The Minnesota Whitecaps were the first NWHL team to fill every spot on their roster this offseason. Coming into their first NWHL season, one of the biggest questions facing the Whitecaps was which players from last year’s roster — which featured over 40 players — would be back. As it turns out, Minnesota signed 16 of the women who played with the team last year, including 40-year old captain Winny Brodt-Brown.
Forwards: Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Allie Thunstrom, Hannah Brandt, Jonna Curtis, Amy Menke, Kate Schipper, Sadie Lundquist, Kalli Funk, Brooke White-Lancette, Katie McGovern, Haylea Schmid, Margo Lund
Defenders: Lee Stecklein, Winny Brodt-Brown*, Meaghan Pezon*, Emma Stauber, Lauren Barnes*, Amanda Boulier*, Tanja Eisenschmid, Chelsey Brodt-Rosenthal, Amy Schlagel, Lisa Martinson
Goaltenders: Amanda Leveille, Sydney Rossman, Julie Friend
*= Player has history of playing both forward and defense
So clearly, the Whitecaps are not your typical expansion team. They have more returning players on their team this season than every NWHL team except the Metropolitan Riveters. And that number of returning players doesn’t count 2018 Olympians Kendall Coyne-Schofield and Hannah Brandt, both of whom played for Minnesota in 2016-17.
“I wanted to stay in Minnesota, and I’m really excited to be part of the Whitecaps again,” Hannah Brandt told the Star Tribune back in June. “I’m biased, but I think Minnesota sets the standard for women’s hockey. We should have a team in this league. This is going to be a huge year for women’s hockey.”
Both Brandt and Brodt-Brown were recipients of the Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award, which is awarded to the best female senior high school player in the state. So too was Whitecaps’ co-head coach, Ronda (Curtin) Engelhardt. But the Minnesota roots on this hockey team go much deeper than that.
Eighteen of the Whitecaps’ 25 players for the upcoming season were born in the State of Hockey. Furthermore, 17 of the 2018-19 Whitecaps cut their teeth in the WCHA. Most of those players played their college hockey at St. Cloud State and at the University of Minnesota.
With so many players who have experience playing together — and against each other — in the WCHA the Whitecaps are entering their first NWHL season with a significant amount of familiarity. And while familiarity does not always result in on-ice chemistry, the number of holdovers from last year’s Whitecaps roster — which includes co-head coach Jack Brodt — ensures that Minnesota should have just as much chemistry as the rest of the NWHL.
First game ✅ First Win ✅ pic.twitter.com/VNUJFXDX7w— Minnesota Whitecaps (@WhitecapsHockey) September 22, 2018
The Whitecaps’ deep Minnesotan roots and built-in chemistry should help the team make its transition from an independent hockey power to the NWHL’s newest franchise. And that will be something to keep in mind with the Whitecaps’ demanding schedule, which is defined by nine separate back-to-back weekends, including an exhibition series against the Ohio State University on Jan. 5-6.
The Whitecaps roster is set and Minnesota already has its first game and win under its belt with a 4-3 exhibition win over the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. The NWHL season gets underway for the Whitecaps on Oct. 6 with a two-game weekend series against the defending Isobel Cup Champion Metropolitan Riveters.