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.
If the old adage is true that a hot goaltender can carry a team at playoff time, the Minnesota Whitecaps should feel optimistic as the National Women's Hockey League postseason gets underway.
Former Minnesota goalie Amanda Leveille made 48 saves Sunday to lead the Whitecaps to a 3-1 victory over Connecticut in the final game of the NWHL regular season. She made 34 stops the day before to help the defending Isobel Cup champs take a 6-3 victory over the Whale at Tria Arena in St. Paul.
Leveille finished the season as the second winningest goalie in the league with 16 victories and was also second in save percentage at .935 and goals against average at 2.08.
She leads the Whitecaps into a Isobel Cup playoff semifinal game Sunday in St. Paul against the Metropolitan Riveters. Regular season league champion Boston will play the other NWHL semifinal Sunday against the winner of Friday's play-in game between Buffalo and Connecticut.
In the final games of the regular season, the Riveters split with Buffalo, winning 5-3 Saturday as ex-Wisconsin star Madison Packer scored a goal, and losing 3-1 in the season finale. Sara Bustad, Buffalo's defenseman who played at Minnesota State, picked up an assist in the series opener.
The Whitecaps got a goal and two assists from ex-St. Cloud State standout Meaghan Pezon and former Minnesota forward Meghan Lorence, St. Cloud alum Lisa Martinson and Gophers' alum Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal chipped in with assists. Another ex-Gopher, Nicole Schammel, a former all-WCHA player, had a goal and Stephanie Anderson, who played at Bemidji State, had an assist in the final game of the regular season.
Top seeded Boston finished the regular season with a 23-1 record and 46 points, 10 more than the Whitecaps, who were 15-5-2 record and the No. 2 seed for the playoffs The Riveters were 10-11-3 with 23 points, six more than Buffalo which finished 8-15-1 mark and 17 points. Connecticut had a 2-20-2 record and six points.
Packer, the second-leading scorer in NWHL history, finished fifth in scoring in the league this season with 13 goals 21 assists (fifth best in the league), and 34 points. Schammel, a former all-WCHA player, finished 11th in league scoring with 25 points (11 goals and 14 assists) while Pezon (10 goals, 11 assists) and Lorence (10 goals, 11 assists) are tied for 17th place with 21 points. Lorence has two shorthanded goals which was tied for the most in the NWHL and Packer's five power play goals also tied for the most this season. The list of league scoring leaders is here: https://www.nwhl.zone/stats#/100/leaders/table?division_id=8088&player_type=players
There are 20 Western Collegiate Hockey Association 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. Every member of the Canadian and U.S. teams who played in the Rivalry Series earlier this month are members of the PWHPA Dream Gap Tour that was organized by the women's players' union last summer The PWHPA played another set of games last weekend in Philadelphia, but had a series in Tokyo canceled this week because of fears of the coronavirus spreading among fans.
Another team impacted by the coronavirus, Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, coached by former North Dakota coach Brian Idalski and featuring six former WCHA players, advanced to the finals of the Russian Women's Hockey League. The Rays beat Moscow Region Tornado in two straight games to win the best-of-three semifinal playoff series this week in the Dmitrov Arena in St. Petersburg where, technically, the Rays were the home team for two of the games.
The Rays roster started the season playing in Shenzhen Guangdong, China. But when concerns regarding the coronavirus popped up, the team moved its headquarters to St. Petersburg, Russia. The Rays' roster includes former Minnesota all-American goalie Noora Raty, ex-Gopher defenseman Megan Bozek, former Wisconsin forward Claudia Kepler, ex-Minnesota Duluth defenseman Jessica Wong and two of Idalski's former North Dakota players, forwards, Amy Menke and Rebekah Kolstad, who played at Minnesota State last season.
Bozek had two goals and Kolstad and Wong each scored once as the Rays won the opener 6-2. Menke chipped with an assist. The Rays took the series with a 2-1 in Game Two and will play Ufa in the best of three championship final this week in Russia.
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.
Here are the WCHA alums on NWHL rosters:
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.