Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey.
Natalie Spooner has always been one of the best players in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL). In 2014, the former Ohio State All-American forward became the first woman in hockey history to claim the gold medal in the Olympic Winter Games and the CWHL's playoff championship, the Clarkson Cup, in the same year.
Last week, Spooner was named to the CWHL's all-star game and she celebrated with a five-point series, leading the Toronto Furies to a series sweep over Worcester.
Spooner had a goal and an assist in the Furies' 5-1 victory Saturday. Former Wisconsin star Sarah Nurse had two goals and her ex-Badger teammate Mellissa Channell had an assist in the series opener, while Demi Crossman, a former Minnesota Duluth player, assisted on Worcester's only goal. Spooner had two goals and Nurse and Channell each added assists in Toronto's 4-2 win in the series finale.
In the other CWHL series last weekend, league-leading Calgary swept Markham 3-1 and 7-2. Zoe Hickel, the former Duluth star, had a goal, and Brianna Decker, the former Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner from Wisconsin, and ex-UMD defenseman Brigette Lacquette had assists in the series opener, while Alex Rigsby, another former Badger, made 22 saves. Decker had two goals and an assist, Hickel added two assists and Rigsby made 21 saves in Calgary's Sunday win.
Calgary (12-1-0-1) leads the CWHL with 25 points, seven more than Montréal (9-3). Markham (7-6-2) is in third place with 16 points, one more than the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays (7-5-1). Toronto (6-7) is in fifth place with 12 points, while Worcester is winless and pointless in 15 games.
Spooner's big weekend moved her into fifth place in the league's scoring derby. She is tied with CWHL Player of the Month Rebecca Johnston for the most goals (9) and is tied with Decker (7 goals, 8 assists, 15 points) for fifth place in overall points. Hickel is 10th in scoring with 15 points (four goals and 11 assists, which is second in the league).
Rigsby leads CWHL goaltenders with an 8-1-0-1 record, while her 1.59 goals-against average and .935 save percentage are also amongst the league's best.
The CWHL announced the final rosters for the league's all-star game next month and 11 are former Western Collegiate Hockey Associations (WCHA) stars – Montréal's Hilary Knight (Wisconsin), Markham's Jocelyne Larocque (Minnesota Duluth), Calgary's Alex Rigsby (Wisconsin), Toronto's Natalie Spooner (Ohio State), Worcester's Lauren Williams (Wisconsin), Shenzhen's Jessica Wong (Minnesota Duluth) and Calgary's Blayre Turnbull (Wisconsin). The complete story on the CWHL All-Stars, many of whom are decorated Olympic athletes, is here:
The CWHL has six teams in three countries – the U.S., Canada and China – and features 22 former WCHA players.
Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth each have eight former players in the CWHL. Minnesota and North Dakota have two players each, while Ohio State and Bemidji State both have one player apiece in the league.
There are 56 WCHA alumnae on the opening rosters of the two North American professional hockey leagues -- with 34 former WCHA stars in the five-team National Women's Hockey League (NWHL).
Minnesota has 11 former WCHA players competing in the NWHL, including six on the Minnesota Whitecaps, while St. Cloud State has seven alumnae in the league and Wisconsin six, five of whom play for the Metropolitan Riveters. There are four former UMD players in the NWHL, while North Dakota and Ohio State have two players apiece and Minnesota State has one.
The Whitecaps feature 17 former WCHA players, while the Riveters have eight.
Last week in the NWHL, Boston scored three goals in the last two minutes and beat the Riveters 5-2 to move into a first place tie. Madison Packer, a former Wisconsin forward, had a goal and Amanda Kessel, a former Patty Kaz Award winner at Minnesota, had an assist for the Riveters.
In the other NWHL game, Buffalo beat Connecticut, 3-1, as former Ohio State forward Julianne Iafallo had a goal and ex-Buckeye Lisa Chesson and former Minnesota forward Dani Cameranesi each had an assist apiece for the Beauts. Former UMD star Katerina Mrázová had the Whale's lone goal. She has scored in six straight games.
At the holiday break, the expansion Minnesota Whitecaps are co-leaders with Boston in the NWHL. Each team has a 6-2 record and 12 points, four more than Buffalo (4-3). Connecticut (2-4-0-1) has five points and the Riveters (2-8) have four points.
Boston's Gigi Marvin, a Minnesota alumna, and Mrázová lead the league with six goals scored and Kessel is tied for the lead in assists with seven. Marvin (6-3-9) is fourth in the scoring derby.
Like the CWHL, the NWHL announced its rosters for next month's all-star game in Nashville and 11 WCHA alumnae are honorees. They are: Kessel, Packer and ex-Wisconsin player Courtney Burke of the Riveters; Marvin of the Pride; Mrázová and ex-UMD teammate Michelle Löwenhielm of the Whale; Cameranesi and Chesson of the Beauts; and, the Whitecaps' Lee Stecklein, Hannah Brandt, Amanda Leveille and Kate Schipper, all former Minnesota stars.
Here is a story on the all-star selections:
There are more WCHA alumnae playing in these two pro leagues than any other season
Here are the WCHA alumni on NWHL and CWHL team rosters as of Dec. 1:
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): Brianna Decker, Wisconsin; Zoe Hickel, Minnesota Duluth; Halli Krzyzaniak, North Dakota; Brigette Lacquette, Minnesota Duluth; Alex Rigsby, Wisconsin; Blayre Turnbull, Wisconsin.
Montréal (2): Assistant coach Caroline Ouellette (Minnesota Duluth); 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 (3): Jessica Convery, Minnesota Duluth; Demi Crossman, Minnesota Duluth; Lauren Williams, Wisconsin.