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2020-21 NCAA Preview: Newcomers to watch in the WCHA

It’s time to get familiar with some of the WCHA’s newest recruits.

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

With every new college hockey season comes new faces — whether that means baby-faced freshmen stepping onto a college campus for the first time or seasoned graduate students transferring to a new school to finish out their collegiate hockey careers.

The WCHA is slated to kick things off on November 20, which means it’s about time for us — and you — to get acquainted with all of the new players poised to hit the ice in one of the most competitive conferences in women’s Division I college hockey. To make things a little more digestible, we’ve put together a starting six of freshmen you should know ahead of the 2020-21 season.

Forwards

Addie Burton, Minnesota: The younger sister of Yale winger Lucy Burton, Addie Burton is on track to make a splash on Minnesota’s already star-studded offense. In her senior season at the Blake School, Burton registered 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points in just 25 regular season games, good for second on the team. She was apart of two state championship-winning teams — once as an eighth grader in 2016, and again as a freshman in 2017. In 2020, Burton was named a Ms. Hockey Minnesota semifinalist, and was a two-time all-state honoree.

Brieja Parent, Minnesota Duluth: After five seasons with Forest Lake High, Brieja Parent is making the transition to collegiate hockey at Minnesota Duluth. In 2019-20, Parent led Forest Lake in goals scored and total points by a considerable margin — 31 goals and 30 assists for a combined 61 points, nearly 20 points more than the next highest scorer. A three-time all-conference honoree, Parent has the titles of Forest Lake’s rookie of the year and offensive MVP under her belt as well.

Brieja Parent (5) scores for Forest Lake
Peter Odney for stateofhockey.com

Kayla Santl, Bemidji State: Minnesota native Kayla Santl has had herself an illustrious high school career at Roseau High, leading the team in goals scored and in total points for three of her four seasons with the Rams. She’s stayed levelheaded and kept her game clean with only 26 penalty minutes throughout all of high school, and scored ten goals en route to Roseau’s quarterfinal elimination in the 2019-20 MSHSL postseason.

Honorable mentions: Abbey Murphy (Minnesota), Casey O’Brien (Wisconsin)

Defenders

Maggie Nicholson, Minnesota: Maggie Nicholson has already established herself as a staple on the American blue line, taking home two gold and one silver medal with Team USA at the U18 Women’s World Championships. Over four seasons and 75 games with Minnetonka High, Nicholson registered 20 goals and 43 assists for a total of 63 points, while serving only 38 penalty minutes. Nicholson was a four-time all-conference and three-time all-state honoree, and was a finalist for the 2020 Ms. Hockey Minnesota award.

Ellen Nelson, Minnesota State: A teammate of Brieja Parent’s at Forest Lake, defender Ellen Nelson is on track to become a key player on the Mavericks’ defense this coming season. Nelson was named an all-conference honorable mention in 2019 after she and her team went undefeated in the regular season, and finished off her high school career with 11 goals and 19 assists in her senior season, good for third among her team’s defenders and fifth among skaters.

Honorable mentions: Josey Dunne (Minnesota), Khloe Lund (Bemidji State)

Goaltenders

Sanni Ahola, St. Cloud State: With St. Cloud State starter Emma Polusny beginning her final season with the Huskies, Sanni Ahola could not be breaking onto the North American collegiate scene at a better time. At the 2018 U18 Women’s World Championship, she was named one of Finland’s top three players and finished the tournament with the best GAA (1.81) and SV% (.929), though she did not medal in her three years between the pipes. In 2018-19, Ahola was part of the championship HIFK squad that was promoted from Naisten Mestis to Naisten Liiga, and finished with the best save percentage in the league.

Honorable mentions: Amanda Thiele (Ohio State)

Timo Savela

All numerical and statistical data courtesy of EliteProspects