The United States Under-18 Women’s National Team has won four consecutive world championships at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Under-18 Women’s World Championship. This year’s edition of the tournament will take place from January 6-13 in Obihiro, Japan and will feature two players with ties to the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite organization.
Lacy Eden and Lauren Bernard will represent the Red, White and Blue in the Land of the Rising Sun and will be important pieces to a team that is looking to continue its dominance on the international stage.
Lacey Eden, a native of Annapolis, Maryland played in the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite organization during her 16U seasons. The 16-year-old forward has played for numerous teams in her native Maryland as well as teams in the Washington, D.C. area. Lacey was a member of the 2018 U.S. Under-18 Women's Select Team that competed at the 2018 U18 Series against Canada in Calgary and participated in the 2018 USA Hockey Women's National Festival and 2018 Girls U18 Select Player Development Camp.
Lauren Bernard, who hails from Madison, Ohio is committed to play NCAA hockey at Clarkson University but found a home in the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite organization as she defended the blueline for the 12U, 14U and 16U teams. Lauren, like Lacey Eden, player on the U.S. Under-18 Women’s Select Team in the series against Canada and also attended the 2018 USA Hockey Women's National Festival and 2018 Girls U18 Select Player Development Camp.
Women’s hockey continues to be one of the fastest growing sports in the country as evidenced by the growth in participation numbers. In 1990, only 6,336 women were registered with USA Hockey; today that number has grown to more than 79,000! The emergence of teams and hockey programs in regions such as Pittsburgh that would once be described as ‘non-traditional’ is not only a catalyst for the growth of the sport but also a direct reason for the success of the national teams on the world’s biggest stage.
The list of birthplaces on the roster for this year’s team include such states as Alaska, California, Missouri, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Connecticut to compliment the Ohio and Maryland birthplaces of Lacey and Lauren. To put that in perspective, the roster of the 1980 U.S. Men’s National team which took gold in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, perhaps the most well known US national team of all time because of the miraculous victory against the Soviet Union, only featured players from four different states.
30 years ago, the idea of female hockey players from Maryland and Ohio earning the chance to represent their country on the ice in Japan would have sounded like a longshot. The next generation of female hockey players will have strong role models to look up to as they begin their careers. And that’s not to mention the possibility of 5 consecutive World Championships. It almost makes you wonder if the next ‘Miracle on Ice’ has been happening right in front of our eyes all along.