Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey.
Brianna Decker solidified her argument as perhaps the best woman's hockey player in the world Sunday.
Decker, who won a gold medal with Team USA a year ago at the Winter Olympics and was named college hockey's best player while at Wisconsin, was named the Most Valuable Player in the Canadian Women's Hockey League and led Calgary to a 5-2 victory over Montreal in Toronto. It was the second Clarkson Cup title for the Inferno who will send nine players to the upcoming women's world championship in Finland.
It was the Inferno's contingent of former Western Collegiate Hockey Association stars that led the way Sunday. Former Minnesota Duluth star Zoe Hickel scored twice, including the game-winning goal, former North Dakota defenseman Halli Krzyzaniak added a goal, Alex Rigsby, a former goaltending standout at Wisconsin, earned the win in goal, and Decker was named MVP of the playoffs after scoring a goal
Decker, the Patty Kazmaier Award winner at UW in 2012, was also the most valuable player in the National Women's Hockey League in 2016 and 2017.
Montreal was coached by Caroline Ouellette, the former Minnesota Duluth All-American, and featured three former WCHA stars, including Wisconsin Hilary Knight, who had an assist in the Clarkson Cup battle.
Here is an account of the game from the Toronto Star:
Two days earlier, Rigsby was awarded the CWHL's Goaltender of the Year award after she put up a great season in her rookie year (14-2-1). Rigsby finished the season with a 2.04 GAA and 0.916 save percentage. The total list of award winners is here: http://www.thecwhl.com/poulin-wins-big-at-2019-cwhl-award-show
Last week, the NWHL crowned its playoff champions. The expansion Minnesota Whitecaps scored a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Beauts to win the Isobel Cup. Former Minnesota All-American defenseman and Olympian Lee Stecklein had the game-winning goal in overtime to delight the sellout crowd in St. Paul, Minn.
Amy Menke, a North Dakota alum, also scored for the Whitecaps, an expansion team who packed Tria Rink in St. Paul all season and won the regular season NWHL titie as well as the Isobel Cup. There are 17 former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players who play for the Whitecaps.
Here is the game story on the Isobel Cup game:
The NWHL handed out their post season honors Monday and the Buffalo Beauts swept the award, led by Hayley Scamurra, voted the players' top player. Former Minnesota All-American Hannah Brandt of the Whitecaps was named one of five NWHL Foundation Award winners. Former Wisconsin forward Madison Packer of the Riveters and Katerina Mrazova, the ex-Minnesota Duluth star who played for Connecticut, were two of the three players named the NWHL Three Stars of the Season in a fan vote
Two former WCHA and Olympic gold medalists, both Minnesota alums – Amanda Kessel of the Riveters and Gigi Marvin of Boston – were among the five finalists for NWHL MVP, which went to Maddie Elia of the Beauts. Stecklein was among the three finalists for Defender of the Year, which went to Buffalo's Blake Bolden.
ESPN gave an update on the possibility of a merger between the two leagues in a story here: http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/26237756/one-league-faq-nwhl-cwhl-players-want-nhl-awaits
The Canadian Women's Hockey League has six teams in three countries – the U.S., Canada and China – and features 23 former WCHA players.
Minnesota Duluth had nine former players in the CWHL and Wisconsin had eight alums in the league. Minnesota and North Dakota had two players while Ohio State and Bemidji State had one player in the league.
There were 58 WCHA alumnae on the rosters of the two North American professional hockey leagues -- with 35 former WCHA stars in the five-team NWHL.
Minnesota had 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 were five former UMD players in the NWHL while North Dakota and Ohio State had two players apiece and Minnesota State one.
There were more WCHA alums playing in the pro leagues than any other season. The former WCHA players on NWHL and CWHL team rosters this season were:
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.