skip navigation

Before it Hosts the IIHF Women’s World Championship in April, Utica Highlighted a Younger Generation of Players

By Dan Scifo, 02/20/24, 1:15PM MST


Utica hosted America’s portion of the Global Girls’ Game on Feb. 16

Two young girl players, one in a black & yellow jersey and another in a white & red jersey, play hockey

Utica, New York, is getting used to welcoming the world.

Nestled at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, Utica was the site of America’s designated game for the 2024 IIHF Global Girls’ Game on Feb. 16. 

In two months, Mohawk Valley Garden and Utica will host the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

“Just the opportunity to be included in this and tie it into an amazing event like the World Championships is going to be something that the girls who were involved will never forget,” said Nicole Kelly, the general manager of the Utica University Nexus Center.

The IIHF’s annual Global Girls’ Game is a worldwide initiative during which international hockey federations host games in succession around the world. During the weekend-long game between Team Blue and Team White, contests were played across the world, including Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, North America and other locations, as teams competed to determine a global winner by aggregate scores of all the games combined.

The designated U.S. game took place Friday, Feb. 16, as the Utica Jr. Comets U12 team defeated the Binghamton Freeze 10-1. The Comets represented Team White and helped White win the Global Girls’ Game 153-145.

While there were dozens of girls’ games across the country this weekend apart of USA Hockey’s National Continuous Game, the game in Utica got the nod to represent the U.S. on the global stage to showcase the host site for the upcoming IIHF 2024 Women’s World Championship. 

“It’s awesome to play on the same sheet of ice that the women will for the World Championship,” Kelly said. “It’s just really surreal and humbling to be able, as two 12-year-old teams, to represent the entire United States. It was such an honor to be included in the event that was literally a worldwide event. It was an amazing experience for the girls.”

After their game was over, the Comets passed the U.S. portion of the event to the next game, which took place in Kazakhstan. Kelly added that the organization tried to capture as much social media footage as possible and document in a way that it could communicate what was happening in Utica on a global level.

Parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family members were in attendance to see each player get introduced and to hear the national anthem play before the puck dropped. 

“We did things that maybe we wouldn’t have done for a normal U12 game,” Kelly said. “To be able to represent the United States, you’re standing in front of the American flag, and you really understand the gravity of passing the game onto another country. It really puts things into perspective.”

Once the Women’s World Championship kicks off on April 3, Utica will host29 games in a 12-day span, with the medal games schedule for April 14. The U.S. has reached the gold-medal game in all 22 World Championships and won gold in six of the last eight tournaments. The Americans defeated Canada 6-3 in last year’s gold-medal game in Brampton, Ontario, and will now get the chance to defend their title on home ice.  

“The excitement of hosting these women for two-plus weeks is growing, and a game like this really makes the youth girls who play feel part of this event,” Kelly said. “It’s difficult at 10, 11 or 12 years old [to realize] how amazing it is to have a World Championship right in our home community. Having this game gives us the opportunity to really understand the magnitude of what’s going to happen here in April.”

With the Global Girls’ Game taking place in one of the arena’s helping host the Women’s World Championship, Utica gets a chance to connect multiple generations of girls and women to the game on an international scale. 

“This is amazing to be part of and it’s amazing for the growth of girls and women’s hockey,” Kelly said. “It’s so amazing to see that growth and be a small part of it. Everyone’s so excited about the World Championship, so this is just a little preview before we welcome the world to Utica.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

More USA Hockey News