For the first time since they joined the NWHL in 2018 ahead of Season 4, the Minnesota Whitecaps did not advance to the Isobel Cup Final. But that doesn’t mean their season wasn’t a success. It just wasn’t as successful as they are used to. The regular season record wasn’t what they are used to, but when the playoffs started they were just as formidable as any of the other teams in the semifinals.
How They Finished
Record: 6-13-1 (19 points)
PP: 16.4% (2nd)
PK: 84.1% (5th)
What Went Right
Not a lot in the regular season, as the Whitecaps suffered injuries at forward, defense, and goalie. But when the calendar flipped to 2022 they picked up five wins in 12 games. Jonna Curtis led the team in scoring and was one of two players (Allie Thunstrom) to average over a point-per-game.
Other bright spots included: Audra Morrison scoring nine of her ten goals in the 2022 portion of Minnesota’s schedule. Ashleigh Brykaliuk finished the season as the Whitecaps’ best option in the face-off circles and second on the team in assists. Thunstrom led the PHF in goals for the second time in three seasons and continues to be a threat nearly every time she stepped on the ice.
Despite all of that, they were able to (once again) eliminate the Metropolitan Riveters in the playoffs and they were a few goalposts and crossbars away from changing the script of their semifinal loss to Connecticut.
What Went Wrong
How much time do we have? Everything! Haha, but seriously. They lost the best goalie in PHF history when Amanda Leveille went down with an injury in early February, and that was a tough blow to recover from. Minnesota dressed five different goalies this season - which is probably equal to the number of goalies they dressed over the previous three seasons. Also, players like captain Winny Brodt-Brown and Meghan Lorence missed extensive time with injuries, as did Stephanie Anderson.
Best F | Jonna Curtis
Curtis has become must-see-tv every time she steps on the ice. Not only is she speedy, and crafty with soft hands - but she also plays with a little bit of an edge, and certainly isn’t afraid to get to the rugged areas of the ice and mix it up with some of the taller trees out there.
Jonna Curtis with the speed and beautiful fake to score! pic.twitter.com/hT0IFzd59W— PHF (@PHF) February 6, 2022
This season Curtis finished third in assists (15), tied for third in the PHF in points (24), tied for second in shorthanded goals (2), and tied for eighth in shots on goal (80). With 80 career points (32g-48a) in 61 games with the Whitecaps, trust me when I tell you - Curtis is worth the price of admission. With her three assists in this year’s postseason, she now has nine points (all assists) in seven playoff games.
Her chemistry with Morrison was a big discovery for the Minnesota coaching staff and we would be stunned if the dynamic duo doesn’t start next season on a line together again.
Best D | Patti Marshall
After spending last season playing in Sweden (SDHL) Marshall, a 2020 draft pick (11th overall) of the Whitecaps joined the team’s blue line and was named to the All-Star Game; one of only three players from Minnesota.
Marshall finished the regular season with seven assists (while taking only three penalties) which was fourth-best on the team, led the Whitecaps in takeaways (18), and added two more assists in the playoffs. Her presence (along with Taylor Turnquist) helped to offset to loss of Amanda Boulier, who signed with Boston last summer.
Best Rookie | Mak Langei
Minnesota’s first pick in the 2021 NWHL Draft (sixth overall) played in every game for the Whitecaps - all 20 in the regular season, and both playoff games. The former Bemidji State captain finished the season by going 11 straight games without taking a penalty - which is not the easiest thing to do against a plethora of taller players in the PHF.
With a full season under her belt now, Langei could become a staple on the Whitecaps’ blueline going forward alongside Marshall and Maddie Rowe - who were all drafted in the past two drafts - as they look to get a little younger.
MVP | Amanda Leveille
After she suffered an undisclosed injury against Buffalo in early February, Minnesota had to play their final nine regular-season games without their star netminder. They only won two of those games.
Lev AGAIN. This time she stops Hutchison, who was set up by Samoskevich. pic.twitter.com/FbyITJNZUz— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) March 27, 2022
When she (miraculously) returned for the postseason, Leveille was able to dispatch the Rivs and keep her team afloat against the top-seeded Whale, making a total of 63 saves in the two games. How would the season have turned out for the Whitecaps if Leveille didn’t get hurt? We’ll never know, but she definitely has one of my top-3 votes for MVP in the PHF this season.