Weekly News: NWHL captains, Four Nations outcome, Desjardins comeback

  • The NWHL has announced all their captains for the year!
    • For the Boston Pride, Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker as co-captains
    • For the Buffalo Beauts, Emily Pfazler will be the captain, while Meghan Duggan and Shelby Bram will serve as assistant captains.
    • For the Connecticut Whale, Jessica Koizumi has the C, and Kaleigh Fratkin the A.
    • The New York Riveters have Ashley Johnston, Madison Packer, and Morgan Fritz-Ward, but it’s not entirely clear yet how the captain/assistant captain assignments will work out.
  • The US won the Four Nations Cup, beating Canada in a tight 3-2 win. Check out the tournament results and what they might mean going forward over at Victory Press, and check out Along the Board’s careful looks at who were the best CWHL and NWHL players at the Four Nations tournament.
  • Kathy Desjardins, last seen in net for Team Alberta in the 2013/2014 season, is back for the Calgary Inferno! She took some time off to recover from some injuries, including a concussion and a broken collarbone, but is ready to take the ice again alongsideĀ the Inferno’s new acquisitions like Hayley Wickenheiser.
  • Rachel Koteen of 540 Films is trying to kickstart a documentry about the NWHL. As someone who remembers the documentary that Jessica Desjardins did about the CWHL’s Montreal Stars fondly, and as someone who loves insight into the little things that make a league or a team tick, I’m very excited about this! While the NWHL is not sponsoring the documentary, Koteen will be working with the league and the teams to get that kind of inside access to players and teams. $11 will get you a digital copy of the documentary when it comes out, and like all Kickstarter projects, if they don’t fund their goal, you don’t lose your money. So go check it out!
  • The Calgary Inferno will be playing Team Japan today November 11th, at 4:45 PM EST. Sadly, there will be no streams of any sort for this. šŸ™
  • The regular season for both the NWHL and CWHL resume this weekend!

2015 CWHL Draft Preview: Time to Restock The Cupboards

Where and When:

The Draft is this Sunday, August 23rd, 2015. We expect to see things kick off at 3PM eastern.

To follow along, check out the CWHL’s Draft Live Tracker, or follow along on Twitter:

If you’re a Periscope user, I’d suggest following Krista Patronick, the Blades’ GM. She’s said a couple of times that she’s going to try to stream portions of the Draft on Periscope.

The teams will pick in reverse-order of how they ended the season– so, Brampton first, then Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Boston. Familiar so far, right? So, the trick comes that each player, when she registers for the draft, has to provide the geographic area where she is willing to play– Calgary, Montreal, Boston, or Toronto (and thus either the Furies or the Thunder). She can pick as many areas or as few as she wants. The Boston GM can only pick players who are willing to play in Boston, etc.

The Picks

To register for the Draft, players must have graduated from college, and neither have ever signed with a CWHL club, or be committed to another league. You can check out the entire draft pool after the league has posted it– it’s going to be up on their site some time today.

Some of the most high-profile and notable players in this year’s draft include Marie Philip-Poulin, Hayley Wickenheiser, Brianne Jenner, Elizabeth Tremblay, and Katia Clement-Heydra.

Marie-Philip Poulin

Marie-Philip Poulin is notable because she has played in the CWHL before. When she was 16, Poulin played for the Montreal Stars during the 2007/08 season, and in fact was named Rookie of the Year, before going on to win the Clarkson Cup with Montreal in 2008/09. Poulin has been very open about the fact that she has only declared Montreal as the area she’s willing to play in, so expect to see her go to the Stars again. I’ve also been told by the CWHL that Poulin would be eligible again for the Rookie of the Year award, as it is her first drafted year.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Poulin is a great player, and a huge asset for Montreal to pick up. Poulin had 181 points in 111 career games with the Terriers, and held the captaincy as well in her senior year. She’s been nominated for the Patty Kaz twice, and was a top-3 finalist in 2015, her senior year. When she graduated, she left BU as the all-time leader in goals (81), assists (100) and points (181). Aside from her college career, Poulin has been rather prominent on the international stage for Canada. She’s won Olympic gold twice, in 2010 and 2014, as well as gold at 2012 Women’s Worlds. She has the unique distinction of being the only player to have scored the game-winning goal in every Olympic gold medal game that she’s been in, earning her the nickname of “Noted US Dream Ruiner” among several Watch This writers. She’s a great two-way, defensive forward with the confidence and skill to also make big moves on her own, and one who makes every player she plays with better and more cohesive.

Hayley Wickenheiser

Wick is a legend, and rightfully so. Hayley Wickenheiser is a 5-time Winter Olympic medalist who has been on Canada’s National Team since she was 15, and has the Order of Canada. She’s also represented Canada at the Summer Olympics once, for softball. She got silver at Nagano in 1998, and gold in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. She captained the Canadian National Team starting in 2006 after Cassie Campbell retired, up until right before the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She was named the tournamentsā€™ most valuable player in the 2002 and 2006 Olympics.

She also made history as the first female skater to play professional men’s hockey. In 2003, she got her first point with Kirkkonummen Salamat of the Finnish second division men’s professional league. Wickenheiser also played in Eskilstuna, Sweden with a menā€™s professional division-one hockey team for the 08-09 season. She was also offered an invitation to the Philadelphia Flyer’s rookie camp in 1998.

Wickenheiser has said that she has only listed Calgary as a geographic location she’s willing to go to, so expect to see her in an Inferno jersey.

Brianne Jenner

Brianne Jenner is an Olympic gold medalist (2014, with Canada), and a graduate of Cornell, where she played all four years. She put up 229 points in a 129 game career with the Big Red, 93 goals and 136 assists. She’s a beast. I’d expect to see her in the top forwards in the CWHL next season. She’s going to grad school in Calgary, so expect to see her on the Inferno.

Team Drafts

Brampton Thunder

Brampton. Oh Brampton.

Brampton desperately needs some forwards who can keep up with Jamie Lee Rattray, Jess Jones, and Laura Fortino. The three of them had about 40% of the team’s points put together last season, which isn’t really a great sign.

They’ve had a rough time in net, as well. Liz Knox put up a .888 save percentage for them in 11 games, and Erica Howe, who started 13 games, put up a .896 sv%, which is not at all what I’ve been used to seeing from her when she was at Clarkson or on Team Canada. Sonja van der Bliek was dealing with injury last season, but hasn’t been starter material in the past either. I wouldn’t expect to see Howe back for Brampton– she was at the Buffalo Beaut’s try out camp, and while she hasn’t signed with the NWHL, it does mean that she’s likely been released from the CWHL (possibly with a one year league suspension if she didn’t ask to get released before she tried out).

Defense has been a particularly rough spot for Brampton– I feel like a lot of it has been a coaching / style mismatch with their goaltenders rather than necessarily their players, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brampton go for defenders in the draft.

Toronto Furies

Well, first off, Toronto is not losing Jenelle Kohanchuk!Ā If they’ll lose anyone else from last year is, as always, kind of crapshoot to predict.

That said, Toronto could stand to pick up some depth scoring in the draft, and in generally, really needs to work on defense, and their away game. Their team save percentage was the second lowest in the league, and there’s a noticeable down-tickĀ in their stats on the road. So, what are they going to do in the draft? It’s always hard to predict in the CWHL, as it’s hard to know what holes the team will be trying to fill, but as always, a good bet is forward depth and defense.

Montreal Stars

This might be a somewhat unpopular opinion, but I really don’t think Montreal needs Poulin to win the Clarkson Cup this year. I think they need depth scoring and to pull things together on defense. Montreal finished in a very close top three teams last year, and they have some rockstar talent already in Ann-Sophie Bettez, Caroline Ouellette, and NoĆ©mie Marin. While I think you’d have to be downright silly to turn down Poulin, I think the problem facing this team is spreading out the scoring from two or three hot players into depth, and not making Catherine Herron or Charline LabontĆ© save your bacon all the time on defense.

That said, I’m really looking forward to seeing Poulin play with this team– it could be amazing.

Calgary Inferno

Calgary did a big rebuild last year, rebuilding their team to be fast and deadly on the front end. I’d bet Calgary continues in this line, but hopefully picking up some more defense and some depth scoring. This is also a team that’s had good but not outstanding goaltending– I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to pick up a goaltender, depending on who is available in the draft (or via a trade…?).

With Irwin’s health in question for this next season, that may be the place that Wickenheiser is expected to slide in, as another experienced top goal-scorer for the team. If Wick isn’t enough, Jenner is certainly going to add fire power.

Remember, Calgary also has a new coach this year– Scott Reid, the former assistant coach, replaced Kevin Haller, who was released toward the end of last season. Meaghan Mikkelson-Reid isn’t currently listed as an assistant coach, which she was last year. Several CWHL announcements around the Cup Tour mentioned Mikkelson-Reid as a player for Calgary– perhaps, post-baby, we’ll see her return to the ice as a player?

Boston Blades

Boston’s a bit of a gutted team right now, having lost almost all their team to the NWHL. If you look at last year’s roster, only eight players haven’t signed with the NWHL. Of those eight, the Blades are likely to lose a couple more. While I’d expect Tara Watchorn and Genevieve Lacasse to stay with the CWHL, both players were in the US to finish up grad school. With that done, I’d expect them to move to another CWHL team in Canada– I’m hearing possibly Calgary, which would make the Inferno a truely terrifying team to face. Jenny Potter only played six games with the Blades last season, and was named the head coach at Ohio State in April, so I’d be surprised if she sticks around.

Aside from the visible blow of losing serious high-end talent like Knight, Decker, Bellamy, and Duggan, one of the things that has made the Blades so much fun to watch and such a steam roller of a team has been their depth. The Blades have a new GM in Krista Patronick, a new coach in Brian McCloskey, a new arena, and essentially an entirely new roster. While the geographic limitations on player selection somewhat blunts the edge of this, the Blades have the last pick in the draft as well. It’s going to be an interesting season to watch the Blades.

CWHL Weekend Preview: Final Weekend Before the Clarkson Cup!

The final weekend of the regular season is upon us! The Clarkson Cup starts next Wednesday, and the schedule is up at the CWHL website! We won’t know until Sunday afternoon what all the seeding is (besides Toronto, who is 4th), so check back then.

We’re planning to have both a Clarkson Cup preview and some stuff about the CWHL Awards, so keep an eye out early next week for those from us. The Coach of the Year award is going to be particularly interesting with the coaching turn over this year. According to my correspondence with the league, any head coach is eligible, regardless of if they are currently a head coach, which may mean my previous pick of Calgary’s Kevin Haller could still be in the running.

Boston Blades @ Montreal Stars

  • Saturday February 28th, 5:00 PM CDT Streamed
  • Sunday March 1st, 12:00 PM CDT

These two teams will be playing for the top spot in the Clarkson Cup, as Boston has 31 points on the season and Montreal has 29. Montreal is actually tied with Calgary on points, but has one more straight win. With the top seed on the line, I don’t think either team is going to try to rest players, but we might see some players who have been out with injuries back in the line up for at least one game before the Clarkson Cup.

Calgary Inferno @ Brampton Thunder

  • Saturday February 28th, 5:50 PM CDT
  • Sunday March 1st, 1:05 PM CDT Streamed

Like I said above, Calgary’s tied on points but is just behind Montreal. Since it’s a series format and not a round robin this year, these games aren’t going to utterly shake up the series match-ups, but they will have impact. Brampton’s out of the Clarkson Cup race, but Calgary’s beaten them every time they’ve played this season– Brampton might be out to get at least one game on them. Wouldn’t be surprised, however, to see Calgary rest some of their top players. There’s the potential to play four days straight in the Clarkson Cup, and Calgary’s a team that relies on speed, which can be hard to do if you’re dog-tired.

CWHL Weekend Recap: Calgary Sweeps Toronto, Boston Crushes Brampton

Calgary Inferno Sweep Toronto Furies

(Photo from Dave Holland/CWHL)

The Calgary Inferno smoked the Toronto Furies this weekend, increasing their lead in the league standings to a solid 22 points in 14 games, 5 points more than the second place Boston Blades.

Continue reading CWHL Weekend Recap: Calgary Sweeps Toronto, Boston Crushes Brampton

CWHL Weekend Preview: Calgary Inferno @ Boston Blades, Toronto Furies and Brampton Thunder home-and-home

We’ve got a jam-packed weekend starting TODAY, as the CWHL gets a bunch of games out of the way before the All-Star Game (which is NEXT WEEKEND, in case you’ve missed it! GO VOTE FOR YOUR CAPTAINS!) Sadly, only one of the games will be streamed.

CALGARY INFERNO @ BOSTON BLADES:

  • Friday, December 5th @ 6:30 PM CDT, at Allied Veterans Rink in Everett, MA. Please note that the arena has CHANGED!
  • Saturday, December 6th, @ 6:30 PM CDT, at UMASS-Boston. ** THIS GAME IS STREAMED **
  • Sunday, December 7th, @ 11:30 AM CDT, at UMASS-Boston.

Boston and Calgary kick things off tonight, as the two hottest teams in the league go head to head in a three game series. Boston will be looking to make up the points lost in their forfeited games earlier in the month, while Calgary will be looking to continue their five game win streak. Notably, their win streak is all home games– we’ll be looking to see if they can continue this on the road in Boston.

These are both high octane offensive teams– Calgary is currently averaging about 3.6 goals per game, while Boston is averaging 2.8/game, but 4 per game if you take out the two forfeits lost to player contract issues. Both are also getting points from up and down their line ups, although Calgary’s getting most of their goals from their top lines, while Boston’s spread the goals out a bit more.

What I think this series could hinge on is penalties. Boston has taken the least amount of penalties in the league (a little under half of 64, the average number of PIMs) while Calgary has taken almost exactly the average number of PIMS with 62 PIMs. Boston has the best power play in the league, with an average scoring likelihood of 23.08%, and the best penalty kill, with an average 91.67% kill. So Boston doesn’t take many penalties, have a really good kill when they do, and they can capitalize on a power play chance, while Calgary has a really middle of the road power play at 14.29%, and the second to last penalty kill in the league at 83.33%. I think if Calgary comes out rough, it’s really going to hurt them.

This is going to be a fascinating series to watch, and I’m really looking forward to it. Thankfully, Saturday’s game in this series will be streamed, so remember to tune in! Interestingly, the Blades’ twitter has announced that all three games will be being filmed by ESPN for a Hilary Knight feature– we’re not sure what kind of feature, but have reached out for (hopefully) some comment.

Make sure 2B early, we have lots of buzz around this series @C4sidee16 #BostonBlades especially w @espn filming a feature of @Hilary_Knight

ā€” Boston Blades (@BostonCWHL) December 4, 2014

TORONTO FURIES AND BRAMPTON THUNDER:

  • Toronto @ Brampton, Friday, December 5th @ 6:30 PM CDT, at Victoria Park
  • Brampton @ Toronto, Sunday December 7th @ 11:45 AM, at the Mastercard Centre

This home-and-home series will also kick off tonight! These two rivals will twice this weekend, but neither game will be streamed. šŸ™

Toronto and Brampton are 4th and 5th in the standings respectively, but I think both can play much better than their standings indicate– sometimes. Normally I’d say Brampton’s higher PIMs could be a point of concern, but Toronto’s power play is the worst in the league, and Brampton’s penalty kill is pretty league average.

I’d anticipate a rougher, gritty game from Brampton, but better goal-tending from Toronto. Howe’s been having a rough time behind Brampton’s defense, but Knox, who has the second most starts for Brampton’s goaltending, has only a very slightly better save percentage. Sonja van der Bliek, who has a much better save percentage than both of them, is unfortunately out with a hip joint injury, according to what I have heard. I have not heard a time line on her return. It’s a real pity that she’s been sidelined by injury now, just when it seems like her game was really starting to come together after a somewhat rocky start in the league.

Mid-Week Links: Boston Blades update, Calgary’s All-Star Players

Update on Boston BladesĀ Game Cancellations:

First off, we’ve heard from a couple different sources including the CWHL that the “player eligibility issues” (as the league put it) have been resolved, and Boston will play this upcoming weekend! Notably, the league also said that the All Stars Game would proceed as scheduled, which is great to hear.

If you bought tickets for the canceled games, email the CWHL about getting a refund. If you’re a Boston Blades season ticket holder, you’ll get a gift certificate; if you bought single game tickets, a direct refund.

Mid-Week Links Round-Up:

We don’t have a ton else for links this week– Most of us here at Watch This are Americans, and are getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday. Expect some pretty normal content from us the rest of the week though– we should have another piece from Elena, and hopefully our first piece from Cait of Women’s Hockey News, as well as the normal weekend game previews.

If you’re American, we at Watch This Hockey hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, and if you’re not, we hope you enjoy the coming weekend of hockey!

Weekend Recap: Calgary Inferno sweep Brampton Thunder, Boston games canceled.

Weekend Cancellations:

First off, let’s get this out of the way: This weekend’s Montreal @ Boston series was canceled. We don’t, officially, know why. The CWHL claims it was due to “unforeseen circumstances”. I have not heard back from the league if single-game ticket purchases for these games will be refunded.

Unofficially, Stanley Cup of Chowder’s recap is pretty consistent with our understanding of the situation, but in short, there are contract issues happening between the Blades players and the League. We’ll have more info out as we know it.

Calgary Inferno sweep Brampton Thunder in Three Game Series

So, the other series this weekend was three games between the Calgary Inferno and the Brampton Thunder. My preview was proven a bit optimistic– Brampton did not manage to steal a game, and were in fact kept to very few goals in general.

Continue reading Weekend Recap: Calgary Inferno sweep Brampton Thunder, Boston games canceled.

CWHL Weekend Preview: Brampton Thunder @ Calgary Inferno x 3, and Montreal Stars @ Boston Blades x 2!

We’ve got a full weekend of CWHL hockey ahead of us! Brampton will be going to Calgary for their three away games this season against the Inferno, and Montreal will be attempting to crack the Boston Blades, who are perfect so far on the season.
Continue reading CWHL Weekend Preview: Brampton Thunder @ Calgary Inferno x 3, and Montreal Stars @ Boston Blades x 2!

CWHL Weekend Game Review: October 24-26, 2014

CWHL Weekend Game Review: October 24-26th 2014

Calgary took Montreal two of three this weekend to remain at the top of the league standings, albeit with several more games than most other teams in the league. Toronto won their second shoot out this season, against a physical Brampton team who out-shot them.

Continue reading CWHL Weekend Game Review: October 24-26, 2014