Because the next Olympic Winter Games are less than six months away, everyone will have one eye on Calgary and another on Beijing. But of the ten teams and almost 250 players competing in Alberta, only 10 have absolutely no top-level IIHF experience – aside from the newly promoted teams from Denmark and Hungary. They haven’t played at the Women’s U18, or the Women’s Worlds, or the Olympics. They are truly rookies, and six are on the German team. Who are they? How did they get here? Read on!
CAN – Ella Shelton – b. Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, 19 January 1998
Shelton captained Clarkson University in 2019/20, her fourth year with the Golden Knights. She helped Clarkson to national championships her first two years with the school. The left-shooting defender was a biology major and has been on Team Canada’s radar for a while. She played for Team Ontario U18 in 2016 and most recently played two games in the Rivalry Series against the U.S. in late 2019.
CAN – Claire Thompson – b. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 28 January 1998
Another defender, the 23-year-old played four years for the Princeton Tigers, but after winning the ECAC championship in the spring of 2020 the rest of the NCAA playoffs were cancelled because of Covid-19. Thompson also played in two games of the Rivalry Series and was on Team Canada’s final roster for the 2020 Women’s Worlds before it, too, was cancelled.
CZE – Lenka Serdar – b. Lexington, Massachusetts, United States, 21 July 1997
A dual citizen of the Czech Republic and United States, Serdar played four years at Cornell University (2015-19) before taking her show on the road. She played all over Europe the last two years, notably with Linkoping in Sweden this past season, where she will play again next year as well.
GER – Sandra Abstreiter – b. Freising, Germany, 23 July 1998
A goaltender for the Providence Friars, Abstreiter played one game for Germany at the Women’s U18 Worlds in 2016 when it was in Division I. When she got to Providence, she had to play her way into the line-up. In her first season in 2017/18 she didn’t see a minute of game action, and a year later she played only two games. But in her past two seasons she played 21 games each and became one of Division I’s best goalies in NCAA hockey. She had started her career back in Germany, playing for EHC Planegg and earning a position on that U18 national team in 2016 as a result.
GER – Nina Jobst-Smith – b. North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 30 August 2001
Jobst-Smith is only 19 and developed her skills in the Vancouver area before moving to Germany to play for two years with ECDC Memmingen. During that time she played for Germany at the Five Nations Cup in Russia and also attended the 2019 Development Camp with the German national team. The defender has just finished her rookie year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Her full name is Katarina Mina Louise Jobst-Smith, and in addition to German and Canadian passports she is also British by way of her mother, who moved the family to B.C. when Nina was three.
GER – Katharina Hackelsmiller – b. Bobingen, Germany, 27 August 2004
While most newcomers to the Women’s Worlds have several years of playing senior league hockey to their credit, Hackelsmiller is just the opposite – a rookie in every sense of the word. She won’t turn 17 until the second week of the tournament, but she had a fine rookie season with ECDC Memmingen this past year in Germany’s Bundesliga. She also captained the German entry at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne.
GER – Jule Schiefer – b. Munich, Germany, 12 September 2001
Although she played the 2020/21 season in Germany with ERC Ingolstadt, the 19-year-old Schiefer did much of her developing at the Banff Academy in Alberta during a three-year period (2016-19). She played for her country at the U18 in 2019 in Division I, but the team finished second and failed to earn promotion (they did a year later).
GER – Svenja Voigt – b. Cologne, Germany, 29 March 2004
Another young player the Germans hope to work into the line-up, both in Calgary and looking ahead to the 2022 Olympics, Voigt has played the last three years in Canada at Stanstead College, a boarding school in Quebec that is part of the Junior Women’s Hockey League. She played at the U18 for Germany last year, helping the team earn promotion for 2021 for only the second time since 2013.
GER – Sonja Weidenfelder – b. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 7 March 1993
A member of ECDC Memmingen since 2017, the 28-year-old Weidenfelder is making her debut with Germany back in her country of birth. After attending high school in Germany, she attended the University of Toronto where she played for the Lady Blues for five years (2011-16). The 5’6” forward improved her offense every year and was named to the German team for the 2020 WW before its cancellation.
USA – Savannah Harmon – b. Downers Grove, Illinois, United States, 27 October 1995
As soon as you see the city name Downers Grove, you think Cammi Granato, and this is the hockey country Harmon grew up in. A teammate of Canada’s Ella Shelton at Clarkson, Harmon captained the team to its second national title in 2017/18 and was a Patty Kazmaier Award finalist. She played for the Buffalo Beauts in the NWHL in 2018/19 after which she joined the PWHPA and played several games on the Dream Gap Tour as well as for the U.S. against Canada in the Rivalry Series. She, too, was on the 2020 WW team for the U.S. prior to the tournament’s cancellation.