Top Moments In Women’s Hockey in 2016

From Kessel’s return to Ouellette’s 300th point, 2016 was filled with highlights in women’s hockey.

2016 was a remarkable year for women’s hockey at both the college and professional level. A few writers at TIG looked back at the year in women’s hockey and chose our top moments of the year.

Harrison Browne: On Opening Day at Harborcenter, the Beauts forward came out as a trans man, becoming the first openly transgender athlete in an American professional sports league. He then punctuated the night with his (and the Beauts’) first goal of the season.

Since then, his jersey has become the third-most popular in the league in sales, and the league has adopted a policy regarding trans athletes moving forward. Browne has also spoken about his experience to multiple mainstream media outlets and garnered tremendous support from the LGBTQ community, both locally and beyond. One look at his Twitter feed and it's clear he understands and is willing to be a pioneer for trans athletes.

#McLevMan: They say it takes a special type of person to put on a bunch of padding and try to stop a small rubber object going 80+ miles per hour. The Beauts goaltenders -- Brianne McLaughlin, Amanda Leveille and Kelsey Neumann -- have proven that true, hitting up local parks, the Buffalo Zoo, and even the local Walden Galleria Mall in full gear and documenting the hijinks on Twitter and Instagram. Usually it's backups Leveille and Neumann causing the commotion, while McLaughlin jumps in from time to time. But whether it's only a dynamic duo or all three of the troublemakers, their posts have been wildly entertaining, pushing Buffalo’s already-solid social media game to new heights. (Check out both Leveille’s and Neumann’s Instagram accounts for some gems.)

AWIHL: The 2016 AWIHL Grand Final saw the Melbourne Ice playing for their fourth consecutive championship while the Sydney Sirens were aiming for their first franchise history.

It was already a high-scoring affair when, with less five minutes left to go in the third period, the Sirens scored, taking a 6-5 lead. But the Ice struck back in the nick of time, leveling the score and forcing overtime in front of a 600 strong home crowd. Despite the high pace with opportunities for both sides the score remained six apiece at the end of the frame and the championship title eventually came down to a shootout. The Melbourne Ice won, securing their fifth franchise championship of the past six years.

NWHL Isobel Cup: The year marked the culmination of the NWHL’s inaugural season with the Isobel Cup Championship. With the Connecticut Whale on a downhill slide during the regular season, the Boston Pride easily clinched the first seed and were obvious favorites to hoist the cup.

Still, the playoffs proved exciting as the Buffalo Beauts upset the Whale by forcing a third game in the best-of-three series. The Beauts then moved onto face the formidable Pride in the finals. After losing the first game in OT courtesy of a Hilary Knight penalty shot (because of course), the Beauts were unable to force a comeback in the second game of the series. The Boston Pride became the first-ever Isobel Cup Champions.

Amanda Kessel Returns (mostly): Amanda Kessel made an unexpected but long-awaited return to hockey earlier this year. After being sidelined by concussion symptoms for nearly three years, Kessel finally joined her Minnesota teammates in a matchup against North Dakota, where she contributed with a pair of assists.

It was almost like Kessel was never gone, quickly regaining her spot on the top line. Touted as #BestKessel by her older brother Phil, it should come as no surprise that she scored the game-winning goal in the Frozen Four championship game.

But Kessel didn’t stop there: she signed the highest-paying NWHL contract at $26,000 with the New York Riveters for the 2016-2017 season and was named to Team USA for the 2016 Four Nations. Unfortunately, she was injured earlier in the NWHL season, sidelining her for most of the season thus far and the Four Nations Cup. The injury didn’t stopped her from being named a captain for the NWHL All-Star Game, and we’ll hopefully see more of Kessel in 2017.

Ouellette scores her 300th point: Once the season started and we realized that Caroline Ouellette was near the 300 point mark, I figured it would be done this season. I didn’t think she would be leading the league in scoring at the time, though.

That’s how good Caroline Ouellette is, and why we don’t even know how great her 300 point mark is. Nobody active is particularly close to her. To be a part of history and to follow her march to 300 was one of the best parts of 2016 for me. Updating a spreadsheet every game. The uncertainty of the mark after a four goal game in Boston. The crowd anticipating every scoring chance at the Bell Centre, and finally her earning the milestone point on the very rink named after her.

Truly a remarkable moment for a remarkable player.

Emerance Maschmeyer’s Emergence: In March, when Canada named Charline Labonté, Emerance Maschmeyer and Erica Howe to their roster for the 2016 World Championships, it was the start of the next generation of Canadian women’s hockey.

After Manon Rhéaume, Kim St-Pierre, Charline Labonté, and Shannon Szabados, there was no clear heir apparent to take over Canada’s net. The Harvard graduate may have swiftly ended that debate.

Maschmeyer played in three games at Worlds, including two against the United States, and had a 1.25 GAA and .956 save percentage. That included a 32 save performance in a 1-0 overtime loss in the gold medal game. It wasn’t the outcome the team wanted, but all anyone could talk about was Maschmeyer’s incredible performance.

She was then a first round pick of the Calgary Inferno, and has carried the momentum she picked up at Worlds into the CWHL. She has a 3-2 record with a 1.77 GAA and a .941 save percentage that leads the league.

In 2018 and beyond, we may remember 2016 as the year Emerance Maschmeyer went from ‘Who?’ to ‘Whoa!’

Blades wins: The 2016-17 season was expected to be another tough season for the Boston Blades. After losing Team Canada goalie and the Blades clear MVP Geneviève Lacasse, there were serious questions about if the Blades had a chance of keeping games within shouting distance. After picking up just one win last season and improving dramatically in the offseason, could they even match that with uncertainty between the pipes?

Enter Lauren Dahm, who has been a very pleasant surprise to everyone, besides GM Krista Patronick (and possibly her own mother).  Dahm had been out of competitive hockey for a few seasons before getting thrown into the woodchipper known as the CWHL. She has already outdone her predecessor, winning once in a shootout and also backstopping the Blades to their first regulation win since March 5, 2015.

Montreal's CIS Championship: By winning the 2016 CIS National Championship handily, the Carabins cemented their status as a perennial powerhouse in university women's hockey. UdeM dominated UBC 8-0 in the tournament final to claim its second title in four years. The program is in just its eighth season of existence, and in its first seven years the team has qualified to nationals six times and medaled in all but one appearance.

Université de Montréal is the only French-language university offering women's hockey in the province of Quebec, which has helped make it an appealing destination for top francophone players and fueled the team's rapid ascendancy. The Carabins’ program allows more French-speaking athletes to continue playing at a high calibre without switching their education to their second language, and its remarkable success can only help to retain elite local players and, ultimately, develop the sport in Quebec.

Northeastern’s season: The Huskies had never made it to the NCAA tournament until 2016. They were dealt an odd hand and were sent to Boston College against the PWR rankings.  Though they were beaten soundly by the Eagles, the eventual Patty Kazmaier winner Kendall Coyne was able to notch her 50th goal of the season and 249th career point, and the Huskies showed that they could compete in the NCAA.

ARD shutout record: On Nov. 6, Wisconsin Badgers’ goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens made history by recording her 44th career shutout. This set a new NCAA record for career shutouts, regardless of gender or division. The milestone was even sweeter since the record was previously held by Finnish superstar Noora Räty, a member of the rival Minnesota Golden Gophers. Desbiens has since extended her record, securing two more blank slates before the semester ended. That makes 46 shutouts in 103 games played, a shutout percentage of 0.447. Yes, you read that correctly.

Clarkson Cup: The Calgary Inferno, then called Team Alberta, joined the CWHL in 2011. In 2016, they raised the Clarkson Cup as CWHL Champions for the first time. Calgary absolutely stunned Les Canadiennes in the Clarkson Cup Final, winning by a score of 8-3, the highest scoring championship game in CWHL history. By the time the final buzzer sounded, 12 different Inferno skaters had earned a point. Goaltender Delayne Brian had the game of her life and was named MVP for her 38 save performance.