Beyond the WCHA: Alumni in the Pros - March 14
By Bill Brophy for
On a weekend when their former team, Wisconsin, clinched a spot in the 2018 NCAA Frozen Four, Madison Packer was the leader of a quartet of former Badgers that helped the Metropolitan Riveters clinch the regular season title 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.

On a weekend when their former team, Wisconsin, clinched a spot in the 2018 NCAA Frozen Four, Madison Packer was the leader of a quartet of former Badgers that helped the Metropolitan Riveters clinch the regular season title in the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL).

Packer scored three goals, while Erika Lawler, Courtney Burke and Jenny Ryan each had two assists in the Riveters' 4-1 victory over Boston. It was the first hat trick of the season for Packer, who now has the most three-goal games in NWHL history (three). She finished the regular season with a league-high 10 goals.

Katie Fitzgerald, a former St. Cloud State goalie, had 22 saves for the Riveters, who will host fourth-seeded Connecticut on Sunday in the Isobel Cup semifinals, the first round of the NWHL playoffs.

Buffalo, the second seed, will entertain Boston in the other semifinal Saturday. Buffalo is the defending league champion and ended the regular season on a 10-game winning streak after beating Connecticut, 4-1. The NWHL title game will be held at the home of the remaining highest-seeded team on the weekend of March 24-25.

Amanda Leveille, a former Minnesota goaltender, made 32 saves and finished the regular season as one of the league's top goalies.

Fitzgerald went 12-3-0 and led the NWHL with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage, along with one shutout. Leveille had a .918 save percentage, a 12-4-0 record and a 2.53 GAA.

Burke finished second in regular season scoring with 19 points (two goals and a league-best 17 assists), while Packer had 18 points (10 goals, 8 assists) to finish third and Ryan was fourth with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists).

The final standings showed the Riveters (13-3-0) with 26 points, two points better than Buffalo (12-4-0). Boston (4-8-4) finished third with 12 points and Connecticut (3-11-2) was fourth with eight points.

Another former Badger, Hilary Knight, made the biggest headline in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) last week and she didn't score goal or an assist.

But Knight, the Olympic gold medalist from Team USA, signed a contract to play with Montréal, the defending CWHL champ. The move made big news throughout hockey. Here is a report:

While Knight was the headliner off the ice for Montréal, former Minnesota Duluth standout Noémie Marin starred on the ice for Les Canadiennes. She had three assists Saturday in a 4-0 victory over Calgary and had two goals and an assist Sunday when Montréal wrapped up the regular season title with a 3-2 victory over the Inferno. Knight was held off the scoreboard and had two shots on goal in her debut.

In the other CWHL games last week, Kunlun split two games with Vanke in China and finished as runner-up to Montréal in the league race. Vanke hurt the Red Stars' title hopes Saturday and took a 6-4 decision despite a goal apiece by UMD alumnae Zoe Hickel and Jessica Wong. Noora Räty, a bronze Olympic medalist with Team Finland in Korea last month, made 14 saves. In the final game of the regular season, Red Star beat the Rays 4-0 Sunday as Hickel had two goals and an assist, while former Bemidji State standout Stephanie Anderson and Wong each had a goal apiece for Kunlun.

Markham swept Boston 3-1 and 8-0 to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot. Former Ohio State star Laura McIntosh and Canadian Olympic silver medal winner Jocelyne Larocque, a Minnesota Duluth alumna, each had an assist, while Jenna McParland, another former Bulldog, had two assists for Markham.

The fourth-seeded Thunder plays at Montréal in the first round of the Clarkson Cup, the CWHL playoffs, next weekend in a best-of-three series. Third-seeded Calgary faces Kunlun in the other playoff semifinal series. The winners of the semifinals play for the Clarkson Cup in Toronto March 25.

The final standings had Montréal (22-5-1) in first place with 45 points. Kunlun (21-6-1) was second with 43 points, five more than Calgary (17-7-1-3). Markham (14-7-4-3) finished in fourth place with 35 points, six more than Vanke (14-13-0-1). Toronto (9-17-1-1) finished in sixth place with 20 points, while Boston (1-24-0-3) was in last place with five points.

Hickel finished fifth in the league scoring derby with 38 points (12 goals and 26 assists.) Marin was sixth with 33 points (18-15) and Vanke's Ashleigh Brykaliuk, another ex-UMD star, was 12th in scoring with 25 points (eight goals and 17 assists).

Räty, the former Minnesota all-American, had the league's best goals-against average (1.60) and save percentage (.944), along with a league-record six shutouts.

Thirteen Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) alumnae are spending the 2017-18 season in the NWHL, while another 15 are playing in the 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, Minnesota State and Minnesota Duluth have one player apiece in the league.

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

The Minnesota Whitecaps, an elite women's hockey team made up of post-collegiate players, also had 26 former WCHA players – from six schools – on its Minneapolis-based roster this past season. It includes seven former Minnesota players (Kate Schipper, Katie Frischmann, 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 alumni (Tanja Eischenschmid, Amy Menke and Annelise Rice) and two players from Minnesota Duluth (Demi Crossman and Emma Stauber), and two from Bemidji State (Sadie Lundquist and Rachael Kelly).

Here are the WCHA alumni on NWHL and CWHL team rosters, effective March 9:

NWHL (13)

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

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

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

CWHL (15)

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

Montreal: Hilary Knight, Wisconsin; Caroline Ouellette, Minnesota Duluth; Emanuelle Blais, Minnesota Duluth; Noémie Marin, Minnesota Duluth.

Toronto: Carolyne Prevost, Wisconsin.

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