New Zealand will defend their Hawke's Bay Cup title in Hastings over the next 10 days with a significantly different squad from a year ago.

There are plenty of players finding their feet in the Black Sticks women's squad , but for those who like familiarity among the names on the team sheet a core of them are still there.

This is a time of change. Gone - temporarily or for good - are influential former captain Kayla Whitelock, Emily Naylor, Anita McLaren, Gemma McCaw, Charlotte Harrison, Sam Charlton and Sophie Cocks. That's a bucketload of accumulated hockey wisdom.

Balancing that seasoned players goalkeeper Sally Rutherford, Liz Thompson, Olivia Merry, Rose Keddell, Brooke Neal, Sam Harrison and Stacey Michelsen remain.

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Former world player of the year finalist Michelsen takes the positives out of that loss of hefty experience.

"We certainly don't dwell on the fact people have moved on from the team," the 221-cap Northlander said.

"There's an injection of really exciting young players. A lot of them have been training as development squad players so they've had an opportunity to already get that training base which has helped them.

"A lot of teams are in a similar position. There's been sort of a refresh across world hockey.

"Going forward we have a lot of talented young girls who are really hard workers and it's good to have them at training to push those of us who have been around longer."

For all the absentees, it's easy to forget that there's still a pile of caps in the squad of 18 for Hastings. Midfielder-defender Michelsen has the most but Merry, Keddell, Rutherford and Hayward have all accumulated more than 120.

Fifth-ranked New Zealand beat Japan 3-2 in last year's final, to complete a clean sweep of six wins. This time the eight-team field has been trimmed to four, with all playing each other twice before the finals day. "It is a bit of a shame," Michelsen said of the reduction of teams at the annual festival, which involves a range of hockey events at different levels.

"It's really exciting when you get to play such an array of teams. But the teams here are really good quality so I think it will be a fantastic building tournament for us."

Michelsen has had an injury-hampered lead-in to the year. Players had a break after last year's Rio Olympic disappointment of finishing fourth for the second straight Games. Then Michelsen damaged an Achilles as soon as players got back to training.

The two internationals in Rangiora against the United States this week were her first matches since Rio.

"I'm not where I want to be in terms of my own standards. But I have time to work really hard for the next six weeks before heading overseas."

Michelsen, studying law and commerce at Auckland university - when hockey doesn't interfere - made her debut in 2009 against Argentina at 18. She has been at two Olympic and Commonwealth Games and is an influential figure in the Black Sticks.

Michelsen was the International Hockey Federation's young player of the year in 2011. Last year, she was one of five finalists for the FIH world player of the year.

The fun is still there. So no grind yet? "Absolutely not. It's still something I'm passionate about, I definitely want to be training, and going away with the girls and I'm enjoying it."

She got some matchplay in the two-game series with the US.

Bigger challenges lie ahead - the world league semifinal in Brussels in June-July, Oceania Cup and transtasman trophy in October and the world league final, hosted in Auckland in November.

Festival of Hockey

Women's tournament in Hastings, starting tonight

Draw:

Tonight:

Australia (4) v US (6), 4pm; New Zealand (ranked 5) v Japan (11), 6pm.

Tomorrow:

Japan v US, 3pm, New Zealand v Australia, 5pm

Monday:

Japan v Australia, 4pm, New Zealand v US, 6pm.

Tuesday:

Australia v US, 4pm, New Zealand v Japan, 6pm.

Thursday:

US v Japan, 3.30pm, New Zealand v Australia, 5.30pm.

April 8:

Japan v Australia, 3pm, New Zealand v US, 5pm.

April 9:

3rd-4th playoff, 3pm, final 5.15pm.

New Zealand squad:

Sally Rutherford, Amy Robinson, Rose Keddell, Kim Tanner, Natasha Fitzsimons, Shiloh Gloyn (Midlands), Erin Goad, Kirsten Pearce (North Harbour), Liz Thompson, Sam Harrison (Auckland), Stacey Michelsen, Brooke Neal (Northland), Kelsey Smith (Capital), Pippa Hayward, Rachel McCann, Olivia Merry (Canterbury), Tessa Jopp (Southern). Grace O'Hanlon (tbc).