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.
In a National Women's Hockey League series where goaltenders were the stars, Amanda Leveille established her position as one of the premier players in the league.
Leveille, a former standout at Minnesota, made 36 saves and recorded her league-leading second shutout of the season Saturday to help the visiting Minnesota Whitecaps to a 2-0 victory over the Metropolitan Riveters. Meaghan Pezon, who played at St. Cloud State, and Sydney Baldwin, a former All-American defenseman at Minnesota, had the goals in the Whitecaps' third straight victory.
The winning streak ended abruptly when Leveille lost a goaltending battle Sunday in the series finale. She made 34 saves, but the Riveters' Sam Walther made 60 stops, including 50 in the first two periods, to help her team earn a 3-1 victory and a series split that moved the Riveters into third place in the five-team NWHL.
Leveille is second among NWHL goaltenders with eight wins and third with a 2.27 goals-against average and a save percentage of .926.
Madison Packer, one of the top two all-time leading scorers in NWHL history, had an empty net goal and two assists for the Riveters. Packer, who won a national championship during her Western Collegiate Hockey Association days at Wisconsin, has been 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:
Meghan Lorence, a former Minnesota player had the Whitecaps' lone goal in the goaltending dual and another ex-Gopher, Nina Rodgers, had an assist.
In the other NWHL series over the weekend, Boston stayed unbeaten with two road victories over Buffalo. The Pride won 5-2 Saturday and spotted the Beauts two first period goals before roaring back to complete the sweep with a 7-2 victory Sunday. The Pride have outscored opponents 92-31 and are the first NWHL team to ever win its first 17 games.
Boston tops the NWHL standings with a 17-0-0-0 record and 34 points, 16 points ahead of Minnesota which has an 8-4-2 record. The Metropolitan Riveters have a 7-8-0 record and 14 points, one more than Buffalo who has a 6-9-1 record and 13 points. Connecticut has an 0-12-2 record and two points.
Packer, who was named the player of the week in the NWHL Dec. 31, is in third place in scoring in the NWHL. The power forward has 11 goals (fourth best in the league), 13 assists and 24 points. The Whitecaps' Nicole Schammel, a former all-WCHA player at Minnesota, is 19th in league scoring with 14 points (seven goals and seven assists) while Schammel's teammate, Baldwin is 21st among scorers with six goals, six assists and 12 points.
There are 20 WCHA alums playing in the 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.
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 this weekend and 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.
NWHL play continues next Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 11-12, when defending champion Minnesota hosts Buffalo. Connecticut plays at the Metropolitan Rivers on Saturday night and travels to Boston Sunday afternoon.
Here are the WCHA alums on NWHL rosters as of Jan. 1:
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.