Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey.
The Minnesota Whitecaps capped an historic regular season in the National Women's Hockey League with a pair of weekend victories on the road and earned the championship in their first season.
The Whitecaps used 29 saves from former Minnesota goalie Amanda Leveille Saturday and edged Boston 2-1 in a battle of the league leaders and then clinched the title Sunday with a 4-1 victory over Connecticut. It was the Whitecaps' fifth straight victory. Former Minnesota State player Lauren Barnes had two goals for the Whitecaps. Lee Stecklein, the ex-Olympian and former Minnesota All-American defenseman, and former St. Cloud State standout Meghan Pezon had assists in the season finale for the Whitecaps who got 24 saves from Leveille.
As a result, the Whitecaps have clinched home ice for the Isobel Cup Playoffs and will host the winner of the Metropolitan Riveters vs. Connecticut Whale play-in game at 1:30 PM CT on Sunday, March 10. The Riveters and Whale will play Thursday at 7 p.m.
Boston, which finished in third place, will play at second place Buffalo Saturday, March 9, in a rematch of last year's playoff semifinals.
Buffalo got three points in the final weekend of the season. The Beauts got a goal and an assist from ex-Ohio State star Julianna Iafallo and scored a 5-2 victory over Connecticut Saturday.
Buffalo closed out the regular season with 4-3 shootout loss to the Metropolitan Riveters. Former Ohio State star Lisa Chesson and ex-Minnesota All-American Dani Cameranesi each had an assist for the Beauts, who were foiled by Katie Fitzgerald in the shootout. The former St. Cloud State goalie made 40 saves for the Riveters who saw former Wisconsin defenseman Courtney Burke get an assist. Ex-Wisconsin star Madison Packer and Amanda Kessel had a goal and an assist for the Riveters in the season finale.
Kessel, the former Patty Kazmaier winner who starred at Minnesota, led league in assists with 15. Cameranesi, the ex-Olympian, was third in assists with 11. Former Olympian and Minnesota star Gigi Marvin finished third in the league with most goals scored (10).and Packer was fifth with eight. Leveille was third among NWHL goalies in goals-against average and save percentage.
The final standings showed Minnesota with a 12-4 record and 24 points; Buffalo was 11-4-1 with 23 points, Boston 11-5 and 22 points. The Riveters were 4-12 with eight points and Connecticut was 2-12-2) with six points.
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 Metropolitan 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.
The playoff pairings are set in the Canadian Women's Hockey League also. Toronto beat Markham 3-1 in the final game of the regular season to qualify for the post-season.
Former Wisconsin forwards Sarah Nurse and Carolyne Prevost each scored a goal and ex-Badger defenseman Melissa Channel had an assist as the Fury won a tie-breaker with Shenzhen and won the fourth seed for the playoffs.
Toronto will play at league champion Calgary in a best of three series Friday through Sunday while Markham is at Montreal, a rematch of last season's Clarkson Cup championship, in the other first round series.
The final standing showed Calgary (23-4-0-1) with 47 points, four more than Montreal (21-6-0-1). Markham (13-11-3-0-1) finished third with 30 points. Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays (13-13-2) and Toronto (14-14-0) tied for fourth with 28 points while Worcester was winless and pointless in 28 games.
Nurse (14 goals, 12 assists), the second-leading rookie goal scorer, ex-Wisconsin all-American Brianna Decker (12 goals and 14 assists) and former Ohio State star Natalie Spooner (15 goals, 11 assists) finished in eighth place in the league's scoring derby with 26 points.
Alex Rigsby of Calgary, another ex-Badger, was second among CWHL goaltenders with a 2.04 goals-against average and a 916 save percentage.
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 has nine former players in the CWHL while 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 race is still on for the regular season championship in the National Women's Hockey 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 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.