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Thunstrom thundering ahead in goal-scoring race

Thunstrom is showing no signs of slowing down

Minnesota Whitecaps forward Allie Thunstrom and Boston Pride defender Abby Cook at a PHF game on Nov. 6, 2021 in Boston.
Michelle Jay

Allie Thunstrom has 15 goals in 16 games this season. She’s managed this after scoring three goals in her first eight games of the 2021-22 campaign, which is to say she has scored 12 goals in her last eight games. At the moment, she’s all but unstoppable — or maybe the better word is uncatchable. There just seems to be no catching her on the ice or in the goal-scoring race.

Thunstrom, who turns 34 in two months, leads the PHF in goals by a margin of five. Mikyla Grant-Mentis of the Toronto Six is her closest competition, with 11 goals, and Madison Packer and Kendall Cornine are chasing both of them with 10 goals each. This race is far from over — each team has at least four games last on the schedule — but it looks like it's Thunstrom’s to lose. She has also scored a mind-blowing 35% of Minnesota’s goals.

One out of every three goals this year is a Thunstrom goal. That’s absurd.

All of this comes a year after Thunstrom was scoreless in four games in Lake Placid after recovering from a serious knee injury. We’ve seen too many careers end prematurely in women’s hockey as a result of injury. Some players in Thunstrom’s position may have decided to hang up the skates. After all, she’d already won an Isobel Cup, played for Team USA, and played hockey into her 30s. Instead, she decided to rehab and get back on the ice.

And she’s just as fast and just as dangerous as ever.

At the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition, Kendall Coyne Schofield changed the perception of countless men’s hockey fans with her time of 14.34-second lap in the Fastest Skater Competition. At the 2022 ECHL All-Star Skills Competition, Allie Thunstrom clocked a lap of 13.75 seconds in Fastest Skater. At the age of 32. It’s important to note that Thunstrom had more of a run-up (she started at the far blue line, Coyne Schofield started just behind the red line) but the point stands.

She’s lightning on the ice.

When the Whitecaps were struggling early in the season, their offense was seemingly non-existent. With Amanda Leveille sidelined with an undisclosed injury, the offense — led by Thunstrom — has been the team’s greatest strength. Her speed is truly game-breaking. Defenders cannot afford to make mistakes anywhere near her because she’ll pounce on the puck and no one can catch her.

The Whitecaps coaching staff has found success splitting up the dynamic duo of Thunstrom and Curtis at even strength. Now, instead of depending on one line to get the job, they have a more balanced attack and are getting more out of supporting scorers like Meaghan Pezon, Audra Morrison, and Lexie Laing than they were before. Pezon, in particular, has been piling up points in a hurry since returning to her role as Thunstrom’s center.

The fact that both Thunstrom and Curtis continue to score in bunches while they are separated at evens is evidence of just how good they are. But the fact that Thunstrom is scoring at nearly a goal-per-game pace for the second time in her PHF/NWHL career is the real story here. She has five multi-goal games in 16 appearances this year and has failed to score in a game just once in the New Year.

What stands out the most about Thunstrom’s 2021-22 campaign thus far is that she isn’t just scoring breakaway goals — although there’s been plenty of those — she’s scoring around the net, on the power-play (3), shorthanded (3), and on set plays. She’s no one-trick hot rod. She’s not just going around and past people with her speed. She’s taking slashes and trips, absorbing contact, and going hard to the contact. Thunstrom is going into dirty areas to score and it is paying off for her and the Whitecaps.

When your superstar forward is willing to do that, it resonates with the rest of the team. It matters. It’s one of the reasons why the Whitecaps have gone from having one win in their first eight games to going 4-4 in their last eight — something they’ve managed to do with Leveille out for the last four.

Honestly, it’s hard to believe that the 20-goal mark is again within reach for Thunstrom, but here we are. In her fourth season of pro hockey in the PHF/NWHL and a dozen years after her senior season of college hockey, she’s showing no signs of slowing down. With Leveille on the case, Thunstrom’s brilliance has become all the more important and will only help her in the MVP race. But, for the moment, all eyes are on her as she hopes to score 20 for the second time in three years.

Seriously, can anyone catch her?