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 Minnesota Whitecaps continue to ride the hot goaltending of former Minnesota goalie Amanda Leveille as they make a bid to become the first team to win back-to-back Isobel Cup championships.
Leveille made 28 saves and outdueled Sam Walther in a close-checking playoff game to help the Whitecaps edge the Metropolitan Riveters 1-0 in overtime in a National Women's Hockey League semifinal at Tria Arena in St. Paul, Minn., Sunday.
Allie Thunstrom, the NWHL's leading scorer during the regular season with 24 points, finally broke the deadlock at 6:24 of overtime, but the story of the game was goaltending and Leveille was superb as she has been all season. She finished the season as the second winningest goalie in the league with 16 and was also second in save percentage at .935 and goals against average at 2.08.
She leads the Whitecaps into the Isobel Cup championship game Friday night in Boston against the Boston Pride. This is a battle of the top two seeds. Boston lost only one game this season and the Whitecaps are the defending champs.
The Whitecaps are optimistic about their team and the league as this Minneapolis Star Tribune column shows:
Boston reached the finals with a 5-1 victory over Connecticut in the semifinals Sunday. The Whale, who won only two games all season, upset Buffalo 5-3 in the NWHL play in game last Friday.
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.
Former Wisconsin star Madison Packer of the Riveters finished fifth in scoring in the NWHL with 13 goals 21 assists (fifth best in the league), and 34 points. The Whitecaps' Nicole Schammel, a former all-WCHA player at Minnesota, finished 11th in league scoring with 25 points (11 goals and 14 assists) while teammate and St. Cloud State alum Meghan Pezon (10 goals, 11 assists) and ex-Gopher Meghan Lorence (10 goals, 11 assists) 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 last month are members of the PWHPA Dream Gap Tour that was organized by the women's players' union last summer.
In the Russian Women's Hockey League, the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, coached by former North Dakota coach Brian Idalski and featuring six former WCHA players, won the first two games of the finals of the playoff championship by 3-1 scores over Ufa.
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 who had 47 saves in Game Two of the best of five final series, 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. Menke had a goal and an assist in Game Two against Ufa.
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.