Every weekday from June 12-27, we will be looking back at the "Top Shelf Moments" from the thrilling 2016-17 WCHA Women's League season. Up next on our countdown is…
Moment 10: The Next Level
Long the nation's premier women's college hockey conference, the WCHA continued to shine on the sport's grandest stages in 2016-17. For example:
Need a championship-winning, overtime goal to capture gold at the 2017 IIHF World Championships? Former Wisconsin star Hilary Knight has that on her resume.
Looking for a "triple crown" MVP, who captured those honors at the 2017 Worlds and for the 2016-17 NWHL season, along with being named USA Hockey's 2017 Bob Allen Women's Player of the Year? We've got you covered, with UW alumna Brianna Decker.
Need to stop all that offensive prowess? How about the NWHL's 2016-17 Best Defender (Minnesota's Megan Bozek) and Best Goaltender (St. Cloud State's Katie Fitzgerald).
Of course, the NWHL – which had 19 WCHA alumnae in the league in 2016-17 (along with 20 in the CWHL) – could have an even stronger conference presence next season, as the WCHA had an NCAA-high 11 players chosen in the 2017 NWHL Draft.
Among the further highlights:
2016 Four Nations Cup
Twenty-nine (29) current and former WCHA players, representing seven member institutions, competed for the United States, Canada, Sweden and host Finland at the 2016 Four Nations Cup.
The United States of America won its second consecutive Four Nations Cup gold medal with a roster featuring 13 WCHA players - including 2016-17 student-athletes Annie Pankowski (Wisconsin) and Lee Stecklein (Minnesota). Team USA defeated Canada, 5-3, in the championship game behind three combined goals from former Badgers stars Hilary Knight (2g) and Brianna Decker (1g).
Decker led the tournament with five assists and seven points, Knight tied for the lead with three goals, North Dakota standout Monique Lamoureux-Davidson (USA) was tops with a +10 rating, and former Minnesota great Noora Räty (FIN) paced all goaltenders with 86 saves.
Along with Pankowski and Stecklein, four other student-athletes that competed in the WCHA in 2016-17 were also in Vierumäki, Finland: Minnesota Duluth's Maria Lindh and Michelle Löwenhielm, along with North Dakota's Anna Kilponen and Vilma Tanskanen.
2017 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships
Led by the 13 who helped the United States win its fourth consecutive gold, 30 players with WCHA ties medaled (and 46 participated) at the 2017 IIHF Women's World Championships, held March 31-April 7 in Plymouth, Mich. Nine members of the silver-medalist Canadian squad hailed from the WCHA, while eight Finns earned bronze.
Hilary Knight lifted the U.S. to gold on home ice with a dramatic, championship-winning overtime goal. Her score, which came at the 10:17 mark, gave the Americans a 3-2 triumph. Knight's former Wisconsin teammate, Brianna Decker, tallied a pair of assists in the gold medal game, part of a 12-point tournament that earned her Most Valuable Player honors.
Decker, in fact, was a triple winner, earning one of three Directorate Awards and, as the tournament's co-scoring leader, was named to the All-Star Team. Former Minnesota great Noora Räty, who led Finland to bronze, was also given a Directorate Award and tabbed the All-Star Team goaltender. North Dakota standout Monique Lamoureux-Morando was an All-Star defenseman.
The final 2017 Women's Worlds statistical leaderboard featured several WCHA products. Decker led the tournament with nine assists and tied for first with 12 points, while matching Lamoureux-Morando with a Worlds-best +11 rating. Hannah Brandt, a two-time WCHA Player of the Year at Minnesota, was the top face-off artist with a 70.2 percent success rate in the circle (33-for-47). Räty tied for the tournament lead with two shutouts, while ranking second with 145 saves.
The 46 WCHA participants came from seven member institutions, competed for all eight participating countries, featured 15 student-athletes that played collegiately in 2016-17 and included one incoming freshman (German forward Laura Kluge, who is slated to play for St. Cloud State next season).
2016 National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) Draft
More than half – 11 of 20 – selections in the 2016 National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) Draft were rising seniors, representing four WCHA schools. Each of the draft's five rounds featured at least one WCHA player chosen, while the first and third rounds saw three of the four picks coming from the nation's premier women's college hockey conference.
The full list of WCHA players chosen: Lee Stecklein, D, Minnesota (Buffalo Beauts, 1st Round – 2nd pick overall); Dani Cameranesi, F, Minnesota (Connecticut Whale, 1st Round – 3rd pick overall); Ann-Renée Desbiens, G, Wisconsin (Boston Pride, 1st Round – 4th pick overall); Sarah Nurse, F, Wisconsin (Boston Pride, 2nd Round – 8th pick overall); Jenny Ryan, D, Wisconsin (New York Riveters, 3rd Round – 9th pick overall); Mellissa Channell, D, Wisconsin (Connecticut Whale, 3rd Round – 11th pick overall); Ashleigh Brykaliuk, F Minnesota Duluth (Boston Pride, 3rd Round – 12th pick overall); Sydney McKibbon, F, Wisconsin (New York Riveters, 4th Round – 13th pick overall); Halli Krzyzaniak, D, North Dakota (Boston Pride, 4th Round – 16th pick overall); Amy Menke, F, North Dakota (New York Riveters, 5th Round – 17th pick overall); and, Lara Stalder, F, Minnesota Duluth (Boston Pride, 5th Round – 20th pick overall).
2016-17 Professional Seasons Thirty-nine (39) WCHA alumnae played in either the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) or the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) during the 2016-17 season, including some of professional hockey's top performers.
Among the 20 former WCHA players who appeared the CWHL this past season, the legendary Caroline Ouellette (Minnesota Duluth) finished fourth in the league scoring race with 31 points. The CWHL's all-time leading scorer, Ouellette reached the career 300-point milestone in December. Joining Ouellette as 2016-17 CWHL All-Stars were fellow Bulldogs Michela Cava, Haley Irwin and Jocelyne Larocque, along with Meagan Mikkelson (Wisconsin), Natalie Spooner (Ohio State) and Kelly Terry (Minnesota).
The second season of the NWHL saw Wisconsin's Brianna Decker repeat as Most Valuable Player after leading the league with 31 points, while fellow Minnesota alumna Megan Bozek earned Best Defender honors and St. Cloud State's Katie Fitzgerald was tabbed Best Goaltender. Of the 19 WCHA alumnae who played in the league, nine were All-Stars: Bozek, Courtney Burke (UW), Meghan Duggan (UW), Fitzgerald, Zoe Hickel (UMD), Amanda Kessel (UMN), Hilary Knight (UW), Gigi Marvin (UMN) and Madison Packer (UW).
Finally, the Minnesota Whitecaps, an elite women's hockey team made up of post-collegiate players, also had 22 former WCHA players – from seven league schools – on its Minneapolis-based roster.
Here is the full breakdown of WCHA-affiliated participants at the 2016 Four Nations Cup, including the six current student-athletes (from 2016-17) and 23 league alumnae.
- United States (Gold): Shelby Amsley-Benzie, G (UND); Stephanie Anderson, F, (BSU); Megan Bozek, D (UMN); Hannah Brandt, F (UMN); Brianna Decker, F (UW); Meghan Duggan, F (UW); Hilary Knight, F (UW); Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, F (UND); Monique Lamoureux-Morando, D (UND); Annie Pankowski, F (UW); Alex Rigsby, G (UW); Anne Schleper, D (UMN); Lee Stecklein, D (UMN).
- Canada (Silver): Sarah Davis, F (UMN); Haley Irwin, F, (UMD); Brigette Lacquette, D (UMD); Jocelyne Larocque, D (UMD); Natalie Spooner, F (OSU).
- Finland (Bronze): Michelle Karvinen, F (UND); Anna Kilponen, D (UND); Noora Räty, G (UMN); Vilma Tanskanen, F (UND); Susanna Tapani, F (UND); Minttu Tuominen, D (OSU);
- Sweden: Johanna Fällman, D (UND); Maria Lindh, F (UMD); Michelle Löwenhielm, F (UMD); Emilia (Andersson) Ramboldt, D (MSU); Annie Svedin, D (OSU).
* Minnesota alumna Amanda Kessel was named to the original Team USA roster, but was replaced due to injury.
Here is the full breakdown of WCHA-affiliated participants at the 2017 IIHF Women's World Championships, including the 15 current student-athletes (from 2016-17), 30 league alumnae and one 2017-18 incoming freshmen.
United States of America (Gold Medal)
Alex Rigsby, Wisconsin
*Maddie Rooney, Minnesota Duluth
Megan Bozek, Minnesota
Monique Lamoureux-Morando, North Dakota
*Lee Stecklein, Minnesota
Hannah Brandt, Minnesota
Brianna Decker, Wisconsin
Meghan Duggan, Wisconsin
Amanda Kessel, Minnesota
Hilary Knight, Wisconsin
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, North Dakota
Gigi Marvin, Minnesota
*Kelly Pannek, Minnesota
Canada (Silver Medal)
Jocelyne Larocque, D, Minnesota Duluth
Meaghan Mikkelson, D, Wisconsin
*Halli Krzyzaniak, D, North Dakota
*Emily Clark, F, Wisconsin
Sarah Davis, F, Minnesota
Haley Irwin, F, Minnesota Duluth
*Sarah Potomak, F, Minnesota
Natalie Spooner, F, Ohio State
Blayre Turnbull, F, Wisconsin
Finland (Bronze Medal)
Noora Räty, Minnesota
Eveliina Suonpää, Minnesota Duluth
Mira Jalosuo, Minnesota
*Anna Kilponen, North Dakota
Minttu Tuominen, Ohio State
Michelle Karvinen, North Dakota
*Emma Nuutinen, North Dakota
Susanna Tapani, North Dakota
Germany (Fourth Place)
Jennifer Harss, Minnesota Duluth
*Lena Düsterhöft, Minnesota State
Tanja Eisenschmid, North Dakota
*Anna-Maria Fiegert, Minnesota State
^Laura Kluge, St. Cloud State
Iya Gavrilova, Minnesota Duluth
Alexandra Vafina, Minnesota Duluth
Johanna Fällman, North Dakota
Emilia Ramboldt (Andersson), Minnesota State
Annie Svedin, Ohio State
*Maria Lindh, F, Minnesota Duluth
*Michelle Löwenhielm, F, Minnesota Duluth
Pernilla Winberg, F, Minnesota Duluth
Switzerland (Won Relagation Round)
*Janine Alder, St. Cloud State
*Lara Stalder, Minnesota Duluth
Czech Republic (Quarterfinalist)
*Katerina Mrázová, Minnesota Duluth * - Played in WCHA in 2016-17
^ - Incoming freshman for 2017-18
"Top Shelf Moments" from the 2016-17 WCHA Season