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.
It was a weekend where Boston and Minnesota, the two best teams in the National Women's Hockey League, staged an exciting two-game series in St. Paul and some of the best players in the world took advantage of a big stage to put on a show at the National Hockey League All Star Game. Women's hockey was the big winner.
For the record, Canada beat the United States 2-1 in the 20-minute, 3-on-3 tournament Friday in St. Louis, but a North American TV audience found out once again how talented the best women's players in the world can be. Fans of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association weren't surprised. They had seen this act before.
Canada's Ann-Renee Desbiens and the United States' Alex Rigsby Cavallini put on a goaltending show and Annie Pankowksi set up Hilary Knight for the U.S. goal. All four players were former stars in the WCHA and among the 11-member contingent of WCHA standouts who participated in the fast-paced game.
The 10-person U.S. roster consisted of former Wisconsin all-Americans Knight, Brianna Decker, Pankowski and Cavallini, North Dakota alum Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson and ex-Minnesota stars Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein. The 10-member Canadian roster included former Badgers Desbiens, Sarah Nurse and Blayre Turnbull and former Ohio State star Natalie Spooner.
Accounts of the game are here:
All 11 WCHA alums who played at the NHL event will play in the Rivalry Series next month. There are 20 former WCHA players who have been named to the U.S. and Canada rosters for the the final three games of the five-game series. A complete story is here: http://www.wcha.com/women/articles/2020/01/twenty-wcha-alums-named-to-united-states-and-canadian-rosters-for-second-half-of-womens-rivalry-series.php
Every member of the Canadian and U.S. teams are members of the PWHPA Dream Gap Tour that was organized by the women's players' union last summer The PWHPA have scheduled another set of games for February in Philadelphia Feb. 29-March 1.
Meanwhile in the National Women's Hockey League Sunday, Boston wrapped up the top seed for the playoffs with a 4-2 victory over Minnesota. Lexi Bender broke a 2-2 with a goal with 14:28 left in regulation. It came just 32 seconds after Allie Thunstrom had brought the Whitecaps even and gave the Pride a series split. It was only the second loss in 11 games for the defending Isobel Cup champions, who had won five in a row until Sunday's matinee. Former Minnesota State star Lauren Barnes and ex-St. Cloud State forward Meaghan Pezon had assists for the Whitecaps and former Minnesota goalie Amanda Leveille had 22 saves.
Only a day earlier the Whitecaps scored a stirring 4-3 victory over the Pride and handed Boston its first loss of the season in front of a sellout crowd at Tria Rink. Thunstrom scored the game-winning goal with 49 seconds left in regulation to snap Boston's 19-game winning streak. The goal came just eight seconds after the Pride had tied the game. Leveille had 36 saves in the series opener and Meghan Lorence, a Minnesota alum, had a shorthanded goal for the Whitecaps. Nicole Schammel, another ex-Gopher, and Stephanie Anderson, a former Bemidji State standout, each had assists for the Whitecaps.
In the NWHL's other action, Connecticut tied the Metropolitan Riveters 1-1 Saturday with the Whale taking the extra point in the standings with a shootout win. Former Wisconsin star Madison Packer had an assist for the Riveters. Packer had a goal and an assist to lead the Riveters to a 4-2 victory over the Whale in the series finale.
Packer is in third place in scoring in the NWHL. The power forward has 12 goals 17 assists (third best in the league), and 29 points. Schammel, a former all-WCHA player, is seventh in league scoring with 23 points (ten goals and 13 assists) while former Minnesota all-American defenseman Sydney Baldwin is tied for 18th among scorers with eight goals, ten assists and 18 points. Pezon is tied for 20th with 16 points (five goals, 11 assists). Lorence's two shorthanded goals are tied for the most in the NWHL and Packer's five power play goals is also tied for the most. The list of league scoring leaders is here: https://www.nwhl.zone/stats#/100/leaders/table?division_id=8088&player_type=players
Leveille is second in the league in victories with 12 and in save percentage at .932. Her 2.13 goals against average ranks third among league goalies
After the weekend, Boston tops the NWHL standings with a 20-1-0-0 record and 40 points, 10 points ahead of Minnesota which has a 13-5-2 record and has clinched the No. 2 seed for the playoffs The Riveters have a 8-9-2 record and 18 points, five more than Buffalo which has a 6-11-1 mark and 13 points. Connecticut has a 2-15-2 record and six points.
The NWHL is idle until All Star Game weekend Feb. 8-9 in Boston. League play resumes Feb. 15
There are 20 WCHA alums playing in the five-team, U.S.-based NWHL, about half as many as a year ago, after an off-season when the women's professional leagues underwent a re-shuffling.
Over last 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 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. NWHL play continues next Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 18-19, when defending champion Minnesota hosts Connecticut in a two-game series.
Here are the WCHA alums on NWHL rosters as of Jan. 15: 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.