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.
The National Women's Hockey League made history with its first outdoor game Saturday in Buffalo. A sellout crowd of 1,200 lined the Buffalo Riverworks for the Labatt Blue Buffalo Believes Classic, the first time in the five-year history of the league that a game was played outdoors.
Not surprisingly, a couple of players who played in big games in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association had big games on the history-making night.
Madison Packer, one of the top two all-time leading scorers in NWHL history, had two goals and an assist and her teammate Kelly Nash, playing her first game since rejoining the Metropolitan Riveters Dec. 24, had an assist to help the Riveters score three times in the last 2:24 and take a 7-4 victory over the Buffalo Beauts.
Both Packer and Nash won national championships at Wisconsin in 2011 with Nash scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to lead the Badgers over Minnesota in the 2011 WCHA Final Faceoff title game.
Packer, who had 104 points in her UW career, is a veteran of the NWHL. She led the league in goals in 2017 and was a finalist for most valuable player when the Riveters dominated the league that season. Last week Packer was named one of the captains for the NWHL all-star game. She joins another ex-Badger, Jordan Brickner of the Connecticut Whale, among the first selections for the game Feb. 9 at Warrior Ice Arena, the home of the league-leading Boston Pride. A story from the Boston Herald is here:
Packer followed up her big outdoor performance with another outing Sunday to give the Riveters their third straight victory. She again had two goals and an assist as the Riveters beat the Beauts 6-3.
Packer's big weekend moved her into third place in scoring in the NWHL. The power forward has 10 goals (including a league-leading five power play goals), 11 assists and 21 points. Minnesota's Nicole Schammel, a former all-WCHA player at Minnesota, is 15th in league scoring with 14 points (seven goals and seven assists) while Schammel's teammate, Sydney Baldwin, a former Minnesota all-American defenseman, is among the top 20 scorers with five goals, seven assists and 12 points.
Minnesota's Amanda Leveille, another Gopher alum, is second among NWHL goaltenders with seven wins and third with a 2.48 goals-against average and a save percentage of .917.
In the other NWHL series, Boston stayed unbeaten with two road victories over Connecticut. The Pride won 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday and completed the sweep with a 5-2 victory Sunday. The Pride have outscored opponents 78-27 in building an almost insurmountable lead in the league.
Boston tops the NWHL standings with a 15-0-0-0 record and 30 points, 14 points ahead of Minnesota which has a 7-3-2 record. Buffalo is in third place with a 6-7-1 record and 13 points, just one ahead of the Metropolitan Riveters who have a 6-7-0 record and 12 points. Connecticut has an 0-12-2 record and two points.
With the signing of Nash, a former assistant coach at Princeton and Vermont, there are 20 WCHA alums playing in the five-team United States-based NWHL, about half as many as a year ago after an off-season when the women's professional leagues underwent a re-shuffling. A story on Nash's return to the Riveters is here:
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 PWHPA will play games in Toronto Jan. 11-12 and last week announced another set of games for February in Philadelphia Feb. 29-March 1.
The Whitecaps feature 15 former WCHA players. 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 three former players in the NWHL – one in Connecticut and two with the Riveters. Buffalo's roster includes one former Minnesota State player and the Riveters also have one Minnesota State alum. Former Minnesota State goalie Laura Brennan is an assistant coach with the Whale.
The 2020 portion of the NWHL begins Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 4-5, with a pair of two-game series: Defending champion Minnesota travels to play the Metropolitan Riveters and Boston is at Buffalo.
Here are the WCHA alums on NWHL rosters as of Dec. 27:
Buffalo: Sara Bustad, Minnesota State
Connecticut: Jordan Brickner, Wisconsin. Laura Brennan, Minnesota State (Assistant coach).
Metropolitan: Madison Packer, Wisconsin; Anna Keys, Minnesota State; Kelly Nash, Wisconsin
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.