Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey.
Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight have always been known as clutch performers during their college careers at Wisconsin and as big-game forwards for the U.S. National Team.
They enhanced their reputations last week and led their teams into the Canadian Women's Hockey League championship March 24 at Toronto. Calgary will face Montreal at noon in Toronto to determine the Clarkson Cup champion.
Knight scored four goals and had seven points as her Les Canadiennes ousted the Markham Thunder in a three-game series. Knight, a former all-American, and former Minnesota Duluth defenseman Catherine Daost each scored a goal and had an assist in a 3-0 opening-game victory Friday in a rematch of last season's Clarkson Cup championship. Markham, the defending champions, took a 4-3 victory Saturday as another ex-UMD star Jenna McParland scored three goals and offset a three-point (two goals, one assist) night from Knight.
In the deciding game Sunday, Knight had a goal and an assist and Les Canadiennes, the runnerup during the regular season, delighted the home fans and advanced to their fourth straight CWHL playoff championship appearance.
Calgary took two of three games from Toronto to make it to the Clarkson Cup finals for the third time in four years. Visiting Toronto used two goals and an assist from Natalie Spooner, the former Ohio State star, and took the series opener 3-1. Ex-Wisconsin star Sarah Nurse had a goal and former Badgers Carolyne Prevost and Melissa Channel each chipped in with two assists for the Fury.
Regular season champion Calgary tied the series with a 3-0 victory Saturday. Former Wisconsin goalie Alex Rigsby, who had 15 saves Friday, made 13 stops in recording the shutout and another ex-Badger Blayre Turnbull scored a goal.
Decker stepped up in the deciding game in the best of three series Sunday. The former Patty Kazmaier Award winner had two goals and Rigsby made 17 saves in the Inferno's 4-1 victory. Former Minnesota Duluth star Zoe Hickel had two assists and Turnbull; ex-North Dakota defenseman Halli Kryzyzaniak and former Bulldog Brigette Lacquette all added assists in Game Three of the series.
The Canadian Women's Hockey League has six teams in three countries – the U.S., Canada and China – and features 23 former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players.
Duluth each has nine former players in the CWHL and Wisconsin has eight alums in the league. Minnesota and North Dakota have two players while Ohio State and Bemidji State have one player in the league.
The National Women's Hockey League playoffs were interrupted by weather issues last week with three teams still competing for the Isobel Cup. They will play this weekend in St. Paul, Minn. to determine the playoff champion.
The defending champion Metropolitan Riveters will play the top seeded Minnesota Whitecaps Friday at 7 p.m. at Tria Rink in a game that was postponed Sunday because of a snowstorm that impacted travel. The winner of Friday's game will play Buffalo on Sunday, March 17, at 1 p.m. to determine the Isobel Cup champion.
Last week, the Riveters opened defense of their Isobel Cup by eliminating Connecticut, 5-2 in Newark, N.J. as former St. Cloud State goalie Katie Fitzgerald made 24 saves and ex-Wisconsin defenseman Courtney Burke had a goal. Jenny Ryan had a helper for the Riveters. Katarina Mrazova, a former UMD standout, had a goal and Jordan Brickner, an ex-Badger, added an assist for the Whale, who entered the playoffs as the fifth seed.
The victory sent the Riveters to meet the expansion Whitecaps, who opened the season with four straight victories over the Riveters.
In the semifinals Saturday in Buffalo, the Beauts beat Boston 4-0. It was the fourth time in the four-year history of the league that the teams had met in the semifinals. Ex-Minnesota all-American and Olympian Dani Cameranesi had a goal and two assists for the Beauts.
There are 58 WCHA alumnae on the rosters of the two North American professional hockey leagues -- with 35 former Western Collegiate Hockey Association 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 Riveters. There are five 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 March 1:
Buffalo: Lisa Chesson, Ohio State; Jordyn Burns, Minnesota; Julianna Iafallo, Ohio State; Dani Cameranesi, Minnesota.
Connecticut: Jezssica Koiziumi, Minnesota Duluth; 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: Associate head coach Caroline Ouellette (Minnesota Duluth); Emmanuelle Blais, 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.
Worcester: Jessica Convery, Minnesota Duluth; Dani Crossman, Minnesota Duluth; Lauren Williams, Wisconsin.