On May 20, 2019, Madison Packer became the second player to sign an NWHL contract for the 2019-20 season. Today, Packer became the fifth player — and third Metropolitan Riveter — to sign for the 2020-21 season, which will be her sixth in the NWHL.
The first week of April has been a busy one in NWHL free agency. Packer’s signing comes one day after fellow 2020 NWHL All-Star Taylor Accursi re-signed with the Buffalo Beauts and two days after Connecticut Whale general manager Bray Ketchum re-signed goaltending sensation Brooke Wolejko.
Packer, who just completed her first season as the captain of the Riveters, is the second-highest-scoring player in NWHL history. In 84 career NWHL games, Packer has piled up 85 points. She holds more or less every Riveters franchise record worth naming and is the league’s all-time leader in power-play goals (13).
Finally recovered from a serious hip injury, the Wisconsin alumna put together a historically productive season in 2019-20. Packer set a franchise single-season record by leading the Riveters with 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 24 games. She also appeared in her fourth career NWHL All-Star Game as the captain of the team that bore her name.
Packer joins fellow 2020 NWHL All-Stars Kendall Cornine and Rebecca Morse, who signed with the Riveters on Mar. 26 and Mar. 30, respectively. Packer is the first “original” NWHLer to sign on for a sixth season in the league. Last year, she was the second original NWHLer to sign for the 2019-20 season.
Accursi, the NWHL’s resident queen of cellies, is back for her third season with the Beauts. In addition to providing invaluable experience to the youngest team in the NWHL in 2019-20, she was also the team’s best finisher and most productive player. The Canadian winger scored 16 goals in 24 games and led the Beauts in scoring with 25 points.
She also led Buffalo in shots on goal (69) and shared the league-lead in power-play goals (5) with Packer and Tori Sullivan of the Boston Pride.
“Buffalo and the Beauts have been really good to me for the past three years, so it made sense to come back and have fun playing in a great league, surrounded by outstanding players, teammates and especially our fans,” Accursi shared in the league’s press release. “Having the opportunity to once again represent something so much bigger than myself made it an easy decision to return to the NWHL and continue the growth of women’s hockey.”
The highlight of the Mercyhurst alumna’s season was undoubtedly her four-goal outburst in the Labatt Blue NWHL Buffalo Believes Classic, which included a natural hat trick in 160 seconds during the third period. She also picked up an assist in Buffalo’s defeat at the hands of the Connecticut Whale in the 2020 Isobel Cup Playoffs Play-In Game on Mar. 8, 2020.
With Accursi re-signed, the Beauts have brought back their biggest gun from the 2019-20 season. She is the franchise leader in goals (26) and is tied for second all-time in power-play goals (9) with Beauts’ captain Corrine Buie.
Wolejko is the first Whale player to sign for the 2020-21 season after setting a franchise record for the most saves by a Whale goaltender in a season (458). The skill and resilience she displayed in net made her a fan favorite and one of the brightest rising stars in the league, culminating in a nod as one of the Fans’ 3 Stars of the 2019-20 season.
Wolejko began the 2019-20 campaign as the Whale’s backup goaltender behind former college teammate Sonjia Shelly, but eventually earned more starts with her indefatigable efforts to keep pucks out of the Whale’s net. At season’s end, she led all Whale netminders in minutes played (712:46) — the second-heaviest workload for a goalie in franchise history — and wins (2).
The Connecticut native finished her rookie season with a .914 save percentage while facing an average of 42.17 SA60. Wolejko finished the season tied for third in voting for the NWHL’s Goaltender of the Year Award with Sam Walther of the Metropolitan Riveters.