Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey.
It was the all-star break in the National Women's Hockey League and Lee Stecklein, the former Minnesota defenseman and Olympic gold medalist, was more than happy to talk about the future of the league.
Stecklein's thoughts, along with details of the league's all-star game in Nashville and a preview of this week's Canada vs. United States' three-game series, is here:
The NWHL exposed itself to a new market in Nashville and 6,120 fans, the largest crowd to ever watch a professional women's game, saw Stecklein's team lose in the league's showcase of stars. There were 11 former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players who competed in the game. Here is a game story:
At the all-star break and with three weeks left in the regular season, the standings show Minnesota (10-4) in the league lead with 20 points, two points better than Boston (9-4) and Buffalo (9-4). Connecticut (2-9-2) and the Riveters (3-10) have six points. The Whitecaps, an expansion team, have two regular season games remaining while Boston and Buffalo have three games left.
Buffalo's Dani Cameranesi, the ex-Minnesota all-American, has four goals, 10 assists and 14 points and is tied with former Patty Kazmaier 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.
There are 56 WCHA 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 had limited schedule last week, but both of the leaders won.
League-leading Calgary got two goals apiece from former Wisconsin stars Brianna Decker and Blayre Turnbull and rolled to a 10-0 victory over Worcester. Decker added an assist in the rout and Zoe Hickel, a Minnesota Duluth alum, had a goal and an assist.
The second place Les Canadiennes kept pace the Inferno with a 4-1 victory over Toronto. Former Ohio State star Laura Spooner had Toronto's lone goal and ex-Wisconsin forward Sarah Nurse had an assist.
Calgary (19-4-0-1) has 39 points, two more than Montreal (18-5-0-1). Markham (12-8-3-0) and Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays (13-11-1) are tied for third place with 27 points. Toronto (9-14-0) is in fifth place with 18 points while Worcester in winless and pointless in 23 games.
Spooner (13 goals, 10 assists) is in 11th place in the league's scoring derby with 23 points, along with Decker (12-11). Nurse (12 goals, 10 assists), is the league's second-leading rookie goal scorer.
Former Wisconsin star Alex Rigsby, is third among CWHL goaltenders with a 2.05 goals-against average and her .925 save percentage is also third best in the CWHL.
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 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.
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.