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2019-20 NWHL Preview: Minnesota Whitecaps

The reigning Isobel Cup Champions are in the hunt for a repeat

Kirsten Burton/NWHL

Roster

Forwards: Allie Thunstrom, Jonna Curtis, Nicole Schammel, Brooke White-Lancette, Haylea Schmid, Meghan Lorence, Audra Richards, Stephanie Anderson, Meaghan Pezon, Kalli Funk, Nina Rodgers, Sam Donovan, Lauren Barnes

Defenders: Amanda Boulier, Lisa Martinson, Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, Winny Brodt Brown, Sydney Baldwin, Kelsey Cline, Emma Stauber, Rose Alleva, Yu Baiwei

Goalies: Amanda Leveille, Allie Morse

Space: 24/25 spots filled.

Home Ice: TRIA Rink in St. Paul, Minn.

How Last Season Went

Last season was the Whitecaps first year in the NWHL. And they did what the Vegas Knights couldn’t do and won the championship, becoming the fourth team in four seasons to win the Isobel Cup.

They went 9-4 in the regular season, scoring 45 goals the most in the league. They easily handled the Metropolitan Riveters and the Connecticut Whale while stacking up almost evenly in the season series agains the Boston Pride and the Buffalo Beauts. But when it counted, the Whitecaps beat both teams on their way to win the trophy.

Their top performer was also the Newcomer of the Year winner, Jonna Curtis. Her seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points lead the team and put her in the top-five for goals, second for assists, and leader in points in the league.

Off the ice, the Whitecaps were the only team to sell out every single game last season (capacity of 1,200 at TRIA) and also turned a profit in their first season in the league thanks to around 500 season ticket holders and merchandise sales.

Offseason Moves

The Whitecaps lost 12 of their rostered players from last season. Lee Stecklein (the Isobel Cup winning goal scorer), Kendall Coyne Schofield, and Kate Schipper are among the names who joined the PWHPA and the #ForTheGame movement while Amy Menke headed overseas to play for KRS Vanke Rays in the ZhHL.

They picked up nine new players from a wide variety of places, including other NWHL teams. Audra Richards left the Metropolitan Riveters to head home to Minnesota. Nina Rodgers and Sam Donovan join the Whitecaps from the Whale.

Founder and general manager Jack Brodt added Nicole Schammel straight off her college careers at the University of Minnesota and Sydney Baldwin who played in Europe for 10 games after finishing her career as a Gopher in 17-18. Former KRS Vanke Rays players Rose Alleva and Stephanie Anderson also signed with the team.

Three Players to Watch

Nicole Schammel, forward, first season

The Minnesota native had an outstanding senior season which culminated in being named a Patty Kazmaier top-10 Finalist. Her 47 points led the team as did her 31 assists. She was second on the team with 16 goals. Schammel’s offensive firepower should be a boon for the team as they lost a lot of goal scorers in the off season.

Audra Richards, forward, second season

Richards signing in Minnesota might have been the biggest shock of this off season. She led the Riveters in scoring last season with eight regular season goals while adding two in the playoffs as well. She was a key part of a team that struggled. But the Riveters loss is Minnesota’s gain. As with Schammel, she’ll provide much needed offense and goal scoring for a team that lost a heck of a lot of it this off season. How she’ll slot in will be key.

Stephanie Anderson, forward, first season

Anderson comes to the Whitecaps after two seasons playing in China for KRS and KRS Vanke Rays. There, she played behind high performers who got more ice time and still put up solid numbers in both seasons. She’ll add nicely into the forward corps and help the Whitecaps have a strong goal scorer on every line.

Three Games to Watch

Top of the table? | Oct. 19-20 in Boston

On paper, the Whitecaps and the Boston Pride seem to be the top two teams this season. The Pride retained a core group of veterans and have dealt with a lot of turnover before. The Whitecaps are hungry to repeat as champions while also having good crop of returning players. Whenever these two teams played against each other last season, they were fast paced, high scoring, must-watch games.

Isobel Cup Rematch | Nov. 23-24 in Buffalo

Unlike the previous series to watch, there is only figurative pride on the line this series (not literally the Pride). Even though the final was played in Minnesota last season and the Buffalo Beats are a wildly different team, look for this game to be intense as the Whitecaps look to prove themselves and the Beauts come out for revenge.

Second home stand of the season | Dec. 14-15 v Riveters

After opening the season at home on Oct. 12, the Whitecaps go nine weeks without another home game. With a huge fan base, expect to see the fans at TRIA packing it in to see them again.

Prediction

While the long-time core of the Whitecaps stay the same, they did lose a huge amount of scoring in the off season. As hard as they worked to replace that, its still not easy to do as evidenced by the two WCHA exhibition games they lost handily. Granted those college teams had longer to practice together than the Whitecaps but in as short season of a season on the NWHL has, coming together quickly is key for any team.

I predict the Whitecaps will stay at the top of the league, if only because the Beauts had significant turnover. The Pride will give them a run for their money again, and maybe even their trophy.