WCHA In The Pros Update: March 1
By Bill Brophy for WCHA.com
Haley Irwin, who played at Minnesota Duluth, scored goals in two wins for Calgary last week.

Each week WCHA.com will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey. The website will also offer periodic stories on former WCHA players.

It is crunch time in the two women's professional hockey leagues and former Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) players are in the middle of the action.

Boston remained unbeaten in the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) and wrapped up the top seed for the playoffs by taking a 5-4 victory over Connecticut last weekend, while Calgary and Montreal won Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) playoff series and will play Sunday for the Clarkson Cup, which goes to the CWHL champion.

A preview of the CWHL championship game in Ottawa is here: http://www.thecwhl.com/calgary-inferno-face-les-canadiennes-de-montreal-2017-clarkson-cup-final.

Montreal swept Brampton, 5-1 and 7-1, in its best-of-three series and qualified for the title game for the third straight year. Former Minnesota Duluth star Caroline Ouellette had two assists in each game while another former UMD standout, Noemie Marin, had a goal Saturday and two assists Sunday. Emmanuelle Blais, another UMD alum, chipped in with an assist in the series opener. Calgary, the defending champion, was extended to three games before finishing off Toronto in the opening round series. The Fury used a goal from Minnesota alum Kelly Terry and two assists from ex-Ohio State star Natalie Spooner in taking a 5-2 opening game decision in Calgary.

However, the Inferno roared back to win 3-1 in the last two games. Haley Irwin, who played at Minnesota Duluth, and Blayre Turnbull, a former Wisconsin star, each scored goals in the Saturday win and Meghan Mikkelson, another ex-Badger who is nominated for the CWHL's best defenseman, had two assists. Sarah Davis, a Minnesota alum, had assists in each of the first two games of the series for Calgary, while Spooner had the only goal for the Fury on Saturday.

Irwin, a former Olympic gold medalist for Team Canada, came up big in the deciding game of the series with one goal, and former Minnesota Duluth standout Brigette Lacquette added an assist to punch Calgary's ticket to the title game again.

In the NWHL, defending champion Boston continues to roll. The Pride got a goal and three assists from former Patty Kazmaier Award winner Brianna Decker and edged Connecticut 5-4. Decker's former Wisconsin teammate Hillary Knight had a goal and two assists in Boston's 14th victory. Minnesota alum Gigi Marvin added a goal for Boston, while ex-UMD standout Zoe Hickel had a goal for the Whale against the team which traded her a few weeks ago.

Connecticut rebounded to take a 4-2 victory over Buffalo on Sunday. Meghan Huertas, a former UMD player, had two assists for the Whale, while Megan Bozek had a goal and an assist for Buffalo. The Whale and Beauts are now tied for third place with four games left in the regular season. They will play again March 12.

Boston has clinched the NWHL regular season crown with a 14-0-0-0 record and 26 points, while New York (7-6-3-1) is in second place with 17 points, six ahead of Buffalo (5-9-1) and Connecticut (5-11-0-1). The playoffs start March 16. The title game is March 19 at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.

NWHL officials said that it will shorten the season and playoffs to allow players to train for the IIHF world championships in Michigan: http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/18608812/nwhl-complete-playoffs-world-championships

Former Wisconsin all-American Meghan Duggan is tied for the league lead in goals with 11. Decker is third in goals scored, fourth in assists and her 21 points (10 goals and 11 assists) is second-best in the NWHL. New York's Amanda Kessel, a Kazmaier Award winner at Minnesota, is second in the league with 13 assists. New York's Katie Fitzgerald, a St. Cloud State grad, is tied for second in the league in shutouts (2) and is third among NWHL goalies in save percentage (.900) and goals-against average (2.80). Nineteen women's hockey alumni are spending the 2016-17 season playing in the CWHL while 16 former WCHA players are competing in the NWHL.

The Minnesota Whitecaps, an elite women's hockey team made up of post-collegiate players, also has 22 former WCHA players – from seven league schools – on its Minneapolis-based roster. It includes nine former Minnesota players (Rachael Bona, Hannah Brandt, Winny Brown, Katie Frischmann, Mira Jalosuo, Becky Kortum, Meghan Lorence, Chelsey Rosenthal and Kelly Seeler), four North Dakota alumni (Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Tanja Eischenschmid, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando) and four from St. Cloud State (Julie Friend, Carrie Holldorf, Meaghan Pezon and Haylea Schmid), two players from Minnesota Duluth (Jenny Potter, Casey Ambroz and Emma Stauber), and one each from Bemidji State (Stephanie Anderson), Minnesota State (Alli Altmann) and Wisconsin (Alex Rigsby). Seven members of the Whitecaps were on Team USA and won a goal medal at the Four Nations Cup.

Here are the ex-WCHA players currently on professional team rosters, effective Feb.17.

NWHL (16)

Boston: Brianna Decker, Wisconsin; Meghan Duggan, Wisconsin, Gigi Marvin, Minnesota; Hillary Knight, Wisconsin

Buffalo: Megan Bozek, Minnesota; Lisa Chesson, Ohio State; Jordyn Burns, Minnesota; Amanda Leveille, Minnesota.

Connecticut: Jordan Brickner, Wisconsin; Zoe Hickel, Minnesota Duluth; Meghan Huertas, Minnesota Duluth.

New York: Courtney Burke, Wisconsin; Madison Packer, Wisconsin; Amanda Kessel, Minnesota; Milica McMillen, Minnesota; Katie Fitzgerald, St. Cloud State

CWHL (19)

Brampton: Laura McIntosh, Ohio State; Jenna McParland, Minnesota Duluth; Jocelyne LaRocque, Minnesota Duluth; Kaitlyn Tougas, Bemidji State

Calgary: Sarah Davis, Minnesota; Haley Irwin, Minnesota Duluth; Blayre Turnbull, Wisconsin; Brigette Lacquette, Minnesota Duluth; Meghan Mickelson, Wisconsin; Jessica Wong, Minnesota Duluth.

Montreal: Caroline Ouellette, Minnesota Duluth; Emanuelle Blais, Minnesota Duluth; Noemie Marin, Minnesota Duluth

Toronto: Carolyne Prevost, Wisconsin; Kelly Terry, Minnesota; Natalie Spooner, Ohio State; Michela Cava, Minnesota Duluth; Danielle Gagne, Ohio State