still on the list who were on the Vancouver Olympic team are not guaranteed return trips to the Olympics. But they've obviously had a substantial body of work to make their case.

The Sochi roster should have significant turnover on the blue-line with only two remaining candidates who played at the Vancouver Olympics —  Meaghan Mikkelson and Catherine Ward. 

Tessa Bonhomme, a veteran of the 2010 team, was cut on Nov. 12, along with first-time hopefuls Brigitte Lacquette on defence and forward Jenelle Kohanchuk. Here's a look at newbies trying to crack the lineup in goal and on defence.

(Photos courtesy of Hockey Canada.)


225-lacasse.jpg Geneviève Lacasse, G
Born: 5/5/1989
Hometown: Kingston, Ont.


Barring a disastrous next few months in terms of performance, is guaranteed a spot on the roster for Sochi, but her goal is to make a case for playing time ahead of vets Charline Labonte and Shannon Szabados ... Starred with Boston Blades of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, winning top goalie honours in 2012-13, while the team won the Clarkson Cup ... Is used to a busy slate: In addition tending goal, took courses towards her MBA and served as a teaching assistant while at Providence College ... Father, sister and brother all serving in the Canadian Forces, with her father stationed in Israel.


225-birchard.jpg Courtney Birchard
Born: 07/14/89
Hometown: Mississauga, Ont.


Has racked up significant games for Canada, at  last two world championships and Four Nations Cup ... In addition to two assists, the converted forward scored in 2013 world championship final ... Coming out of high school, was also offered NCAA scholarships for soccer, but chose the ice ... Attended University of New Hampshire, and aspires to be a high school teacher ... Very familiar with top U.S. forward Amanda Kessel, through dating her brother, pro defenceman Blake Kessel.



Laura Fortino
Born: 01/30/91
Hometown: Hamilton, Ont.


First time being centralized, although she has experience with Canada at the last two world championships ... Says the key to making the team will be her play in Canada's zone, and to that end, she finished with two assists and a plus-6 at the 2013 world championships ... Her offensive chops were displayed when she led all NCAA defencemen in scoring in her freshman year ... Would love to be heading to Sochi alongside friend and Cornell teammate Lauriane Rougeau.


225-larocque.jpgJocelyne Larocque
Born: 05/19/88
Hometown: St. Anne, Man.

Exposure to the team dates back to the 2008 Four Nations Cup, and she was centralized in 2009-10 but failed to make the cut ... Has played for Canada in the last three world championships, with a sterling plus-10 to go along with two assists at the Ottawa event in March ...Favoured defence partner is Olympic vet Meaghan Mikkelson, describtes it as natural chemistry  ... Credits Shannon Miller, Canada's 1998 Olympic coach and her coach at Minnesota-Duluth, for helping to improve her shot, puck control and stickhandling.



Lauriane Rougeau
Born: 04/12/90
Hometown: Beaconsfield, Que.


One of the few women's hockey players to ever make it to ESPN's Sportscentre highlights, courtesy of a triple overtime winner for Cornell against Boston University ... Served as captain for Cornell and in the past on Canada's U-18 team ... Played for Canada at 2012 worlds, the team's only gold medal in the last five years at the tournament, finishing with two points and a plus-3 in five games ... Inspired by work ethic of veteran Caroline Ouellette, who she's trained with for two summers in Montreal.



Tara Watchorn
Born: 5/30/1990
Hometown: Newcastle, Ont.


Previously played with Boston University and wanted to be close to Calgary ahead of centralization, choosing to suit up for Team Alberta of the Canadian Women's Hockey League ... Second time being centralized ... She was the first alternate for the 2013 worlds but didn't travel to Ottawa, describing it as a 'tough pill to swallow' that has spurred her to work harder ... Inspired by the courage of her mother, who deals with multiple sclerosis.



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