Last month, Bulldogs forward Lara Stalder won her third WCHA Offensive Player of the Week award for the month of January. Her three consecutive weekly honors led to her being named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Month. If that wasn’t impressive enough, one week later, the WCHA announced they would be adding a new National Division 1 Player of the Month Award. The first recipient of this new honor? Lara Stalder. This past month is only one shining moment for Stalder, who has spent the entire year making her mark on women’s hockey.
Helping the Bulldogs to Greatness
Last season, Minnesota Duluth showed a lot of promise. The finished the year sixth in the WCHA, but found their season ended abruptly after a heartbreaking loss to the Gophers in the WCHA Final Face-Off semifinals. Coming into this season, many expected more of the same: a talented group that probably couldn’t compete with the powerhouses that are the Badgers and the Gophers. Those early season predictions turned out to be wrong, as the Bulldogs now find themselves ranked second in pretty much all of the major polls, including The Ice Garden’s weekly poll. (link)
As the Bulldogs have found their way to the top of the rankings, they’ve had a lot of help from Stalder. She’s always been one of their top scorers, but this year she’s taken it to another level. Her 19G and 31A make her #1 on the team in scoring. She has two hat tricks, one against Minnesota State in October, and one at Bemidji State in January. She also averaged 2.67 points per game in January, the best in the NCAA.
Prior to last month, Minnesota Duluth hadn’t had a ranking as high as #2 since October of 2010. Now, they’ve spent several weeks in that position. The combination of stellar defense and goaltending and surging offense from players like Stalder has the Bulldogs in very good positioning going into the postseason.
Back to the Olympics
In 2014, Stalder was a member of the bronze winning Team Switzerland at the Olympics. Thanks to an incredible effort by her and her teammates, she’ll be back in 2018. Stalder had two hat tricks in the first two qualifying games; one in a 6-1 win over Denmark, and another in a 4-1 defeat of Norway.
Looking to the Future
Stalder was selected by the Boston Pride as the last pick of the 2016 NWHL draft. It’s likely that next season she’ll be focused on Olympic training, but it’s possible she could join the NWHL for the 2018-2019 season. Stalder’s plans for hockey after college are currently unknown. One thing is for certain, she is certainly leaving her mark on women’s hockey.