Two University of Maine women’s ice hockey players are on their way to Beijing for the Winter Olympics, and three former members of the team are also expected to suit up for their respective countries.
Junior winger Amalie Andersen will have the distinction of playing on the first team from Denmark to ever qualify for the Winter Olympics, while sophomore winger Rahel Enzler will play for Switzerland.
Former Black Bears Tereza Vanisova and Vendula Pribylova will represent the Czech Republic in its first ever Olympic appearance, and Michelle Weis will join Andersen on the Danish team.
Weis is primarily a right wing while Vanisova, the school’s all-time leading scorer, and Pribylova can play both center or wing.
Additionally, current UMaine senior center/wing Celine Tedenby is an alternate for Sweden and could get called up in case of injury or sickness such as COVID-19, according to UMaine head coach Richard Reichenbach.
Switzerland is in Group A along with co-favorites Canada and the United States, Finland and the Russian Olympic Committee.
The Czech Republic and Denmark are in Group B with Japan, Sweden and host China.
Each team will play the other four teams in its group.
All five Group A teams will qualify for the quarterfinals as will the top three finishers in Group B. Their seedings will be based on their results in the round robin format.
On Feb. 3, Switzerland will open against Canada, the Czech Republic will face-off against China, and Sweden will meet Japan.
Denmark begins play on Feb. 4 against China.
Enzler has three assists in 20 games for the Black Bears this season and Andersen has a goal and an assist in 14 games. Tedenby is tied for fourth on the team in scoring with nine points on five goals and four assists in 15 games.
Enzler said playing in the Olympics is a “childhood dream coming true.”
“Playing for my national team and representing my country is always something special,” Enzler said. “Of course, I am also very proud to represent the University of Maine. It means a lot to me as I have worked for it for many years. My participation in the Olympic Games is also a reward for all the people who have supported me over the past years.”
Reichenbach said Enzler is a highly skilled player who has been playing her best hockey of the season lately as the Black Bears have put together a four-game winning streak.
“She is offensively gifted with the way she is able to move the puck and pass it but they are going to want her to focus on defense against the top lines of Canada and the United States so she has been working on her defensive play all season,” Reichenbach said.
Andersen has outstanding speed and Reichenbach said she will have a “pretty important role for Denmark. They will want her to be like a fourth forward and get up the ice on the rush.”
“I’m honestly just excited about everything,” said Andersen, who will be a defenseman for the Danes. “It is huge for me to get to represent my country, joining some of the finest athletes in the world competing in what we love the most. … Being able to go to the Olympics is very special to me and I feel very fortunate and grateful to get this opportunity.”
Vanisova, who helped the Boston Pride win the National Women’s Hockey League’s Isobel Cup championship a year ago, Pribylova and Weis are all playing professional hockey in Sweden this year.
Vanisova, who had 129 points on 63 goals and 66 assists in 129 games at UMaine, has 14 goals and 8 assists for Leksands. Pribylova has 6 & 7 in 28 games for AIK and Weis has a combined 4 & 7 in 12 games for two different teams, Malmo and Djurgardens.