With the early signing period in late November, two programs in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association ran away with a remarkable crop of players that signed a letter of intent.
North Dakota and Wisconsin have gained commitments from some of the greatest prospects in North America in their efforts to remain competitive and keep up with conference juggernaut, Minnesota.
The North Dakota Fighting Sioux turned to the Warroad Warriors in Minnesota high school hockey for their future. Kayla Gardner, an early favorite for the 2013 Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award, is averaging 3.25 points per game. She helped Warroad to state titles in 2010 and 2011, while earning a third place finish in 2012.
Lisa Marvin joins Gardner as the second Warroad player to sign a letter of intent with North Dakota. Marvin is the younger sister of current Fighting Sioux skater, Layla Marvin, and their cousin is Gigi Marvin of the US National Team.
Marvin logged 17 points in her first four contests of the 2012-13 Minnesota high school season. She is the all-time scoring leader in the history of the Minnesota state hockey tournament for girls. With her older sister, the two should form a remarkable scoring tandem.
The only Canadian signed by the Fighting Sioux, Halli Krzyzaniak, won a gold medal for Canada at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World championships. At the Canadian National Under-18 tournament, she was named top defender.
She is in her fifth season with the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in British Columbia. Meghan Dufault, a current freshman with the Fighting Sioux played with Krzyzaniak at P of E, and the two will continue their talented ways at North Dakota.
Hailing from Michigan, Lexi Shaw is the goaltender of the signing class. As a goaltender with Honeybaked (a prominent program in Michigan), she boasts an astounding career mark of 29-2-0, complemented by 17 shutouts. Besides leading Honeybaked to a national title in 2011, she also played for the United States Under-18 national team in August 2012.
Rounding out the list of signees are Gracen Hirschy and Amy Menke. Both competed in August 2012 for the United States Under-18 team in a three game exhibition versus Canada.
Menke, a member of the Shakopee Sabres, is a swift skater that was named team captain in 2011 and 2012 (in which she scored 43 goals). She was the Sabres Most Valuable Player in 2012.
Hailing from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Hirschy is a current member of Team Pittsburgh U19. As a member of Team Pittsburgh, she won a national title in 2010. North Dakota will be hoping she can lead them to an NCAA Frozen Four title.
With the graduation of the Lamoureux sisters in spring 2012, the Fighting Sioux will be looking to keep their momentum. As the Lamoureux sisters injected a winning attitude into the program, head coach Brian Idalski has done a remarkable job of recruiting top talent.
In looking to maintain their status as a top 10 program, the Wisconsin Badgers have signed five out-of-state players. The unique aspect is that all five signees have represented their native country on the international stage.
Melissa Channell is a member of the Canadian Under-22 program, and won a bronze medal at the 2012 Meco Cup. She also played for Team Ontario Red at the 2011 Canadian Under-18 Nationals. With teammates like Erin Ambrose and Laura Stacey, she helped the squad claim a gold medal. Her father, Craig Channell competed in the American Hockey League and is a scout for the Minnesota Wild.
Sydney McKibbon has played with and against Channell on many occasions. In the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (Ontario Junior Hockey for girls), McKibbon is the captain of the Stoney Creek Jr. Sabres, while Channell competes for the Burlington Jr. Barracudas.
McKibbon was part of Team Ontario Blue at the 2011 Canadian Under-18 Nationals, but played with McKibbon with the Canadian Under-18 National Team for a three-game exhibition versus the United States in August 2011. A member of the 2012 PWHL All-Star team, McKibbon and Channell will form a fantastic nucleus for the Badgers.
The third Canadian who was recruited by Johnson is a teammate of McKibbon’s on the Stoney Creek Jr. Sabres. Sarah Nurse hails from Hamilton, Ontario, and she is the Junior Sabres alternate captain. During the 2011-12 PWHL season, she ranked second on Stoney Creek with 37 points (her 21 goals led all Stoney Creek skaters).
Along with McKibbon, Nurse participated at the 2011 IIHF High Performance Women’s Hockey Camp in Slovakia. Nurse has played for Team Ontario Red at the 2011 and 2012 Canadian National Under-18 championships. Her cousin, Darnell Nurse, is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.
One of two American-born players who committed to Wisconsin during the early signing period was Annie Pankowski from Laguna Hills, California. She competed at the AAA level (Under-16) with the Anaheim Lady Ducks and was their team captain.
In her final season with the Lady Ducks, she led them to a third place finish at the Tier 1 Under-16 nationals. Currently, she is a member of the North American Hockey Academy (out of Vermont), and accumulated 66 points (46 goals, 20 assists) in 70 games during the 2011-12 season. Of note, she was invited to the USA Hockey national festival in Blaine, Minnesota, and claimed a silver medal at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 Women’s worlds.
Pankowski will find a familiar face playing with her at Wisconsin. Her teammate at NAHA, Jenny Ryan the current team captain, is a defender from Victor, New York.
During the 2010-11 season, Ryan was an alternate captain as she accumulated 44 points as NAHA claimed the Junior Women’s Hockey League championship. Ryan was named to the US roster that will compete at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds.