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UMD women's hockey: Larocque, Bell named to Canadian Olympic team for 2022 Winter Games

Former Bulldog defenseman Jocelyne Larocque will make her third Olympic appearance, while current Bulldog Ashton Bell has made her first Olympic team.

Women's hockey player shooting the puck
Minnesota Duluth defenseman Ashton Bell controls the puck against Minnesota State-Mankato last season at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
(File / News Tribune)

A pair of All-American defensemen out of the University of Minnesota Duluth — Ashton Bell and Jocelyne Larocque — were named Tuesday to the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

This will be the third Olympics with Team Canada for the 33-year-old Larocque, who played four seasons for the Bulldogs from 2007-2011. Cut by Canada in the leadup to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Larocque has now made three straight Olympic teams. She won a gold medal with Canada in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, and silver four years ago in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

For the 22-year-old Bell — who still has a season of eligibility left at UMD after playing her senior year during the pandemic in 2020-21 — it will be her first Olympics. She made her national team debut only five months ago at the delayed IIHF Women’s World Championship, where she and Canada topped the U.S. for gold. Bell had a goal and two assists in her first major tournament with the national team.

READ MORE: Generations collide as Bulldogs blue liners Bell, Larocque chase Olympic gold with Canada

“It was such a surreal feeling just being at your first world championship and winning a gold medal,” Bell said back on Dec. 19 following a national team practice at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. “It was so cool just to be a part of it all and play alongside these amazing people. So yeah, it was definitely something I won't forget.”

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Back in December in St. Paul — prior to the canceled My Why Tour game against the United States at Xcel — Larocque said beating the U.S. for gold at the World Championship in August provided Team Canada with a major boost of confidence heading into the Olympics.

“This group has been the most confident group I've been a part of, with that belief that you can win,” Larocque said. “That, honestly, was the thing that we were — I don't want to say missing — but lacking. This group is confident. They believe in themselves and each other. So that's huge.”

Including Larocque and Bell, the Bulldogs women’s hockey program now has six current and former players on Olympic rosters for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing along with the United States’ Maddie Rooney, China’s Kassy Betinol, Switzerland’s Lara Stalder and Czechia’s Katerina Mrazova.

Sweden has yet to name its Olympic roster. Current Bulldogs goaltender Emma Soderberg is a candidate, as well as Michelle Lowenhielm and Linnea Hedin.

2021-12-09T091842Z_1053018763_MT1USATODAY17324685_RTRMADP_3_HOCKEY-CANADA-USA-RIVALRY-SERIES-USA-AT-CANADA.JPG
Canada defenseman Jocelyne Larocque (3), a two-time All-American and national champion at Minnesota Duluth, takes to the ice before the start of the first period against the USA in a Rivalry Series game at Leon's Centre on Nov 21, 2021, in Kingston, Ontario.
John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

A deep, fun defensive group

Bell and Larocque were among seven defensemen named to the final 23-player Olympic roster . Four years ago in Pyeongchang, Canada took just six to the Olympics.

A forward with Canada’s Under-18 Women’s National Team and during her first two seasons as a Bulldog, this is only Bell’s third full season on the blue line. Centralized with the Canadian national team since the summer, Bell said back in December she had become a much better defensive defenseman under tutelage of veteran blueliners such as Larocque.

“My defensive game has grown quite a bit,” Bell said. “I’m just being positive all the time. There's lots of ups and downs, but just staying positive and being a good teammate.”

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Bell is one of 10 first-time Olympians on the 2022 Canadian Olympic roster, while Larocque is one of 13 who won silver in 2018 and one of six who won gold in Sochi.

Larocque described the 2022 Canadian blue liners as “deeper” than past Olympics, and, “a lot of fun.”

“We're very like loose and calm,” said Larocque back in December. “We do a really good job of … noticing when we do something good and getting excited about all the little things, like long shots, good passes, literally everything. I feel like we're super positive, supportive and have a lot of fun.”

First up, Switzerland

Team Canada will open Olympic play at 10:10 p.m. CT on Feb. 2 against Switzerland in Beijing. Canada will also see Finland on Feb. 4 and the Russian Olympic Committee on Feb. 6 before closing preliminary round play against the United States at 10:10 p.m. CT on Feb. 7.

Canada is seeking its fifth gold medal overall in the Olympics.

This story was updated at 9:07 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2022, with additional information about the Canadian roster and schedule. It was originally posted at 3:14 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2022.

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