A veteran of Canada’s women’s hockey team that won Olympic gold in 2010 has been released from the 2014 squad.
Defenceman Tessa Bonhomme of Sudbury, Ont., was among three players cut Tuesday morning.
Defenceman Brigette Lacquette of Waterhen, Man., and Winnipeg’s Jenelle Kohanchuk were also given the bad news by head coach Dan Church before the Canadian team departed Calgary for a game in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Church reduced his roster to 24 players as Canada prepares for the chance to defend gold in Sochi, Russia, in February. One more defencemen and two more forwards will be released before the final Olympic team is announced in late December.
Bonhomme, Lacquette and Kohanchuk had just played in the Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., where Canada beat Finland 6-3 in Saturday’s final. Kohanchuk scored twice in the championship game.
“We didn’t foresee they were going to be able to move themselves up enough to overtake who was ahead of them on the depth chart at this point,” Church said Tuesday.
“It didn’t matter how many weeks were still (to go), we didn’t see that happening based on the body of work to date.”
Lacquette, 21, and Kohanchuk, 23, had never played for the national women’s team before they were invited to try out for the Olympic team this winter. Between them, they’ve played 15 international games
Bonhomme, 28, represented Canada in four world championships in addition to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
She won three gold and two silver in those tournaments and appeared in her 100th international game during the Four Nations. Offensively skilled and quick on her skates, Bonhomme has 10 goals and 41 assists for Canada, but didn’t have any points in Lake Placid.
Bonhomme was one of 13 veterans from 2010 invited to try out for the Olympic team again, but she was beaten out of her job by younger defenders. Lauriane Rougeau, Laura Fortino, Courtney Birchard and Tara Watchorn are newcomers to Canada’s blue-line since 2010.
Jocelyne Larocque, who was released from the 2010 team, and 2010 vets Catherine Ward and Meaghan Mikkelson are the experienced defencemen remaining.
“In looking at the number of defencemen we have, it comes down to a numbers game and who is ahead of whom at this point in the season,” Church said. “We have a lot of talented young players playing really well right now. I can’t say any of the player we released today played poorly. It’s the factor of competition.
“At this point, we have seven defencemen here who have been a little bit more consistent in their level of competition and that’s why they’re still here.”
Bonhomme raised the profile of women’s hockey as a recent winner of CBC’s “Battle of the Blades” with David Pelletier. She was the first female hockey player to participate in the glitzy television show that pairs hockey players with figure skaters.
Bonhomme has also participated in “Wipeout Canada” and has done television work for Leafs TV.
The Canadian women often say the Olympic Games is their Stanley Cup, except it happens every four years. That makes it difficult to tell them they won’t be going, said Church.
“While it’s a real tough day for coaches, it’s the toughest day for players,” Church said. “They were all emotional in their own way, but they all handled it very dignified. It was a tough day all around.
“Tessa was a true professional. She had a couple of questions. We had a short discussion with myself and our assistant coaches. She just thanked us and that was pretty much it. She was a true professional and handled herself really well.”
Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Rebecca Johnston, Jennifer Wakefield, Gillian Apps, Caroline Ouellette, Melanie Daoust, Jayna Hefford, Bailey Bram, Brianne Jenner, Haley Irwin, Hayley Wickenheiser, Natalie Spooner, Vicki Bendus and Marie-Philip Poulin are the remaining forwards after the release of Kohanchuk.
“Jenelle had played very well from the start of the season until now. We just didn’t see that she was going to be able to move up enough to make our final roster,” Church said. “She’s a hard-working player and a real good person, so it was hard to let her go, just as it was the other two players.
“Brigitte is a talented defender and I think there’s potential for her down the road if she matures and becomes a more well-rounded athlete.”
Shannon Szabados, Charline Labonte and Genevieve Lacasse are Canada’s goaltenders, but are competing for starts in Sochi.
The Canadian women resume their schedule in games against Alberta Midget Hockey League teams on Wednesday in Grande Prairie. Canada has played 27 games against men’s teams in the AMHL and international women’s teams since the players centralized in Calgary in August.
Canada and the U.S. will meet again Dec. 12 in Calgary, followed by their exhibition games in Grand Forks, N.D., on Dec. 20, St. Paul, Minn., on Dec. 28 and Toronto on Dec. 30. Church couldn’t say when he will release the remaining three players.
“Some time before Christmas we may release a player or two players or three all at once, but when that is, I think we’ll have to see how the next bunch of games go and make decisions as we go along,” Church said. “If someone falls out of the picture, we would make a decision at that time.”
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