Beyond the WCHA: Alumni in the Pros and Olympics - January 17
By Bill Brophy for WCHA.com
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It will come as no surprise to fans of Minnesota's women's hockey programs that Amanda Leveille and Noora Räty, two of the best goaltenders of the past decade in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), continue to be headliners as they continue their professional careers.

Each week WCHA.com 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.

It will come as no surprise to fans of Minnesota's women's hockey programs that Amanda Leveille and Noora Räty, two of the best goaltenders of the past decade in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), continue to be headliners as they continue their professional careers.

Leveille, the goaltender for the defending champions of the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL), made 24 saves to lead Buffalo to a 4-3 victory over Connecticut on Sunday in a game played at the Pittsburgh Penguins' practice rink, as the league continues to expand into new markets. Former Ohio State star Lisa Chesson had the game-winning goal in the final 3:36 for the Beauts, while ex-Minnesota Duluth standout Meghan Huertas scored for Connecticut.

Leveille's fifth win of the season came two days after the league announced she would be the captain for one of the teams at the 2018 NWHL All-Star Game, which will be held Feb. 10-11 at TRIA Rink in St. Paul, Minn., the new practice facility of the Minnesota Wild. Leveille is second in the league in both goals-against average (3.33, behind former St. Cloud State star Katie Fitzgerald, who plays for the unbeaten Metropolitan Riveters) and save percentage (.897).

Leveille will take part in the skills competition, which will be held Feb. 10 and include NWHL All-Stars and two members of the Minnesota Whitecaps, the elite team housed in the Twin Cities with 26 former WCHA players. Here are all the details on the all-star weekend: http://www.nwhl.zone/news_article/show/875107?referrer_id=2739439

Fitzgerald, the league's best goalie with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage, and three Riveters teammates who are former Wisconsin stars -- Erika Lawler, Courtney Burke, who is second in the league in scoring with one goal, a league-leading 11 assists and 12 points, and Jenny Ryan, fourth in scoring, (3-7-10) all played for the NWHL elite team this weekend in suburban Tampa, Fla. against the U.S. Olympic team. Fitzgerald kept Team USA scoreless for two periods Saturday, before the national team took a 3-0 victory in the first of two exhibitions. Details are here: http://www.nwhl.zone/news_article/show/875520?referrer_id=2739439

On Monday, Team USA beat the NWHL all-stars, 6-2. Details are here: http://teamusa.usahockey.com/news_article/show/875728?referrer_id=695820

The Riveters (8-0-0) have 16 points and are the runaway league leaders, six points better than Buffalo (5-4-0). Boston (2-4-2) is in third place with six points and Connecticut (2-7-0) is in fourth place with four points.

Eleven WCHA alumnae are spending the 2017-18 season in the NWHL, while another 14 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 Minnesota has two and Wisconsin, Ohio State, Bemidji State and North Dakota each have one player.

The latest ex-Gopher to join the league is defenseman Megan Bozek, who signed with Markham last week. Bozek was among the last players cut by the U.S. National team before the Olympics.

In the CWHL last week, Räty re-established herself as the league's best goalie with back-to-back shutouts for Kunlun. She made 16 saves Saturday and former Minnesota Duluth star Zoe Hickel had an assist in a 2-0, series-opening victory over Toronto. In the series finale, Räty made 28 saves for her sixth shutout of the season and led Red Star to a 6-0 victory. Hickel had two assists and former UMD teammate Jessica Wong, the CWHL player of the month for December, added an assist.

Räty, who is expected to play her in fourth Olympics for Finland next month, has the league's best goals-against average (1.57) and save percentage (.947), and most shutouts (four). She has led Kunlun into a first-place tie in the CWHL.

Kunlun (13-4-0-0) and defending champion Montréal (13-2-0) each have 26 points. Calgary (10-1-1-2) is tied for third with Vanke (11-4-0-1), as each have 23 points. Markham (7-7-3-3) is in fifth place with 20 points, 10 more than Toronto (4-13-1-1). Boston (1-14-0-2) is in last place with four points.

In the other series last weekend, Markham bested Vanke 6-3 as former UMD star Jenna McParland had three goals and Laura McIntosh, an Ohio State alumna, added an assist. Vanke won the series finale, 3-2, in a shootout. Ashleigh Brykaliuk, a former UMD player, had an assist for the Rays to complete a three-point weekend.

Brykaliuk is fourth in the CWHL in scoring with 23 points (seven goals and a league-leading 16 assists). Hickel is sixth in the league scoring derby with 20 points (5-15-20) and former Wisconsin star Carolyne Prevost of Toronto is eighth with 16 points (7-9-16).

There are also 16 former WCHA players playing pro hockey in the Swedish elite league. Former UMD star Lara Stalder, a Patty Kazmaier Memorial 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: http://stats.swehockey.se/Players/Statistics/ScoringLeaders/8123

The 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), two players from Minnesota Duluth (Demi Crossman and Emma Stauber), and one from Bemidji State (Rachael Kelly).

The Whitecaps lost to St. Cloud State, 7-2, last Saturday at St. Cloud.

The U.S., Canada and Sweden have all announced their 2018 Olympic rosters. Team USA features 14 current and former WCHA players, Team Canada has nine and Team Sweden features five WCHA alumnae. Here is the breakdown of WCHA players on the three rosters.

* -- denotes that player has eligibility remaining

United States

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

Defense (4): 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

Goaltender (1): Ann-Renée Desbiens, Wisconsin

Defense (3): Brigette Lacquette, Minnesota Duluth; Jocelyne Larocque, Minnesota Duluth; Meaghan Mikkelson, Wisconsin

Forwards (5): *Emily Clark, Wisconsin; Haley Irwin, Minnesota Duluth; Sarah Nurse, Wisconsin; Natalie Spooner, Ohio State; Blayre Turnbull, Wisconsin

Sweden

Defense (3): Johanna Fallman, North Dakota; Emilia Andersson Ramboldt, Minnesota State; Annie Svedin, Ohio State.

Forwards (2): Maria Lindh, Minnesota Duluth; Pernilla Winberg, Minnesota Duluth.


Here are the WCHA alumnae on NWHL and CWHL team rosters, effective Jan. 10:

NWHL (12)

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; Kelly Nash, 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; Emmanuelle Blais, Minnesota Duluth; Noemie Marin, Minnesota Duluth

Toronto: Carolyne Prevost, Wisconsin.

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

*On maternity leave