Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey.
The Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) opened its 11th season last weekend and a familiar face starred again. It was former Minnesota all-American goalie Noora Räty, who recorded the league's first shutout of the season and backstopped Shenzen KRS Vanke Rays to two victories.
Räty, who played in her fourth Olympic Winter Games for Finland in February, made 26 saves in each game as the Rays, a newly-named team based in China, beat Toronto 5-1 and 3-0. Natalie Spooner, an Ohio State alumna, had the lone goal in the series for Toronto and her Canadian Olympic teammate, Sarah Nurse, a former Wisconsin star, had an assist.
As league play opened, the Toronto-based National Post examined the unpredictable future of women's hockey and the possibility of one elite North American professional league in a story here:
As some speculated about the future, Markham opened defense of its CWHL title with a pair pf victories over Worcester, 6-0 and 4-1. Former Minnesota Duluth players Jenna McParland and Jocelyne Larocque has assists for Markham in the series finale when ex-UMD goalie Jessica Convery made 33 stops for Worcester.
Montréal and Calgary split its opening series. Former Wisconsin star Hilary Knight and UMD alum Catherine Daoust had assists in Les Canadiennes' 2-1, series-opening victory. Knight's former Badger teammate Brianna Decker had Calgary's lone goal and ex-Duluth star Zoe Hickel had an assist. In the series finale, Alex Rigsby made 22 saves in Calgary's 3-1 victory. The former Badgers star made 18 saves in the season opener. There are 55 Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) alumnae on the opening rosters of the two North American professional hockey leagues, 34 former WCHA stars in the five-team National Women's Hockey League (NWHL). The Minnesota Whitecaps feature 17 former WCHA players while the Metropolitan Riveters, who won the NWHL regular season title last season, have eight ex-WCHA players.
In the NWHL last weekend, former Ohio State forward Julianna Iafallo had a goal, while fellow former Buckeye Lisa Chesson and ex-Minnesota all-American Dani Cameranesi each had a pair of assists to lead Buffalo to a 7-0 victory over Connecticut.
Boston handed the Riveters a 5-1 loss despite a goal from former Gopher and Patty Kazmaier Award winner Amanda Kessel, and 33 saves from Katie Fitzgerald, a former St. Cloud State goalie.
After two weeks of NWHL play, Buffalo and the expansion Whitecaps are in first place with 2-0 records and four points; Boston is 1-1 with two points, while Connecticut is 0-2 and the Metropolitan Riveters 0-3 and pointless. Cameranesi and Lee Stecklein, the former Minnesota all-American who is with the Whitecaps, lead the league with four assists and are second in the league scoring race with four points, one more than Hannah Brandt, the former Gophers' all-American who has two goals and an assist for the Whitecaps. Former Minnesota goalie Amanda Leveille is 2-0 with a 0.50 goals against and .977 save percentage for the Whitecaps.
Minnesota has 11 former WCHA players competing in the NWHL, including six on the Whitecaps, while St. Cloud State has seven alums in the league and Wisconsin six, five of whom play for the Riveters. There are four former UMD players in the NWHL while North Dakota and Ohio State have two players apiece and Minnesota State one.
Wisconsin has eight former players in the CWHL, while UMD has seven. Minnesota and North Dakota each have two players in the league while Ohio State and Bemidji State have one player in the league.
There are more WCHA alums playing in these two pro leagues than any other season.
Here are the WCHA alumni on NWHL and CWHL season-opening team rosters:
Boston (1): Gigi Marvin, Minnesota.
Buffalo (4): Jordyn Burns, Minnesota; Dani Cameranesi, Minnesota; Lisa Chesson, Ohio State; Julianna Iafallo, Ohio State.
Connecticut (4): Jordan Brickner, Wisconsin; Michelle Löwenhielm, Minnesota Duluth; Katerina Mrázová, Minnesota Duluth; Nina Rodgers, Minnesota.
Metropolitan (8): Courtney Burke, Wisconsin; Katie Fitzgerald, St. Cloud State; Amanda Kessel, Minnesota; Erika Lawler, Wisconsin; Kelly Nash, Wisconsin; Madison Packer, Wisconsin; Jenny Ryan, Wisconsin; Lexi Slattery, St. Cloud State.
Minnesota (17): Lauren Barnes, Minnesota State; Hannah Brandt, Minnesota; Winny Brodt Brown, Minnesota; Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, Minnesota; Tanja Eischenschmid, North Dakota; Julie Friend, St. Cloud State; Kalli Funk, St. Cloud State; Amanda Leveille, Minnesota; Sadie Lundquist, Bemidji State; Lisa Martinson, St. Cloud State; Katie McGovern, Minnesota Duluth; Amy Menke, North Dakota; Meaghan Pezon, St. Cloud State; Kate Schipper, Minnesota; Haylea Schmid, St. Cloud State; Emma Stauber, Minnesota Duluth; Lee Stecklein, Minnesota.
Calgary (6): Coached by Shannon Miller (Minnesota Duluth); Brianna Decker, Wisconsin; Zoe Hickel, Minnesota Duluth; Halli Krzyzaniak, North Dakota; Brigette Lacquette, Minnesota Duluth; Alex Rigsby, Wisconsin; Blayre Turnbull, Wisconsin.
Montréal (2): Catherine Daoust, Minnesota Duluth; Hilary Knight, Wisconsin.
Markham (3): Megan Bozek, Minnesota; Jocelyne Larocque, Minnesota Duluth; Jenna McParland, Minnesota Duluth.
Shenzen (China) KRS Vanke Rays (3): Stephanie Anderson, Bemidji State; Noora Räty, Minnesota; Jessica Wong, Minnesota Duluth.
Toronto (5): Mellissa Channell, Wisconsin; Jordan Hampton, North Dakota; Sarah Nurse, Wisconsin; Carolyne Prevost, Wisconsin; Natalie Spooner, Ohio State.
Worcester (2): Jessica Convery, Minnesota Duluth; Lauren Williams, Wisconsin.