KK Is A-OK

International Experience Helps Caroline Harvey Take Her Game To Another Level

 

One conversation helped steer Caroline Harvey toward a path of tremendous expectations as a young defender.

Another talk helped her manage the weight that those expectations carried as she stepped into a bigger role with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

And another sharing of ideas, this one from a veteran teammate, gave guidance on ways Harvey can be a force for years to come.

Harvey is one of the up-and-coming U.S. stars, with two IIHF Women’s World Championship appearances and one stint at the Olympics before her 20th birthday, and before she played her first college hockey game at Wisconsin. But those experiences were the result of challenging situations and critical points in her development curve.

Elite players often can look back at a moment in their youth when the difference between being just another player and a can’t-miss prospect becomes clear. For Harvey, it was a youth tournament where she had a poor performance.

Her dad, David, helped splash the metaphorical cold water on her face with a reminder about focusing on the extra effort it takes to be the best.

“If you want to be great,” she remembers him saying at the time, “then that’s what you need to do.”

“I guess that really hit me at that point and [his words] really stuck with me,” Harvey said.

The results since have shown it. She graduated from the Under-18 World Championship in 2020 to the senior tournament in 2021 and impressed enough to earn a spot in Olympic residency later that year.

She was the youngest player on the roster at 19 years, two months when the Olympic team was unveiled last New Year’s Day. But her experience in Beijing was limited; she played less than two minutes total in the final four U.S. games.

When Harvey made it back to the national team for the 2022 World Championship, she had a game to forget against Canada in pre-tournament competition. 

U.S. head coach John Wroblewski, who replaced Joel Johnson after the Olympics, was the one who then had the long chat with Harvey about managing expectations that seemed to take some weight off her shoulders.

With more opportunity at Worlds in Denmark, Harvey showed off the swift skating and creative puck-handling skills that teammates have seen over the last two seasons.

“I was really proud of her the way that she came along in that tournament,” Wroblewski said. “Everything that she got leading up to it was all earned.”

It wasn’t random that Harvey, whose nickname “KK” goes back to what her younger sister called her before she could pronounce Caroline, was matched up with veteran defender Lee Stecklein for the tournament. Wroblewski said their games balance each other out: Stecklein’s shutdown defending was the perfect complement to Harvey’s flair for producing offensive chances.

But Harvey looks back on playing with Stecklein as a growth point because of the lessons she absorbed about the defensive side of her game in stick placement, body positioning and communicating.

It’s not easy for the youngest player on the team to be vocal but Stecklein asked it of Harvey and said it can be a point of maturity.

“I remember it taking a bit of encouragement to realize that it’s a need,” Stecklein said. “And so she’s always great at doing anything someone says. She’s absorbing it all. And so she definitely has come a long way in using her voice.”

Harvey has started her college career at Wisconsin in standout fashion, with two straight months of recognition as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s top rookie. Her 13 points in eight October games made her the national rookie of the month.

Badgers coach Mark Johnson was impressed by Harvey’s skating as a youth player but he had to wait an extra year to see it in Madison because she went to Olympic residency in what was originally going to be her freshman year.

“To me, it was an opportunity for her to really elevate her game at a high level quicker than maybe she would have if she would have just started college and then maybe [go to] the next Olympics,” Johnson said. “So she was on the fast track to becoming a better player because of that environment.”

The fast track seems to be Harvey’s way. After the 2022 World Championship, she flew back to the U.S. just in time for the first day of Wisconsin’s practices ahead of the college season. Johnson offered Harvey and Badgers teammates Jesse Compher and Lacey Eden some time off to rest up after the travel but they all declined.

“I knew it was the first coaches practice so I just really didn’t want to miss that,” Harvey said. 

She was just one of the young stars for the U.S. at the last Worlds, setting up the continuation of the team’s jousting with Canada for gold medals. Minnesota’s Taylor Heise was the MVP in her senior tournament debut. Boston College’s Hannah Bilka had a breakout performance with 12 points in seven games.

Harvey was selected for the media all-star team in Denmark and said Wroblewski instilled a belief with the younger players that how long someone had been with the team didn’t determine her value.

“Personally, I knew he had a lot of confidence in me,” Harvey said. “So it helped me be able to play how I wanted to play and play free. And it just made a big difference in my game and I felt like I could give my best efforts always.”

 

Todd Milewski is a sports writer with the Wisconsin State Journal.
Issue: 
2023-01

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