Although the majority of the players are Canadian, the captain, Shiann Darkangelo, is American. And despite Toronto being a city that produces so much world-class talent, two of the team’s four goals in its 4-3 overtime win against Minnesota were scored by Czechia nationals, Dominika Laskova, in the first, and Tereza Vanisova, in the OT.
Here in Brampton, these two Czech/Six stars are joined by three other Czechs from the PHF—Denisa Krizova (Minnesota Whitecaps), Katerina Mrazova (Connecticut Whale), and Aneta Tejralova (Boston Pride)—and five others who played in the American pro circuit this past winter. They include three Hungarians—Fanni Gasparics and Reka Dabasi of the Metropolitan Riveters and Taylor Baker of the Montreal Force—Switzerland’s Sarah Forster (also of the Riveters) and American Rebecca Gilmore, the only PHF player on a North American team.
So far, Mrazova, Dabasi, and Gilmore have all scored at the Women’s Worlds, but for Gilmore the goal might have a bit more meaning. The U.S. roster includes eleven members of the rival PWHPA, eleven NCAA collegians, and Gilmore.
“When we’re wearing the USA jersey we’re all one,” she explained. “We’re teammates, and there’s no difference. It’s incredible to play with them, and we’re all representing the United States, so it’s such an honour, no matter where you come from.”
As a teen, Gilmore had an outstanding career with USA Hockey’s U18 team, winning a silver in 2014 and then back-to-back golds in 2015 and 2016. A year later, she joined the Harvard Crimson, where she played for five years, before, during, and after COVID-19. Once graduated, she had a choice between the pro PHF and the PWHPA. For her, it was not a difficult selection.
“I was living in Boston at the time so it was an easy decision for me,” she explained. “I’m really excited and proud to play for the Boston Pride and I hope to be back there next year as well. Right now, I’m focused on the next game here and excited for that. I’ll worry about the next chapter come the 17th or 18th.”
The Pride had won the Isobel Cup in 2021 and 2022, but they were upset in the playoffs by the Minnesota Whitecaps just a few weeks ago in this year's playoffs, losing the best-of-three by 4-1 and 5-2 scores in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Nevertheless, Gilmore’s experience and performance after U18 was supported by coach John Wroblewski of the senior team, and Gilmore played her way onto the team at training camp for the tournament in Brampton. Gilmour played 8:59 in her first game, a 7-1 win over Japan, and in the team’s second outing, she played 10:27 and scored a first-period goal.
In the U.S. dressing room, Gilmore is just one piece of the puzzle. For the quintet of PHF Czechs, however, their collective role is far greater because coach Carla MacLeod has to rely heavily on their contributions. Laskova is the team’s stud on the blue line. She logged 29:40 against Canada and was superb. Tejralova and Vanisova played at three U18s together a decade ago and have been core pieces of the Czechia lineup ever since at the top level, both at the Women’s Worlds and Olympics.
Krisova, at 28 slightly older than the others, has also been around for more than a decade. Mrazova is one of only seven players here in Brampton who also played at the inaugural U18 in Calgary in 2008. And only Vanisova was not part of the team’s fabulous run to a bronze medal last August.
But while Czechia is in Group A and playing with the comfort cushion of knowing they will be back in the top level next year, the mindset is much different for Gasparics, Dabasi, and Baker. These three aren’t just key to the team’s success; they will be of key importantce in helping the team return to the top level after being demoted this year.
And for Forster, who will turn 30 next month and who had had a fine international career, the chance to play in the PHF was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. She never played NCAA hockey, and after more than a decade in the Swiss women’s league, moving to the U.S. was a breath of fresh air.
In Brampton, all of the PHFers have their own national-team agendas, and friendships have to be put on hold. But that doesn’t mean they won’t exchange a friendly hello or knowing wink when they get a chance.
“Hockey is a small world no matter what league you play in, so it’s always awesome to see girls playing at the highest competition you know,” Gilmore added. “It’s a smile off ice, but on ice it’s all seriousness and competitive.”