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Business as usual for Leveille heading into Lake Placid

Pat McCarthy

It’s time to start giving Amanda Leveille the credit she’s earned during her hockey career. Four years in college (at the University of Minnesota) resulted in three NCAA titles and four NCAA title game appearances. At the NWHL level, she’s won two championships with two different franchises and was named the Goaltender of the Year in 2018 (an award she probably could have won each of the last three seasons). Just like in college, her NWHL teams have advanced to the championship game in each of her four seasons.

But when chatter starts (online or wherever your chatter is taking place) is Leveille mentioned amongst the best goaltenders? Male or female. Is she mentioned when discussing the best Canadian-born goaltenders? Male or female. Sure, she hasn’t played in international tournaments, often overlooked by her home country (for whatever reason), but can you honestly say the Kingston, Ontario native wouldn’t star on that stage as well?

As a pro, she’s played more games at goalie (65) than any other netminder in NWHL history, and that doesn’t include the six playoff games she’s dominated. Yes, dominated. When the stakes are the highest, Leveille has brought her A++ game, losing only once - a 1-0 loss to the Metropolitan Riveters in the 2018 Isobel Cup Final.

Her postseason record: 5-1 with a minuscule 1.14 goals-against average (GAA) and a .960 save percentage. She’s also coming off of perhaps one of her best games, a 1-0 shutout of those pesky Riveters in the 2020 semifinals.

71 games as a pro. 47 wins. 116 games as a Gopher. 98 wins. Three NCAA titles. Two Isobel Cups. The numbers speak for themselves.

So if your NWHL team is heading to a two-week tournament with some of the best players in the world, which goalie would you want backstopping your team? If you added up all of the other current goaltenders’ games played total would it come close to Leveille’s 71 games of experience?

The Whitecaps and Leveille are technically still the defending Isobel Cup champions after the Isobel Cup Final for the NWHL’s Season 5 was canceled because of the pandemic. What are the odds that they reach the championship game in early February?

Recently I spoke with the 26-year-old Leveille about a variety of topics as the NWHL world starts to turn its attention to Lake Placid and the abbreviated (and sure to be thrilling) season that will take place in 55-ish days.

The Ice Garden: What are your thoughts about the recently released news about the upcoming NWHL season that will take place in a two-week span in Lake Placid, New York?

Amanda Leveille: We’re all pretty confident on the Whitecaps going into a game. Just looking around the room and you see the teammates, the friendships, and the talent that we have I think just gives us that extra little bit of confidence. This has always been a team, even before joining the NWHL, that shows up when it has to and each player finds a way to do their job and we’ve been able to come away with some wins in some big games.

TIG: Your numbers speak for themselves, and you thrive in big-game situations. So this whole shortened season is right up your alley, right?

AL: That’s how this season is going to be. Every game is going to be the biggest game of the year because there are going to be so few games. We have to make sure that we are on our game every time that we play. This is a team that thrives on opportunities and we are really excited to play those games this season and chase that Isobel Cup.

TIG: Does a little part of you (or maybe a big part of you) hope that you get to play against Boston for the Cup in the final game at Lake Placid on Feb. 5?

AL: We’re still a little bit sad about not being able to play against the Boston Pride for the Isobel Cup at the end of last season. We still have that motivation and we’re coming into this season intending to bring the Cup back to Minnesota. So yeah, that would be pretty fitting because we didn’t get to finish out our Isobel Cup run last year. But whoever we’re going to play at any point while we’re there, we know that they are going to be talented.

Speaking honestly, yeah, it would be nice to play Boston in the Isobel Cup Final. But whatever happens, whatever teams are there - hopefully it’s us - it will be a great hockey game.

TIG: Are you excited to have Corinne Buie as a teammate again, and not having to face her wicked shot during games?

AL: She was my teammate my first season in Buffalo/the NWHL and was also my roommate when I lived in Buffalo. She has always been a great teammate to me off the ice and on the ice too, except in practice when she takes a shot at me! She has one of the hardest shots, I think in the NWHL, and every time she has hit me in the collarbone I have been sore for a few days after.

We’re very blessed on the Whitecaps with a lot of scoring talent, so to add someone like Buie - who is offensive, hard-working, and team-minded - it’s just going to add to our already strong team. I’m not only excited to be on her team again, but also for her to be in Minnesota which is her home. It’s gotta be pretty cool for her growing up in Minnesota and now being able to play for the Whitecaps. I can’t wait to see the impact she has on our team.

TIG: Unfortunately this season you won’t be able to play any games in the home of the NWHL’s newest team, the Toronto Six, which is also your home province. But looking ahead to the next season, that has to be something on your radar, right?

AL: Obviously yes, I’m looking forward to it and the only one who would be more into it than me would be my parents! They still live in Canada so anytime that they want to come to see me (play) they have to cross the border and travel a long way. Toronto is only maybe four hours from their house.

I’m usually not one who has a ton of family at games normally, just because I play so far away. So it will be a different environment for me to play a game in Toronto where I’ll know that I’ll have a lot of family members in the stands. That is very exciting for me after the game, where I can hang out with my family and enjoy that time that we have together.

Toronto, even just the first time we play them will be pretty exciting. I know a lot of the players on that team, I grew up playing against some of them in youth hockey. So that will be a neat little fun twist to playing in the NWHL. They have two really good goaltenders, and I played with (one of them) Elaine Chuli on Team Canada’s U22 team. It would be fun to possibly play against her (in the NWHL). So overall yeah, I’m definitely excited to play in Toronto next season when hopefully covid is over.

TIG: Cool. So we can pencil you in for NWHL Season 7. Got it!

AL: Wait, Season 7? Are we already in Season 6? Oh yeah! Hopefully, we can have a full season.