Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing professional hockey. The website will also offer periodic stories on former WCHA players.
Nicole Schammel made a name for herself in college hockey last season so it shouldn't be a surprise that she was in the spotlight in her first game in professional hockey.
Schammel, a top 10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award which goes to the college game's best player last season, had two goals and two assists in her coming out party in the National Women's Hockey League and led the Minnesota Whitecaps to a 9-2 season-opening victory over the Metropolitan Riveters Saturday in St. Paul, Minn.
Schammel scored 16 goals and had 31 assists for the Western Collegiate Hockey regular season champion and NCAA runner-up Minnesota Golden Gophers in 2018-19. Last season's WCHA leading scorer showed the same ability to score goals at TRIA Rink on the day the Whitecaps raised the NWHL championship banner.
She had plenty of help in her pro hockey debut. Ex-Gopher defenseman Sydney Baldwin had a goal and an assist in her first pro game and Stephanie Anderson, a Bemidji State alum, Emma Stauber, a Minnesota Duluth alum, and Meaghan Pezon, a former St. Cloud State standout all chipped in assists in the rout.
But the Riveters turned the tables Sunday, taking a 4-3 overtime victory over the Whitecaps on Rebecca Morse's game-winner 35 seconds into overtime. Former Wisconsin standout Madison Packer, who had assists on both Metro goals Saturday, had a goal for the Riveters Sunday.
Amanda Leveille, another Minnesota alum, made 29 saves in the season opening victory and had 20 stops Sunday. Lauren Barnes, who played at Minnesota State, had an assist in the Whitecaps' loss.
In the other NWHL series last weekend, Boston swept Buffalo, 4-2 and 8-1, in Boston and moved into first place. After two weeks of action, the Pride is 3-0-0 record with six points, three points ahead of the Whitecaps who are 1-0-1, Buffalo is 1-2-0 with two points and tied with the Metropolitan Riveters who are 0-2-1 with two points. Connecticut has a 0-1-0 record and is without a point.
There are 19 WCHA alumnae playing in the five-team NWHL. That number is about half as many as a year ago after an off-season when the women's professional leagues underwent a re-shuffling.
Over the summer the landscape of professional women's hockey changed with the Canadian Women's Hockey League folding. The NWHL marches on, however, despite many of the bigger names in the sport playing in the PWHPA Dream Gap Tour that was organized by the women's players' union.
The New York Times took a look at the state of the women's pro game despite the boycott of many of the NWHL's former stars and Olympians. The story is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/12/sports/hockey/nwhl-players.html
The Minneapolis Star Tribune covered the opening game of the Whitecaps, the defending NWHL champs and reports there is still a lot of enthusiasm for the NWHL even if the team's boycotting stars weren't there. The story is here: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-whitecaps-begin-nwhl-title-defense-without-boycotting-stars-absent/562948692/
The Whitecaps, who played exhibition games against Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth last month, feature 15 former WCHA players, including eight who played at the University of Minnesota. There are four former St. Cloud State players and one each from Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State and Bemidji State on the Whitecaps roster.
Wisconsin has two former players in the NWHL – one each in Connecticut and with the Riveters. Buffalo's roster includes one former Minnesota State player and the Metropolitan Riveters signed former Maverick defenseman Anna Keys to a contract Sunday. Former Minnesota State goalie Laura Brennan is an assistant coach with the Whale.
Here are the WCHA alums on NWHL rosters as of Oct. 12:
Buffalo: Sara Bustad, Minnesota State
Connecticut: Jordan Brickner, Wisconsin. Laura Brennan, Minnesota State, is an assistant coach.
Metropolitan: Madison Packer, Wisconsin; Anna Keys, Minnesota State.
Minnesota: Stephanie Anderson, Bemidji State; Sydney Baldwin, Minnesota; Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, 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; Emma Stauber, Minnesota Duluth; Winny Brodt Brown, Minnesota; Amanda Leveille, Minnesota; Nicole Schammel, Minnesota; Nina Rodgers, Minnesota, Meghan Lorence, Minnesota and Kelsey Cline, Minnesota.