Friday, 9 November 2018

Decker finds groove in Calgary and leading U.S.A.

Brianna Decker leads the U.S. and stars for the Inferno.
    Brianna Decker went into her great Canadian adventure with an open mind.
    The veteran 27-year-old centre with the United States senior women’s national hockey team along with defender Kacey Bellamy decided over summer they wanted to try living in Canada, which is U.S.’s has a storied rivalry with on the international stage. On July 24, the pair signed on to play for the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
    Decker said there has been no looking back since that day.
    “It is a big move,” said Decker, who has four goals and three assists in six games with the Inferno. “Like any move, you are a little bit nervous at times.
    “All the girls on the Inferno, they did a great job of welcoming us in. I had a couple of team dinners, and that kind of loosens things up. You get to know people outside of hockey.
    “The Canadian girls were really welcoming as well like (Brianne) Jenner and (Rebecca) Johnston. I’m glad I moved up there.”
The U.S. celebrates Brianna Decker’s goal on Friday night.
    On Friday afternoon, Decker had a goal as the U.S. downed Sweden 5-1 at the 4 Nations Cup tournament being held at the SaskTel Centre.
    Decker, Bellamy and Alex Rigsby make up the three members of the U.S. squad at the 4 Nations Cup who are members of the Inferno. All three helped the States win gold at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea last February.
    The Inferno, who are a professional women’s team, are well represented at the 4 Nations Cup. Inferno members Blayre Turnbull, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Katelyn Gosling and Halli Krzyzaniak are playing for Canada, and Venla Hovi is skating for Finland.
    “Obviously, a pro league is a bit different from international, but it is fun to be able to play with some of the Canadian girls on the Inferno along with obviously Kacey (Bellamy) and Alex (Rigsby),” said Decker, who is the U.S. captain at 4 Nations Cup. “It is a good turnout.
Brianna Decker sets to fire a shot on goal for the U.S.
    “I am glad I made the move and went to Calgary and were having a lot of fun up there. Then you come here and it is all business. It is all about U.S., and if you are on Canada, it is all about them.”
Decker, who is from Dousman, Wisconsin, is living full time in Calgary during the Inferno’s season. She said life is busy, but it isn’t too strenuous.
    “We have practice in the mornings and lift after usually,” said Decker. “I do take advantage of the afternoons and have a little bit of a nap sometimes.
    “Honestly, I don’t really work right now. I’m taking some time off in the afternoons and focusing on some other things and doing some online stuff. I am not too busy, but also it gets busy as the year goes on.”
Brianna Decker, left, battles for a draw for the U.S.
    She said a number of her teammates don’t have the same pace of life that she does. A number of Inferno players are involved in post-secondary school studies on top of playing, while others have full-time jobs on top of playing hockey.
     “I think it is insane,” said Decker. “I give those girls a lot of credit.
     “Whether they are doing school on top of the pro league or if they are working outside of the pro league, I give them a lot of credit. It is a lot of dedication obviously working throughout the day and practising at night or in the morning.
    “It is hard to do, but I appreciate those teammates a lot.”
U.S.A. defender Kacey Bellamy joined the Inferno over the summer.
     Decker has enjoyed reuniting with the U.S. national team for the 4 Nations Cup. For the most part, she was pleased with her team’s performance on Friday.
    “I think today was about just kind of creating good habits,” said Decker. “Obviously, we are getting prepared for tomorrow now.
    “When we went into this game, it was about create good habits and do the little things right and focus on things we wanted to get better at learning from things on Wednesday and Tuesday.”
    The States stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. At the 4:25 mark, right-winger Sydney Brodt potted the rebound of a shot taken by linemate Kendall Coyne Schofield for the first U.S. goal.
    Left-winger Melissa Samoskevich tallied a short-handed goal and Hannah Brandt scored with 39.6 seconds to play in the opening frame to give the States their three-goal edge.
Sweden goalie Emma Soderberg pounces on a loose puck.
    Decker wired home a power-play goal to give the U.S. a 4-0 edge.
    Sweden got on the board at the 6:49 mark of the second, when centre Sabina Kuller fired home a mid-range shot to cut the U.S. lead to 4-1.
    Dani Cameranesi rounded out the scoring for the U.S. in the third.
    Emma Polusny turned away 19 shots to pick up the win in goal for the States. Emma Soderberg stopped 35 shots to take the setback in goal for Sweden.
    Decker is centring a line with Coyne Schofield, who is a U.S. team veteran, at left wing and Brodt, who is playing her first games with the U.S. senior team at 4 Nations Cup, at right wing. 
Sydney Brodt scored the U.S.’s first goal on Friday.
    The U.S. side has some younger player like Brodt, who is a 20-year-old that plays for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs women’s hockey team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association ranks, on its roster.
    Decker has enjoyed playing on a line with Brodt and said it was important to help the newcomers out.
    “I think Coyner and I look back on us coming on the national team a while ago, (and) you just have to make those people feel comfortable,” said Decker. “We had players make us feel comfortable, when we joined the team.
    “That is what we are doing this week with Syd. We are just bringing her under our wing. She is doing great, stepping up in the right spots.”
    The 4 Nations Cup wraps up at the SaskTel Centre on Saturday. The States (3-0) will play in the gold medal game at 8 p.m. Sweden (0-3) hits the ice for the bronze medal game at 3 p.m.
Brianna Decker leads the U.S. team in a post-game cheer.
    Guided by new head coach in Bob Corkum, Decker believes her side is ready for the title game.
    “We are just worrying about ourselves and focusing in on our game,” said Decker. “We’ve learned a lot in the last couple of weeks here.
    “We have obviously a different coaching staff and a new team. It is just continue to grow every game, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s game and being able to bring our best yet.”

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