Katie McGovern and the Whitecaps’ hot start

McGovern talks about her hockey roots, her chemistry with Jonna Curtis, and the Whitecaps’ early success

About 19 years ago Katie McGovern was a 4 year old who fell in love with hockey. On Oct. 27, she became the first player to score a goal against Team Canada superstar Shannon Szabados in a professional women’s hockey game. Through her first six games in the league McGovern has scored three other goals and has helped her team to an outstanding 6-0-0 record. Winning hockey games in Minnesota is nothing new to the University of Minnesota-Duluth alumna, but her hockey life began far from the State of Hockey.

McGovern first picked up a hockey stick because of her older brother’s love of the game. Together, they grew up watching the Coyotes play in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“I’m a big fan of the Coyotes and I worked for them this summer, that was really cool,” McGovern told The Ice Garden. “I love going to their games and I still follow them a lot.”

McGovern isn’t the first NWHL player with roots in Arizona, but that doesn’t make her journey to the ranks of professional women’s hockey any less remarkable. Growing up in Arizona, she witnessed how hockey changed the community around her. Early in her collegiate hockey career McGovern knew she wanted to do what she could to keep the sport growing in her home state, which is why she served as an assistant coach for Arizona State University’s women’s hockey program last year.

“It’s really taken off, which is exciting to see,” McGovern explained. “When I was younger, I only remember skating with a few girls — Lindsey Fry being one of them — and then I played for our girls program. We only had a few teams, and now our numbers have skyrocketed. When I was working for the Coyotes this summer they hosted a program and we had 40 girls ages 6-12 ... when I was that young I only knew of a few other girls who played hockey.”

When McGovern learned she had an opportunity to get back on the ice with the Whitecaps, she couldn’t pass it up. The talented two-way center has had an immediate impact for the Whitecaps in the team’s inaugural NWHL season. One of the reasons why she’s been so impactful is the instant chemistry she’s had with fellow NWHL rookie Jonna Curtis.

Curtis, a UNH alumna and Minnesota native, has flourished with McGovern as her center. She has set up all four of McGovern’s goals and is currently leading the NWHL in points. Together, they are the highest goal-scoring duo in the NWHL. It’s hard to believe when you watch them play, but McGovern and Curtis had never been teammates before playing together on the Whitecaps — in fact, they had never even played each other before.

“Jonna and I had never played together before this, but in games and practice we’ve just been clicking,” McGovern shared with The Ice Garden. “She’s a great player, she’s really easy to play with so I feel like she’d be great with anyone who’s on her line. [Curtis] always has her head up, she’s really fast, and she’s always making great plays. It’s been a blast playing with her.”

The Whitecaps’ team speed and fast starts in games have been big stories early this season. McGovern has used her quick feet to score the first goal of the game on three occasions thus far — which makes her the league leader in that category. McGovern, who is primarily deployed as the team’s second line center behind US Olympian Hannah Brandt, has also helped Minnesota out-score the opposition 19-7 during 5-on-5 play. She has seven points at even strength — including a primary assist on a Curtis goal — through her first six NWHL games.

McGovern and her teammates have enjoyed the ride thus far, but they aren’t getting too swept up in the team’s early success. The focus for her and her teammates right now is staying level-headed and having fun.

“I feel like we’re just really enjoying the ride and we’re really grateful to be playing in the league,” she explained. “We’re not trying to jump too far ahead, it’s still really early in the season. So we’re taking it day by day, but we’re really enjoying the journey.”

Enjoying the journey is something that the Arizona-native knows a lot about. McGovern is quick to credit Minnesota’s dedicated fans for the Whitecaps’ early success and quick to sing the praises of her teammates, but there’s no doubt that she’s also been a key ingredient. Thanks to her chemistry with Curtis and her exceptional two-way play, McGovern is fast becoming one of the league’s brightest young stars.

Data courtesy of Even-Strength.com, NWHL.zone, or from the author’s own statistical tracking.