Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey.
Brianna Decker scored a goal last week to help her Calgary Inferno strengthen their hold on first place in the Canadian Women's Hockey League with a 5-2 victory over the Shenzen Kunlun Rays Tuesday.
It was hardly the most newsworthy item of the week for Decker.
You see, on Friday, Decker and Kendall Coyne Schofield, her teammate on last year's Olympic gold medal-winning United States women's hockey team, were invited to compete in the National Hockey League's skills competition.
Coyne Schofield became the first women to ever compete against NHLers in the fastest skater competition and came in seventh in the eight-team field which included Jack Eichel of Buffalo and Edmonton's Connor McDavid, who won his third straight title.
Decker, a former Patty Kazmaier Award winner as women's college hockey's best player, was asked to demonstrate in the premier passing drill before the eight NHL players got to compete for $25,000. Decker turned in the best time in the drill, besting winner Leon Draisaitl by three seconds in her "demonstration."
CCM Hockey responded to an avalanche of social media stories about Decker's performance and agreed to pay her $25,000, the same prize money that Draisaitl was awarded.
Here's the story on how Decker opened eyes and won hearts with her passing performance:
It has been quite a month for the former Wisconsin All-American. Decker added to her resume as an assistant coach under Minnesota Duluth's Maura Crowell with the silver-medal winning United States team at the Under-18 World Championships in Japan. Decker received positive reviews for her coaching and it reinforced her feeling that she would like to try coaching full-time. But only after playing for the U.S. Olympic team in 2022 and trying for another gold medal. A story on Decker behind the bench and her coaching aspirations is here:
Before flying to San Jose for the NHL skills competition, Decker saw her Inferno get 24 saves from Decker's old Wisconsin teammate, Alex Rigsby, in beating Shenzen. Zoe Hickel, the former Minnesota Duluth star, had a goal and an assist and Brigette Lacquette, another ex-Bulldog, had an assist for Calgary while Stephanie Anderson, who played at Bemidji State, had one of the goals for the Rays.
In the only CWHL series last weekend, Montreal and Markham split two games. Former Minnesota defenseman Megan Bozek of Markham had an assist in each game. Her teammate, Jocelyn Larocque, a UMD alum, had an assist in the Thunder's 2-1 victory Saturday and Montreal came back to win the series finale 6-2.
The Canadian Women's Hockey League has six teams in three countries – the United States, Canada and China – and features 22 former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players.
Wisconsin and 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.
Calgary (17-3-0-1) remains in first place with 35 points, two more than Montreal (16-3-0-1). Markham (10-8-3-0) and Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays (11-10-1) are tied for third place with 23 points. Toronto (8-11-0) is in fifth place with 16 points while Worcester in winless and pointless in 20 games.
Former Ohio State star Natalie Spooner (11 goals, 10 assists) is in seventh place in the league's scoring derby with 21 points and her Toronto teammate, former Wisconsin star Sarah Nurse (10 goals, 9 assists), is in tenth place with 19 points.
Rigsby, is third among CWHL goaltenders with a 1.90 goals-against average and her .928 save percentage is also third best in the CWHL.
There was only one game in the National Women's Hockey League last week and the league's hottest team, the Buffalo Beauts, won their fourth straight game and moved into second place with a 4-1 victory over Boston.
Dani Cameranesi had a goal and two assists for Buffalo. The ex-Minnesota All-American has four goals, 10 assists and 14 points and is tied with former Patty Kaz winner Amanda Kessel (1-13-14) of the Riveters for fourth in the league in scoring. Kessel, the ex-Gopher, leads the league in assists with 13.
Boston's Gigi Marvin, another ex-Gopher, and Minnesota Duluth alum Katarina Mrazova of Connecticut are fifth in the league with six goals scored. Minnesota's Amanda Leveille is third among NWHL goalies with a 2.44 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.
The standings show Minnesota (10-4) in the league lead with 20 points, four points better than Boston (8-4) and Buffalo (8-4). Both Boston and Buffalo have two 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.
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.
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.