Buffalo Beauts Draft Pick Updates!

The NWHL season may have just begun, but the NCAA season has been in full swing since late September, which means a host of newly-minted NWHL prospects are taking part in their final seasons of college.
The Buffalo Beauts aimed for balance during the draft in June, opting for three forwards (Sarah Lefort, Emily Janiga, Jenna Dingeldein), a blueliner (Courtney Burke), and a goaltender (Amanda Leveille). As some of them near the two-month mark in their respective seasons, how are Buffalo’s first-ever prospects doing?
(Listed in drafted order)

Courtney Burke, Wisconsin

Burke is thriving on a team that has seen some very big success lately. At 12 points so far (two goals, 10 assists), the blueliner is in a three-way tie with teammates Sydney McKibbon and Jenny Ryan for second in scoring after Annie Pankowski (20 points), and is in a multiple-way tie for 16th nationally in scoring. Outscoring its opponents 55-2, the Badgers took over the No.1 spot from Minnesota this week based on excellent play on both sides of the puck. They’ve seen very little competition in their first eight games, but likely consider their offensive output a warmup for facing tougher opponents, like the Gophers, in early December.

Sarah Lefort, Boston University

So far, the forward has four points for the Terriers (one goal, three assists) in eight games played. She’s currently in Sweden participating with Team Canada in the 4 Nations Cup, which takes place Nov. 4-8. No doubt her hard-working mentality (as attested to by her coach, Brian Durocher) helped get her on the roster, but she’ll also be part of a high-powered offense full of some of the National program’s brightest young stars.

Amanda Leveille, University of Minnesota

Leveille just suffered her first defeat, 4-3 to North Dakota, shortly before the NCAA took a bye week, but is still enjoying a relatively breezy senior season thus far as part of the defending National Champions. Rivaled only by Wisconsin when it comes to offensive firepower, the Gophers have taken nearly every opponent by storm, outscoring them 68-15 (55-11 in conference play), and are 9-1-0 overall (7-1-0 WCHA). Leveille hasn’t had much work in net, but has still been sharp, with a 1.47 GAA and a .921 save percentage through eight starts. That’s good for eighth in the nation right now.

Emily Janiga and Jenna Dingeldein, Mercyhurst

The Lakers got out to a rough start, going 0-5-1 in their first six NCAA matchups, but have begun to right the ship with a sweep of RIT over Halloween weekend in their first taste of play within the College Hockey America conference. Janiga and Dingeldein are tied along with Molly Blasen for fourth in scoring right now with five points apiece, Janiga with four goals, one assist, and Dingeldein with two goals, three assists. However, Janiga’s injury last Friday against RIT has cost her a spot on Team USA for the 4 Nations Cup. Presley Norby of Minnetonka High School (Minn.) has replaced her on the roster. The Lakers play next against Penn State this coming weekend.

The NWHL play resumes Nov. 15.

Weekly News: NWHL Tickets, Kacey Bellamy, and NCAA Games

  • Tickets for the NWHL’s pre-season games are on sale! Unlike my prediction of free, the tickets cost $5 USD, except for the Mercyhurst games, which are free. Additionally, it turns out that the final East Coast Wizards teams that the Pride will play are both boys teams– the U16, and the U18 teams.
  • Keep on scrolling past the pre-season games, and you’ll see that single game tickets for the NWHL go on sale September 24th, 12:01 AM Eastern! That’s tomorrow.
  • Brampton Thunder’s new head coach, Tyler Fines, starts practices.
  • Lexie Hoffmeyer is not playing this year! The CWHL’s twitter presence will be the worse for it. She will be coaching, not sure where yet, and will also still be involved with the Furies in some capacity.

Amanda Kessel’s College Career is Over

Per the Grand Forks Herald, Amanda Kessel’s college career is over. She has been sidelined since the Olympics with concussion issues. We here at Watch This are, of course, saddened to hear she won’t be playing, but glad she’s taking care of herself.

Kessel’s health is the most important thing and I don’t want to detract from that, but I’d feel like a bit of a liar if I didn’t admit this news makes me angry. She is a phenomenal player who will never get the chance to show the world what she can do her senior NCAA season. Female athletes are too often sidelined by the combination of a drastically shortened career – which makes playing in the Olympics, even while unhealthy, all the more important – and a lack of funding/support. They have to train virtually constantly without a hope of the eight-figure payoff the best men in the world get regularly. Pardon my French, but it’s bullshit.

Anyway, screw this, let’s all watch Amanda Kessel highlights:

Weekly Link Roundup: Worlds, NWHL, & more!

NWHL

  • According to Kate Cimini of the Hockey Writers, the NWHL will be providing visas for international players! There’s already some questions about this, like will the players be able to hold down other jobs as well, as the league is only promising a part-time salary at best. But it’s still a new precedent in North American women’s hockey leagues, as the CWHL does not provide any sort of visa help. We’re doing some research on how this sort of thing could work out, and will hopefully be able to provide more information in the future.
  • Dani Rylan will be on 102.5 The Game this evening at 9 PM CDT to talk about the NWHL. The radio station does have online streaming, so you should be able to listen in! Rylan’s segment will apparently be on ~9:15.
  • The Globe and Mail has an article about the NWHL with some very interesting details! Apparently, home arenas have been secured for each team, and ice time was donated, as well as a partnership with US Coachways for bus transportation. Even more interestingly, Rylan told the Globe and Mail that multi-year deals with sponsors have been signed! No deets yet on who those were with, but hopefully soon!

Women’s Worlds

  • Quarterfinals are set! Russia will be playing Sweden for a chance to face the US in the Semifinals, and Finland will be playing Switzerland for a chance to play Canada. Sadly, this means Japan will face Germany in the regulation round– we were really pulling for Team Japan, who appears to have started pulling together their offense that was severely lacking at Sochi. They’ve won two games this tournament, tying their previous international record.
  • Blowout games are on the decline in international women’s hockey! Constantly cited as an indication of lack of parity, the huge margins of victory hung on teams by Canada and the US appear to be narrowing– non-Canadian or US teams are getting better.
  • Florence Schelling and Karoliina Rantamaki have both set some new records for international games! Rantamaki has set a new record for participating in the most Women’s World Championship at 13. Previously, she’d been tied with Canada’s Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser.
  • POORMOLLYSCHAUS. But seriously, why so out of position there?

    Molly Schaus wipes out on a Russian breakaway. US won 9-2, shots were 49-5.

NCAA

  • This is slightly late, but better than never! In an update on the University of Minnesota-Duluth coaching situation, they’ve narrowed the search to three candidates, including UMD assistant coach Laura Schuler, Mercyhurst head coach Mike Sisti, and Harvard associate head coach Maura Crowell.

A Unique View From The Bench

If you’ve seen a North Dakota women’s hockey game this season, you may or may not have noticed an interesting sight in the tunnel of Ralph Engelstad Arena: one of the team’s backup goaltenders, sitting in a chair facing the ice, huddled over a smartphone.

That goalie, usually redshirt freshman Annie Chipman, isn’t goofing off. She’s giving the 1,600 people who follow head coach Brian Idalski a unique view of the game – her own.

Chipman took over Idalski’s Twitter, @UND_WIH, in December 2014 after a conversation with teammates Lexie Shaw and Lisa Marvin in Marvin’s hospital room. In late November, the sophomore forward’s pickup had stalled on a Grand Forks road, and she was filling it up with gas when a speeding car hit her, resulting in serious injuries to her right arm and knee that may keep her from playing again for a long time. Her teammates visited her to chat and try to take her mind off of her long road to recovery.

“We were all just talking, trying to cheer her up, and we were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we live-tweeted the games for you so you could stay updated?’” Chipman recalled.

Idalski overheard them and decided to give her the reins, allowing her to flood his timeline each gameday with goalie selfies, goal updates, and quirky observations like this one:

It’s an unusual sight to see for some; although the fans at the Ralph have caught on pretty quick, the sight of her on a phone while her teammates play has prompted some questions in visiting arenas.

Misunderstandings aside, both she and her coach say the feedback has been nothing but positive.

“A lot of people are saying how funny it is to follow along,” Chipman said, adding that fans will sometimes follow her tweets during games and wave at her from the stands.

“They make it their own,” Idalski said of his players using his Twitter account. “It’s been entertaining to see them let their personality shine through.”

The fact that UND is enjoying a good season — 16-11-3, 12-9-3-2 in the WCHA and riding a seven-game undefeated streak before losing to Minnesota Feb. 7 – also helps temper some of the concerns others might have about focus.

“If I were 10 years younger, I probably wouldn’t have understood it,” he said. “But I think it’s a credit to these kids’ maturity – they know what they have to do, they work hard, they have fun when it’s time to have fun and focus when it’s time to focus.”

A Twitter veteran compared to most coaches (he joined in 2009 and “embraced Twitter from the word ‘go’”), he also sees social media as way of getting to potential new players. The way Chipman uses it, he said, offers a more personal look at the program, separate from the official @UNDWHockey Twitter.

“Anyone who follows the Twitter gets a good sense of our program with regard to what goes on during game days,” he said. “With recruiting starting earlier and earlier, it’s a good way to get our brand out there.”

Branding has become increasingly important in the Information Age. Everyone is trying to distinguish themselves, and social media is a good way to do that. When it comes to hockey, some teams, like the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets and Los Angeles Kings, have used humor to draw in followers and fans. Others have kept it cut-and-dry, posting recaps and highlights, which is serviceable if not distinctive. On both sides, for the most part, social media is seen as separate from the players themselves. So what about blending the two?

“I don’t know if anyone else would do that, really,” Chipman said. “At least not anyone running it now. Some people don’t get it. I think once a newer generation, like ours, comes in, we’ll see more of it.”

Still other organizations, such as most CWHL teams (with the exception of Calgary and possibly Toronto), are still trying to figure out Twitter and other social media platforms. The Inferno recently turned over their account to defenseman Jacquie Pierri, letting her give fans a day-in-the-life account of what players do, but most other teams stick to previews, recaps and promotion of their organizations and the league. Establishing a brand online is a crucial first step toward gaining exposure for these teams, due to the immediacy of the medium, and perhaps focusing more on the player perspective is a way of seeming more approachable to potential fans or even potential players.

UND has certainly achieved a good balance of straight coverage and player perspective, and it’s something Idalski is proud of.

“I don’t want to see other teams do the same thing,” he said. “Just let them keep doing the same boring thing they’re doing, and we’ll keep having fun doing it.”

Watch This Hockey Goes To A Gophers Game

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers VS Boston University Terriers

So, most of your Watch This Hockey team went out to experience women’s hockey out in nature last Friday! It was followed up by all of us coming down with a terrible cold which I will blame on staying out too late eating Victory Ice Cream and then taking the public transit home on a chilly October night. 

Alas, Elena was not able to join us, but Clair, our Mighty Intern, and our friend and Graphical Wizard, Bess joined us among others. Bess ended up taking over my camera, because I have lost the knack of following a hockey game while taking photographs of it. (We have a selection of the photos she took in a gallery at the end of this post– check them out! I think I’ll try to get Bess to photograph more games in the future.  )

First off, I’d like to touch on ticket prices. Gophers’ women’s games are FREE for U of MN students, of which we had two in our group. Group tickets (10+ tickets) are $4. Adult tickets are $8, student tickets are $5. We took 12 people to a REALLY EXCELLENT hockey game for $40. Guys, I don’t pay that little for a single 200 level drink rail Wild ticket any more. Not only that, but when two people didn’t show, I ended up selling those two tickets for MORE THAN THEIR FACE VALUE outside the arena. How often does that happen for women’s hockey?? Admittedly, the profit I made was 1/4th of a beer, but still. Pretty good.

So, back to the actual game. It was the second game in the Gopher’s season opening weekend, after an 8-0 win over Penn State on Friday night. Amanda Leveille started for the Gophers, after Sidney Peters got a shut out the night before against Penn State. Erin O’Neil (hilariously, a native of Minnesota, with an outline of the state on the back plate of her mask) started for Boston.

BU@UMN 10/4/2014

The first period was /rough/ for the Gophers. Leveille, who had started last season for the Gophers, looked super flaily as she made saves, and was often caught out of her net. She did get pushed around a good bit by BU, but it was not an inspiring performance at first. The Gophers in general did not look like a cohesive team– there were amazing flashes of individual talent, but the period was largely played in the Gopher’s end, although shots were even, and the Gophers lead in face-offs. Meghan Lorence scored the only goal of the period, assisted by Rachel Ramsey and Kate Schipper. (Rachel Ramsey, by the by, is INCREDIBLY TALL in person. Like, you don’t notice it that much on tape, and then she’s over half a foot taller than some of her teammates, and it really stands out in person.)

The Gopher’s lack of cohesion was really highlighted by the comparison to BU. It felt like every time a Gopher broke it out of their zone, they dumped it across the blue line and then went for a line change, while BU would tic-tack-toe it across the blue line, maintaining possession and keeping control of the puck.

The Gophers were playing a very physical game against BU, and the penalty shortly after their first goal pretty much killed a lot of the momentum from that goal. BU for their part were initially very much in the Gopher’s faces, with a lot of crashing the net. From the beginning, Poulin was very much marked by the Gophers, not surprisingly, but the attention seemed to stymie her– she only had four shots, no points– and it definitely aggravated some of her teammates.

BU@UMN 10/4/2014

The general aggravation for both teams started to spill over in the second period, and things turned into a special teams battle. BU’s Rebecca Leslie scored early in the second, assisted by Maddie Elia and Rebecca Russo, at the same time as Minnesota picked up a penalty for hooking. About a minute into that penalty, Minnesota picked up another penalty. BU only managed to get two shots while on a 5 on 3 power play, both of which were blocked. Watching, it DEFINITELY didn’t feel like they were on a power play, much less a 5 on 3. In fact, seconds after they finished killing the penalty, Minnesota scored again– this time by Hannah Brandt, assisted by Brooke Garzone and Megan Wolfe. Shortly afterward, BU picked up a penalty, and then it felt like Minnesota’s offense really started clicking. Maybe it was having the extra man and having that extra moment to look and evaluate, but suddenly it felt like I was watching a really good team, and not just a handful of really good players– cliche, but true. The second period, it was solidly Minnesota’s game. Boston was much more retiring, and while still quite zippy as a team, they were much less in Minnesota’s face. This just solidified the feeling that Minnesota had all the time in the world when they had the puck

The third period, the energy dropped off a good bit, and things fell into a holding pattern. Not sure if it was just Minnesota protecting the lead (5-2) or if the four goals scored in the second period just took the wind out of Boston’s sails, but the engagement I had felt earlier in the game fell off a good bit in the third. Minnesota didn’t stop dumping the puck, and in fact, I think Boston did a much better job maintaining /possession/, but Minnesota’s high-end talent on the power-play and a lot of shot blocking really paid off for them in this game.

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Friday Roundup: Clarkson Cup, Frozen Four, and weekend reading

Friday Roundup: Clarkson Cup, Frozen Four, and weekend reading

Concept art for the 2014 Clarkson Cup Championship rings tweeted out by Caroline Ouellette.
Concept art for the 2014 Clarkson Cup Championship rings tweeted out by Caroline Ouellette.

IT’S FRIDAY, EVERY ONE! This has been a long and trying week for me, so I’m glad to see the tail end of it. However, the ongoing Clarkson Cup games have been a bright spot, so let’s recap:

  • Wednesday: Toronto beat Calgary, 3-2, and Boston beat Montreal a very tightly contested 1-0
  • Thursday: Boston beat the Furies, 2-1, and Montreal beat Calgary 5-4.

As of the time of this post being written, Calgary is out of Finals contention, but have one last game this morning against an unbeaten and Finals-bound Boston. Montreal and Toronto will play for that second Finals slot versus Boston this evening. Finals will be played on Saturday, at 2pm EDT. However, they will not be streamed live. They will be shown on TSN midnight Saturday and Monday at 7:30 pm, EDT. No word yet on what those of us south of the border or otherwise out of TSN coverage will be able to do.

The commentary on these streaming games has been done by Nicco Cardarelli, whose voice may be familiar to you from regular-season CWHL streaming games, and Asher Roth, who you may remember from last year’s Clarkson Cup commentary. They’ve been pretty charming in their enthusiasm for the CWHL and women’s hockey in general, and have been great about interacting with questions or comments tweeted at them during the games. A little startled by how much interest the Clarkson Cup has been getting outside of Canada, however. 🙂 Aly Munro has been doing some great interviews rink-side, and commentary as well.

NCAA Frozen Four!

Minnesota is set to take on Wisconsin today at 5 PM EDT today! For an excellent preview of the game, check out Nicole Haase’s over at Bucky’s 5th Quarter.

Mercyhurst takes on Clarkson at 8 PM EDT today as well! This is Clarkson’s first trip to the Frozen Four. Remember, all of these games will be streamed on NCAA.com.

The winners of these games will meet in the National Championship game on Sunday, at 3 PM EDT. The Patty Kazmaier will be awarded on Saturday, as part of the NCAA Championship weekend.

Weekend Reading:

I know, I missed the normal link round-up for this week, but here’s some stuff to read while you’re waiting to find a copy of the Clarkson Cup final to watch:

NCAA Women’s Hockey: Women’s Frozen Four Preview

Minnesota v Wisconsin, an upper Midwest matchup at 5 EST on Friday
Minnesota v Wisconsin, an upper Midwest match-up at 5 EST on Friday (Image copyright Doug Wallick)

It’s time for an NCAA preview by someone who barely follows the NCAA!

I’ll be honest, following the CWHL, plus my other sports loyalties, takes up enough time – and NCAA regular season women’s hockey games aren’t generally streamed in my area. So I come to the Frozen Four with the enthusiasm of a very dumb, uninformed fan. (For good Badger coverage, check out Nicole Haase’s twitter here.) According to the NCAA’s website, the matchups this year are Minnesota-Wisconsin and Clarkson-Mercyhurst. Exciting!

One of the bigger stories this year is Clarkson’s first trip to the Frozen Four. Mind, they won 3-1 over a BC team that was without Carpenter, but it’s still an exciting moment for them. Last year, the semifinals were  Minnesota-BC, and BU-Mercyhurst, with Minnesota and BU advancing to the final. Not so this year.

Minnesota has continued to be dominant this year, even without Noora Räty, Megan Bozek, and Amanda Kessel. That’s not really surprising; their recruitment is outstanding and their team is stacked. They’ll be facing the Badgers in the semifinal. The Badgers sold out LaBahn arena to defeat Harvard and earn a berth in the Frozen Four. You can get a recap of that game here.

Anyway, more educated minds than mine have written plenty about the actual hockey aspects of the Frozen Four. I fully intend to sit on my couch with my laptop and yell SHOOOOOOOT as I watch NCAA hockey. This is your reminder that the Frozen Four WILL be streamed on the NCAA’s website here, and if you’re so inclined, you can watch video of last year’s contests as well. Fun for the whole family!

We will be watching (and tweeting) the Gophers-Badgers game at the very least. We encourage everyone else to tune in, too.