Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey.
Saturday was Hockey Day Minnesota and the Minnesota Whitecaps did their part to extend the celebration to the National Women's Hockey League.
The Whitecaps jumped into first place and assured the expansion team will host a playoff game in March by beating Connecticut twice in front of sellout crowds at TRIA Arena in downtown St. Paul.
Hannah Brandt, a two-time All-American at Minnesota, had a goal and her ex-Gopher teammate Amanda Leveille made 19 saves in Saturday's 2-0 victory.
Brandt had two more assists and former St. Cloud State goalie Julie Friend had 18 stops in her first start as the Whitecaps rolled to a 9-0 victory Sunday. Friend's SCSU teammate Kalli Funk and Minnesota alum Kate Schipper had a goal in the rout.
Amy Menke, the former North Dakota star who was NWHL player of the week last week, added an assist in each game against Connecticut and has scored seven points in her last four games. Emma Stauber, who played at Minnesota Duluth, and Kate McGovern, another UMD alum, each had two assists as the Whitecaps scored seven times in the third period. Minnesota State alum Lauren Barnes and St. Cloud alum Lisa Martinson also chipped in with helpers.
The other NWHL game scheduled for Sunday – the Buffalo Beauts at the Metropolitan Riveters – was postponed due to snow.
The weekend victories moved Minnesota (10-4) into the league lead with 20 points. Boston (8-3) is in second place with 16 points, two points ahead of Buffalo (7-4), but both Boston and Buffalo have three games in hand on the Whitecaps, who only have two games left in the regular season. Connecticut (2-8-2) and the Riveters (3-9) have six points.
Former Minnesota all-American Amanda Kessel (1-13-14) of the Riveters is third in the league in scoring and leads the league in assists with 13, five more than her ex-Gopher teammate Dani Cameranesi of Buffalo, who stands eighth in the NWHL scoring derby with three goals, eight assists and 11 points. Brandt (five goals, six assists) and Schipper (five goals, six assists) also have 11 points. Boston's Gigi Marvin, another ex-Gopher, and Minnesota Duluth alum Katarina Mrazova of Connecticut are fifth in the league with six goals scored. Leveille is third among NWHL goalies with a 2.44 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.
The NWHL announced its rosters for the all-star game in Nashville Feb. 10 and 11 WCHA alumnae are honorees. Here is a story on the all-star selections:
There are 56 Western Collegiate Hockey Association alumnae on the 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 National Women's Hockey League, including six on the Minnesota Whitecaps, while St. Cloud State has seven alums 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 one.
The Whitecaps feature 17 former WCHA players while the Riveters have eight ex-WCHA players.
The Canadian Women's Hockey League 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 while Ohio State and Bemidji State have one player in the league.
The CWHL was idle last week and celebrated its all-star game Sunday in Toronto. The talk was as much about merger with the NWHL and equality as it was about the game. Hilary Knight, the former Wisconsin all-American, and Natalie Spooner, the Ohio State alum, were among the most outspoken. The story is here: https://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/cwhl-all-star-game-toronto-1.4986030
In the game itself, Brianna Decker, the former Wisconsin all-American who plays for Calgary, scored two goals. A game story on the all star game with video is here: https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/news/best-moments-2019-cwhl-star-game-211536085.html
The all-star game featured 11 former WCHA stars and ex-Minnesota Duluth defenseman Brigette Lacquette served as the captain of one of the team. The other WCHA alums are Montreal's Knight, Markham's Jocelyne Larocque of Minnesota Duluth, Calgary's Decker and Alex Rigsby of Wisconsin, Toronto's Spooner and Sarah Nurse, Worcester's Lauren Williams of Wisconsin, Shenzhen's Jessica Wong, a UMD alum, and Raty, a former Minnesota goalie, and Calgary's Zoe Hickel, a UMD alum, and Blayre Turnbull of Wisconsin.
The all-star break standings show Calgary (16-3-0-1) in first place with 33 points, two more than Montreal (15-3-0-1). Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays (11-9-1). is in third place with 23 points, two more than Markham (9-7-3-0) Toronto (8-11-0) is in fifth place with 16 points while Worcester in winless and pointless in 20 games.
Spooner (11 goals, 10 assists) is in seventh place in the league's scoring derby with 21 points and former Wisconsin star Nurse (10 goals, 9 assists) is the top rookie scorer and in tenth place with 19 points
Rigsby, is fourth among CWHL goaltenders with a 1.56 goals-against average and her .928 save percentage is second best in the CWHL.
There are more WCHA alums playing in these two pro leagues than any other season
Here are the WCHA alumni on NWHL and CWHL team rosters as of Jan. 15:
Buffalo: Lisa Chesson, Ohio State; Jordyn Burns, Minnesota; Julianna Iafallo, Ohio State; Dani Cameranesi, Minnesota;
Connecticut: Michelle Lowenheilm, Minnesota Duluth; Jordan Brickner, Wisconsin; Katerina Mrazova, Minnesota Duluth; Nina Rodgers, Minnesota.
Metropolitan: Amanda Kessel, Minnesota; Courtney Burke, Wisconsin; Madison Packer, Wisconsin; Kelly Nash, Wisconsin, Erika Lawler, Wisconsin; Jenny Ryan, Wisconsin; Katie Fitzgerald, St. Cloud State; Lexi Slattery, St. Cloud State.
Boston: Gigi Marvin, Minnesota.
Minnesota: Kate Schipper, Minnesota; Lee Stecklein, Minnesota; Julie Friend, St. Cloud State; Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, Minnesota; Hannah Brandt, Minnesota; Haylea Schmid, St. Cloud State; Lisa Martinson, St. Cloud State; Meaghan Pezon, St. Cloud State; Kalli Funk, St. Cloud State; Lauren Barnes, Minnesota State; Tanja Eischenschmid, North Dakota; Amy Menke, North Dakota; Emma Stauber, Minnesota Duluth; Katie McGovern, Minnesota Duluth; Sadie Lundquist, Bemidji State; Winny Brodt Brown, Minnesota; Amanda Leveille, Minnesota
Calgary: Brianna Decker, Wisconsin; Alex Rigsby, Wisconsin; Zoe Hickel, Minnesota Duluth; Halli Kryzyzaniak, North Dakota; Brigette Lacquette, Minnesota Duluth; Blayre Turnbull, Wisconsin.
Shenzen KRS (China) Vanke Red Star: Stephanie Anderson, Bemidji State; Jessica Wong, Minnesota Duluth; Noora Raty, Minnesota
Markham: Megan Bozek, Minnesota; Jenna McParland, Minnesota Duluth; Jocelyne LaRocque, Minnesota Duluth
Montreal: Assistant coach Caroline Ouellette (Minnesota Duluth); Catherine Daost, Minnesota Duluth; Hilary Knight, Wisconsin.
Toronto: Natalie Spooner, Ohio State; Sarah Nurse, Wisconsin; Melissa Channell, Wisconsin; Carolyne Prevost, Wisconsin; Jordan Hampton, North Dakota.