Beyond the WCHA: Alumni in the Pros and Olympics - December 19
By Bill Brophy for
When they played at Wisconsin in the Women's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), Courtney Burke and Jenny Ryan got used to winning a lot. Nothing has changed now that they are playing in the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL).

Each week will offer an update on the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players playing pro hockey and on games involving the United States and Canada, leading up to the 2018 Winter Olympics. The website will also offer periodic stories on former WCHA players.

When they played at Wisconsin in the Women's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), Courtney Burke and Jenny Ryan got used to winning a lot. Nothing has changed now that they are playing in the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL).

Ryan, a rookie, had a goal, and Burke, a second-year player, had an assist to help the Metropolitan Riveters stay unbeaten with a 4-2 victory over Boston last weekend. The former Badgers' defensemen are among the league leaders in scoring. Burke is second in the scoring derby with 11 points in seven games, while Ryan has nine points.

Both Burke and Ryan are New York natives – Burke from Albany; Ryan from Viktor. They both were elite players at Wisconsin – Burke was a third team all-WCHA player in 2015 and went to three NCAA Frozen Fours, and Ryan was a second team all-American last year who participated in the Frozen Four in each of her four seasons. They are surrounded by former Badgers on the Riveters, as Madison Packer had an assist and Erika Lawler a goal against Boston.

Ryan is a big fan of Burke. "Courtney is an unbelievable player, even better friend and an amazing role model," said Ryan when she signed her pro contract last summer. "She is really fun to watch play and even more fun to play with, because she is so creative and sees the ice really well."

Both Burke and Ryan make life easier for former St. Cloud State goalie Katie Fitzgerald, who made 20 saves in her seventh victory of the season.

In the league's other game last weekend, Buffalo downed Connecticut 3-1 as former Minnesota goalie Amanda Leveille made a season-high 37 stops for the Beauts, who are the defending league champs.

The NWHL will take a holiday break until Jan. 6 and the Metropolitan Riveters (7-0) with 12 points are the runaway league leaders, eight points better than defending champion Buffalo (3-4). Boston (2-4-1) is in third place with five points and Connecticut (2-5) is in fourth place with four points. USA Hockey has announced the NWHL all-stars will play the U.S. Women's National team in a pair of games in mid-January. Details are here:

Eleven WCHA alumnae are spending the 2017-18 season playing in the NWHL, while another 13 are playing in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL).

Wisconsin has six former WCHA players competing in the four-team NWHL, including five on the Riveters, while Minnesota has two alumnae in the league. Ohio State, St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth have one player apiece in the league.

Minnesota Duluth has eight former players in the seven-team CWHL, while Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota, Bemidji State and North Dakota each have one player.

In the CWHL last week, former North Dakota forward Kayla Gardner led Calgary to two victories over Toronto. Gardner had two goals in a 4-3 victory Saturday and had a goal in Sunday's 6-3 triumph. Former Wisconsin standout, Carolyne Prevost, had two goals Saturday for Toronto and chipped in another goal Sunday.

Montréal took two one-goal victories over Markham. The defending CWHL champ scored a 5-4 overtime victory Saturday despite two assists from Markham's Laura McIntosh, an Ohio State alumna. Montréal completed the sweep with a 2-1 victory Sunday.

Kunlun swept Boston 5-2 and 4-2 as Minnesota Duluth alumnae Zoe Hickel and Jessica Wong had a big weekend. Hickel had a goal in each game and added an assist on Wong's goal in the series opener. Wong had two assists and former Bemidji State star Stephanie Anderson had three assists in the series finale for Red Star.

Hickel's big weekend moved her into sixth place in the league scoring derby with 17 points. Her 13 assists are the most in the league. Hickel's point total is the same as her former UMD teammate, Vanke's Ashleigh Brykaliuk (5-12-17). Former Minnesota all-American goalie, Noora Räty of Kunlun, leads the league in goals-against average (1.86) and save percentage (.940) and is tied for second with two shutouts.

The series sweeps kept Calgary (10-0-1-1) in a tie for first place in the CWHL with Montréal (11-2-0) and Kunlun (11-4-0). Each team has 22 points, six points better than Vanke (8-4). Markham (5-7-3-1) is in fifth place with 15 points, seven more than Toronto (3-10-1-1). Boston (0-11-0-2) is in last place with two points.

There are also 16 former WCHA players playing pro hockey in the Swedish elite league. Former UMD star Lara Stalder, a Patty Kazmaier Award finalist last season, is the league's leading scorer with 46 points (30-16-46), just ahead of former North Dakota standouts Michelle Karvinen (17-25-42) and Andrea Dalen (24-14-38), and UMD alumna Michela Cava (19-19-38). A list of the Swedish scoring leaders is here:

The Minnesota Whitecaps, an elite women's hockey team made up of post-collegiate players, also has 26 former WCHA players – from six schools – on its Minneapolis-based roster. It includes eight former Minnesota players (Winny Brown, Katie Frischmann, Mira Jalosuo, Becky Kortum, Chelsey Rosenthal, Paige Haley, Shyler Sletta and Kelly Seeler Buchta), eight players from St. Cloud State (Julie Friend, Carrie Holldorf, Meaghan Pezon, Lauren Hespenheide, Hanna Brodt, Kalli Funk, Lisa Martinson and Haylea Schmid), four from Minnesota State (Alli Altmann, Anna Fiegert, Lauren Barnes and Kari Lundberg) three North Dakota alumnae (Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Tanja Eischenschmid and Amy Menke) and two players from Minnesota Duluth (Demi Crossman and Emma Stauber), and one from Bemidji State (Rachael Kelly).

The Whitecaps play Minnesota Jan. 5 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis and face Minnesota Duluth at Duluth Jan. 6.

The U.S. National team wrapped up "The Time is Now Tour," which consists of a series of games between Canada and the U.S., with a pair of losses last week – dropping a 3-1 decision on Friday in San Jose, Calif. and falling 2-1 in overtime Sunday in Edmonton. Here is an account of that game from USA Hockey:

Canada won five of the eight pre-Olympic meetings with the U.S., including the last four in a row. Both the U.S. and Canadian teams are expected to announce their Olympic team rosters Jan. 1. Here is the current breakdown of WCHA players on the two rosters.

* -- denotes that player has eligibility remaining

United States (15)

Goaltenders (2): Alex Rigsby, Wisconsin; *Maddie Rooney, Minnesota Duluth

Defense (5): Megan Bozek, Minnesota; Monique Lamoureux-Morando, North Dakota; Gigi Marvin, Minnesota; Lee Stecklein, Minnesota; Sidney Morin, Minnesota Duluth

Forwards (8): Hannah Brandt, Minnesota; Dani Cameranesi, Minnesota; Brianna Decker, Wisconsin; Meghan Duggan, Wisconsin; Amanda Kessel, Minnesota Hilary Knight, Wisconsin; Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, North Dakota; *Kelly Pannek, Minnesota

Canada (11)

Goaltender (1): Ann-Renée Desbiens, Wisconsin

Defense (4): Halli Krzyzaniak, North Dakota; Brigette Lacquette, Minnesota Duluth; Jocelyne Larocque, Minnesota Duluth; Meaghan Mikkelson, Wisconsin

Forwards (6): *Emily Clark, Wisconsin; Haley Irwin, Minnesota Duluth; Sarah Nurse, Wisconsin; *Sarah Potomak, Minnesota; Natalie Spooner, Ohio State; Blayre Turnbull, Wisconsin

Here are the WCHA alumnae on NWHL and CWHL team rosters, effective Dec. 15:

NWHL (11)

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

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

Metropolitan: Courtney Burke, Wisconsin; Madison Packer, Wisconsin; Erika Lawler, Wisconsin; Jenny Ryan, Wisconsin; Katie Fitzgerald, St. Cloud State

CWHL (13)

Calgary: Kayla Gardner, North Dakota.

Kunlun (China) Red Star: Stephanie Anderson, Bemidji State; Zoe Hickel, Minnesota Duluth; Jessica Wong, Minnesota Duluth; Noora Räty, Minnesota

Markham: Laura McIntosh, Ohio State; Jenna McParland, Minnesota Duluth; Jocelyne LaRocque, Minnesota Duluth

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

Toronto: Carolyne Prevost, Wisconsin.

Vanke (China) Rays: Ashleigh Brykaliuk, Minnesota Duluth.

*On maternity leave