Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey.
Lee Stecklein had a year to remember in 2018. The former Minnesota all-American won a gold medal in February at her second Winter Olympics with Team USA. She was selected by her hometown Minnesota Whitecaps over the summer in the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) draft and she closed out a memorable year by lifting the expansion Whitecaps into first place.
Stecklein's goal with 1:18 left to play Saturday gave the Whitecaps a 2-1 victory over Buffalo at the Key Center in upstate New York. The Beauts came back to earn a series split with a 4-0 victory Sunday as Stecklein's former Gophers' teammate, Dani Cameranesi, had two assists and ex-Ohio State defenseman Lisa Chesson added a helper for the Beauts. Amanda Leveille, the Whitecaps goalie and another ex-Gopher, had 33 stops in the Saturday victory and 23 stops Sunday.
In the other NWHL game Sunday, Boston edged Connecticut 2-1 despite a goal from Minnesota Duluth alumna Michelle Löwenhielm. Former UMD star Katerina Mrázová had an assist on Löwenhielm's first career goal.
The Whitecaps head into the 2019 part of the NWHL schedule in first place with a 7-3 record and 14 points, two points ahead of Boston (6-2). Buffalo (5-4) has 10 points and is in third place, while Connecticut (2-4-1) has five points and the Riveters (2-8) have four points.
Cameranesi leads the league in assists with eight, one more than former Minnesota star Amanda Kessel of the Riveters. Boston's Gigi Marvin, another Minnesota alumna, and Mrázová are both tied for third in the league with six goals scored apiece.
There are 56 WCHA alumnae on the current rosters of the two North American professional hockey leagues -- with 34 former WCHA stars in the five-team 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 ex-WCHA players.
The Canadian Women's Hockey League (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 both have two players, while Ohio State and Bemidji State each have one player apiece in the league.
The CWHL is idle until Jan. 5. At the Christmas break, Calgary (13-2-0-1) is atop the standings with 27 points, three more than Montréal (12-3-0-0). Markham (9-6-2-0) is in third place with 20 points, five more than the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays (7-8-1). Toronto (7-8-0) is in fifth place with 14 points, while Worcester is winless and pointless in 17 games.
Ohio State alumna Natalie Spooner is in fifth place in the league's scoring derby with 18 points, with 10 goals (third-most in the league). Wisconsin graduate Brianna Decker (8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points) is ninth in overall points, while Calgary's Zoe Hickel, a former Minnesota Duluth star, is 10th in the scoring derby with 15 points (four goals and 11 assists, which is fifth-best in the league).
Calgary's Alex Rigsby, a former Wisconsin star, leads CWHL goaltenders with an 8-1-0-1 record, while her 1.59 goals-against average and.935 save percentage are also among the best in the CWHL.
There are more WCHA alumnae playing in these two pro leagues than any other season.
Here are the WCHA alumnae on NWHL and CWHL team rosters as of Dec. 25:
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.
Shenzhen (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.