International Ice Hockey Federation

Nolwenn to continue

Nolwenn to continue

French coach loves her job, the challenge

Published 13.01.2016 11:08 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Nolwenn to continue
ST. CATHARINES, CANADA - JANUARY 08: France's head coach Nolwenn Rousselle yells out instructions to her players during preliminary round action against Team Finland at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The French have played in the Women’s U18 Worlds since 2009, and this is their first year at the to level.

One constant with the program is coach Nolwenn Rousselle, who has been behind the bench for every WW18 game in the nation’s history.

“I was a former goalkeeper for the national team,” she explained of her career. “I played nine years, but then I had to retire before I wanted to because of injury. Then, eight years ago, the federation asked me if I’d be interested in coaching the under-18 team, and I jumped at the chance.”

It was an odd invitation is some ways because very few goaltenders go on to successful coaching careers. Rousselle, however, has her own views on why she is well suited to make the transition.

“As a goalie, you see all the ice, the movement of the players. That’s why we have a big vision of what happens, a good overview of the game. That’s part of what I can try to explain to my players, and I also have experience from playing in six World Championships.”

The team’s first ever WW18 game took place on home ice, in Chambery on December 28, 2008, in Division I. The game went to a shootout, but France prevailed, beating Slovakia, 2-1.

In all, leading up to this year, the team had a cumulative record in Division I of 17-3-0-9 in 29 total games.

“We’re working hard in France to grow the game,” Rousselle said with enthusiasm. “It’s getting better. The last generation wasn’t as good. Last year we had ten players born in ’97, which made it difficult for us this year. We have a young, young team here. Half our players are born in 2000 and 2001, so it’s a challenge for them, but this is a good generation coming up, and we have even more players in 2002, 2003. We’re working on it.”

The rise of the team from Division I to the top level was thanks to a tense 2-1 win over Hungary in 2015 on the final day.

“Last year against Hungary, the players were so stressed in the first period,” Rousselle recalled. “This was the first time we played a game that could take us to the top level, but after the first period we came into the dressing room and tried to stay cool, focus on the simple things in the game, the speed, putting the puck on the net. That’s what we did in the second and third periods. When we scored to tie the game, the tough part was done, and when we scored the second goal, we knew we’d win the game.”

France is finding out the leap from one level to the next is huge. The team has had trouble both scoring and keeping the puck out of its own goal, but every day is a fresh experience, a new opportunity.

“It’s going to be very difficult for us to stay up,” Rousselle conceded, “but it’s a good challenge for the team. We just want to improve with each game, and what happens in the end, we’ll see.”

Regardless, Rousselle isn’t going anywhere. The U18 by definition requires constant change and adaptation, but the coach seems to have the perfect disposition for the carousel of players that is required by the age limitations.

“I love the U18 team,” she enthused. “Every year it’s a new challenge because half of the team leaves. This year was a big challenge because of that. We’re a young team, which makes it hard to win, but we will always give our best.”


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