Focused on 2019
by Dhiren Mahiban|24 FEB 2019
Brianna Decker celebrates after winning Olympic gold with Kelly Panek and their Team USA teammates.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Brianna Decker recently outshined NHL stars in passing skills at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition and one year ago helped the Americans snap a 20-year drought at the Olympic Games in PyeongChang 2018 registering two assists as the U.S. beat Canada to win gold in Olympic women’s ice hockey for the first time since 1998. 

However, the focused Dousman, Wisconsin native isn’t interested in reminiscing on the past. Instead, Decker is on to her next challenge: the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which goes 4-14 April in Espoo, Finland.
“We all hit the reset button starting (last) summer,” Decker explained. “We obviously enjoyed our success last year, but it’s a reset. (Canada is) gritty, they’re hungry and they’re ready to get back at us and we’re going to be ready for them."
Jocelyne Lamoureux scored the shootout winner as the Americans edged the Canadians 3-2 last February. The gold medal victory was the first for the U.S. since the inaugural women’s tournament in Nagano, Japan in 1998. 
Thirteen returnees from the 2018 U.S. Olympic team, including Decker, participated in the recent three-game Rivalry Series between the Canadians and Americans – a series Canada won 2-1. 
More importantly for both sides was an opportunity to see where the respective teams are at ahead of the Women’s World Championship a little over a month away. 
“There’s some new faces, but I think we have enough returnees that we can take charge and lead the charge,” Decker said. “I think we’ve got some stuff to work on. We’ve got to play to our strengths too. Obviously we want a little bit more (offensive) zone time. I think we’re shying away from that. I think the way we move the puck, if we can get back to those things and move our feet, move the puck, I think we’re going to be a lot more successful.”
Brianna Decker is being interviewed at the last IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in 2017 on home ice in Plymouth.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Though only two months old, 2019 has already been an eventful year for Decker. In addition to her participation at the Rivalry Series with the U.S. women’s national team where she scored a goal in three games, Decker also participated in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
Decker was in San Jose, California last month along with U.S. teammate Kendall Coyne Schofield and Canadians Rebecca Johnston and Renata Fast. 
“I’m very thankful to the NHL for allowing us all to come there,” Decker said. “It was a great experience for us four girls. We definitely represented women’s hockey pretty well and couldn’t be more thankful. 
“It was a huge moment for us. I think anytime we can grow the game, that’s part of what we try to do. As soon as we put on the national team uniform, that’s part of our role. That’s what we did that weekend and then NHL allowed us to do that.” 
Decker demonstrated the Premier Passer event, and though she wasn’t officially timed as a participant in the competition, Decker recorded a time three seconds faster than Edmonton Oilers’ forward Leon Draisaitl – the eventual winner. 
The 27-year-old admitted to being nervous heading into the event, but also soaked up the experience chatting with several of the NHLers participating. 
“I messed up in the rehearsal so I was kind of nervous going into that, but it was fine,” she said. “I think mostly I spoke to a few different guys, but Auston Matthews, it was great to talk to him, obviously a U.S. guy. I hadn’t really talked to him before so it was good to know him and he’s obviously doing pretty well in Toronto, so it was fun.” 
Following a social media uproar, equipment maker CCM stepped up and paid Decker the $25,000 prize money and got another sponsorship deal. “I couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of their family,” she said.
Up next for Decker, who plays with the Canadian Women's Hockey League's Calgary Inferno, is the Women’s World Championship. Decker has won five golds and a silver at the Women’s Worlds while the Americans have taken home gold at four consecutive tournaments and 8 of the last 10 events. The U.S. will begin their gold medal defence on 4 April against the hosts, Finland.