While the rest of the Harvard student body spent late August migrating back to Cambridge and fighting off the floods and winds of Hurricane Irene, Crimson women’s hockey juniors Jillian Dempsey and Josephine Pucci were battling seven other countries as members of the United States Women’s National Hockey Team.
Joined by former Harvard skater Julie Chu ’06-’07 and current Crimson coach Katey Stone, Dempsey and Pucci traveled to Finland to compete in the 12 Nations Tournament, a new week-long international contest designed by the International Ice Hockey Federation to narrow the skill gap between countries.
And aided by the Crimson trio’s 19 points, the Red, White, and Blue crushed the competition, compiling a perfect 6-0 record while outscoring its opponents, 48-1.
Eight countries—the U.S., Canada, Finland, Japan, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland—sent squads to Vierumaki, Finland for the tournament, held from August 24-31.
“The point of the tournament was to have good competition for all the programs [and] for the U.S. and Canada to help develop some of the other countries’ programs’ skills,” explained Dempsey, who notched three goals and an assist in five games. “We went to improve ourselves and become a better team.”
“Most of it is an effort to build the sport of women’s ice hockey throughout the world,” added Pucci, who recorded a team-high nine assists.
For the U.S., the journey to Finland began in Blaine, Minn., weeks before the competition with a tryout early in August.
While both Pucci and Chu had skated with the national team before, it was Dempsey’s first experience.
“I played on the U-18 team my senior year in high school, but this was a completely different level,” Dempsey remarked. “It was unbelievable—nothing else like it.”
After being selected for the final squad, Dempsey and Pucci enjoyed the benefits of wearing the red, white, and blue while skating with familiar teammates.
“Being able to experience such an honor with other Harvard hockey players makes the experience so much better,” Pucci said.
The duo looked to Chu—a former Crimson skater and three-time Olympian—for hockey advice and for stories of past international competitions.
“When I was younger, I would come to Harvard hockey games, and Julie was still in college,” Dempsey recalled. “I looked up to her as a role model, and playing on the same line as her for some of the games—it was nice to have that Harvard connection.”
But with Stone behind the bench, Chu wasn’t the only familiar face for Dempsey and Pucci to look to.
Entering her 18th season at Harvard, Stone was named head coach of the U.S. National Team in 2010, and soon led the squad to victory in the IIHF World Women’s Championship in 2011.