After the historic events of 2012, including Minnesota's Noora Raty winning her first NCAA Frozen Four, Meghan Agosta breaking the CWHL record, and Florence Schelling helping Switzerland capture their first medal at the IIHF Worlds, the year 2013 should build on that momentum and provide fans with even better hockey.
January begins with a bang as it offers the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships, and the Meco Cup (tends to feature players Under-22). As the month of February features numerous teams make a mad dash for the playoffs, March offers plenty of postseason action for hardcore fans.
March will have the NCAA Frozen Four at the Division I and Division III levels, while Canadian Interuniversity Sport offers its national tournament. As Minnesota enters 2013 with a 20-0 record, all eyes in the NCAA hockey world will be glued upon them to see if they can maintain their momentum.
For the fifth consecutive time, the historic Clarkson Cup shall be contested as the Montreal Stars try to become the first CWHL franchise to win the coveted Cup three years in a row. A few short weeks afterwards, the city of Ottawa will host the IIHF Women’s World Championships. As the last major international event before the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the visceral rivalry between Canada and the United States will be played out before an electrifying crowd in Canada’s capital city.
The outcome of the World Championships will have a tremendous impact on the rest of the year. CWHL training camps and NCAA rosters will be potentially usurped as both Canada and the United States look to build their selection rosters. While the future remains unknown, the ride should be one filled with wonder and amazement, as the sport of women’s hockey only continues to grow.
With a lineup that boasts superlative talent such as Erin Ambrose, Christine Bestland, Melodie Daoust, Genevieve Lacasse and Marie-Philip Poulin, Canada’s Under-22/Development Team will be a juggernaut at the 2013 edition of the Meco Cup. After an embarrassing bronze medal in 2012, Canada is serious about avenging their performance. Expect Canada to score at least 4 goals in every game of this tournament.
Like the IIHF Women’s Worlds, the Under-18 edition is also dominated by Canada and the United States. While the lineups are evenly matched (as always), Canada has a slight advantage between the pipes with Jessica Dodds. High scoring Hanna Bunton is a future superstar in the making, and the presence of Program of Excellence blueliner Halli Krzyzaniak (a member of the 2012 U18 gold medal winning squad) will be the other advantages in helping Canada claim its third ever gold in the history of the event.
While there is no question that the women competing in the Bikini Hockey League are beautiful and desirable women, the future of the league depends on its planned January 1 event in Detroit. As the league has gained considerable media attention on a worldwide scale (which is highly impressive considering it has never even hosted one match), the true substance of the league will be in the finished product.
The January 1 match is a great rebuttal to the NHL cancelling its Winter Classic, and reflects very shrewd marketing. Should the BHL’s inaugural match fail in any way (sponsors dropping out or lack of pay per view buy rates), the league will crumble quickly. While beautiful women helped open the doors for this new league, a substandard product will evaporate any momentum that was built up.
Although the league was brilliant in filming a reality show (something that other women’s hockey leagues should consider), the fact that the show has never broadcast on television works against it. With YouTube or other online options, the BHL should consider at least broadcasting a portion of the show to stimulate interest (in the hopes of attracting a TV network to buy it)
Talent is very evident with the women of the BHL (primarily with Jessica Frump and Erin Honto), but the criticism that already exists is not doing anything positive for the league. With respect to the BHL, they need to do more to respond to the criticism and make its players more vocal.
Although the 20-0 start by Minnesota is the most dominant in NCAA women’s ice hockey history, the Golden Gophers will eventually lose a match. With the second half of their season involving only WCHA opponents, squads such as the North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the Wisconsin Badgers will make adjustments.
As the Badgers lost on December 2, 2012 by a 2-0 mark, they have the talent to neutralize the Gophers offensive juggernaut and play a stingy enough defense to pull off the upset.
While this may be the safest prediction of the lot, the real question is how many wins can Noora Raty earn? Less than 8 wins away from breaking Pattenden’s record, Raty has the potential to hit the 110 career wins mark. Although Alex Rigsby of Wisconsin is the only other goaltender that is within reach of Pattenden’s mark, the number of Raty’s wins this season may put her own record out of reach.
In what will be unprecedented, all finalists for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award will be from the same school. Hannah Brandt, Amanda Kessel and Noora Raty of the national powerhouse Minnesota Golden Gophers will all be finalists. Brandt and Kessel both have the potential to eclipse the 100-point mark, while Raty’s opportunity to break Hillary Pattenden’s wins record will solidify her reputation as the greatest Golden Gophers goaltender ever.
Although there are many great players to consider for the Patty Kazmaier Award, Noora Raty will continue to make history by becoming the first European to win the prestigious award. Having already established herself as the Golden Gophers all-time winning goaltender, she also won 18 games during the program’s remarkable 20-0 first half run.
As she is on pace to break Hillary Pattenden’s record and lead the Golden Gophers to a second staright NCAA Frozen Four, the Patty Kazmaier Award will be the perfect footnote to a remarkable NCAA career.
As Erin Ambrose and Hannah Brandt represent the future of hockey for Canada and the United States, their rivalry will continue in the Frozen Four title game. With the event being hosted at Ridder Arena, the home ice advantage will propel Minnesota to the title.
The true highlight of the match will be the opportunity to see the two finest freshman prospects compete against each other. By the time the 2018 Winter Games comes around, the two should play for their respective countries. This match will be a defining moment in their young NCAA careers, proving that the best is yet to come for both.
With a remarkable amount of talent in the PWHL (Provincial Women’s Hockey League), the postseason promises to be remarkable. There are many teams in the league, such as the Toronto Jr. Aeros that are talent heavy. Perhaps none have as much talent as the Whibty Wolves.
Boasting such remarkable snipers as Hanna Bunton, Nicole Martindale, Alex Moore and Krista Yip-Chuck, the team can score goals in bunches. Their high scoring ways should lead this top ranked club to postseason glory.
In the history of the Angela James Bowl (the CWHL scoring title), every winner of the award (Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford, Sabrina Harbec, Caroline Ouellette, Meghan Agosta) was born in Canada. As the Boston Blades are running away with the league scoring title, all indicators point to an American born player becoming the first to capture the prestigious award.
Despite stiff competition from Canadians such as Vicki Bendus, Natalie Spooner and Hefford, Hilary Knight and Kelli Stack of the Blades (along with the US National Team) are the catalysts for Boston’s high scoring attack. With Knight having won an NCAA scoring title, a CWHL scoring title would not surprise anyone.
The most balanced team in NCAA Division III women's ice hockey, the Plattsburgh State Cardinals are poised to capture the Frozen Four. With Teal Gove and Jenny Kistner as the offensive leaders, the Cardinals have a formidable one-two punch on offense.
Goaltender Sydney Aveson is on a hot streak as she helped the Cardinals win the Panther/Cardinal Classic. Breanna Bennett is a rookie star which promises a great future for the program. After a third place finish in the 2012 NCAA Div. III Frozen Four, the Cardinals are ready to bounce back and capture the elusive national title.
Playing for nationally ranked power Plattsburgh State, Jenny Kistner and Teal Gove are emerging as early favorites for the prestigious Laura Hurd Award (given to the most outstanding player in NCAA Division III women’s hockey). Kistner, a junior from Peoria, Illinois sits third overall in Division III scoring with 18 points in 10 games.
Gove, a senior from Cornwall, Ontario is tied for fourth in scoring with 16 points. With Plattsburgh State aiming for an elusive NCAA Division III Frozen Four title, Kistner and Gove are the catalyst for their high powered offense.
Having transferred from Elmira College, Tori Charron is the catalyst for the Norwich Cadets offense. With 16 points, she sits third in NCAA Division III scoring. She has averaged a goal per game as Norwich sits fifth in the national polls. Twice during the season, she has provided three point performances (November 9 at Plymouth State, and November 16 at Mass-Boston). As one of the premier programs in NCAA Division III, Charron is poised to continue in the great legacy of other Norwich scorers such as Julie Fortier and Sophie Leclerc.
Heading into the holiday break, four teams in Ontario University Athletics boast at least a dozen wins. With the conference power Laurier Golden Hawks sitting first overall with an impressive 14-1-2 mark, they are eager to claim another league title.
The Western Mustangs have emerged as a dark horse with a 12-3-1 record. Led by Kassidy Gosling, the physical squad is a very intimidating presence on ice. Queen’s is another ambitious OUA squad that has been knocking on the CIS National Tournament door for several years. Led by Morgan McHaffie, one of the best leaders in CIS women’s hockey, her 25 points rank fifth in the nation as the Golden Gaels boast a 13-3-2 record.
Of all the clubs competing with Laurier, none may be as strong as the Guelph Gryphons. Led by head coach Rachel Flanagan, the program has found its smart recruiting paying dividends. With a 14-2-1 record, an ambitious Guelph squad is poised to make a run at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport National Title. A very balanced team with great depth at goaltending, Guelph has all the tools to upend Laurier as queens of the OUA conference.
Second year player Jessica Pinkerton stands fourth in the CIS scoring race with 26 points, while rookie Amanda Parkins is second with an astounding 30 points.
Parkins will emerge as the 2013 CIS Rookie of the Year winner. Another rookie, Christine Grant is the third Guelph player to find herself in the top 10 in CIS scoring.
Although Montreal sits in third place in the CWHL standings after the first half of the season, they are not two-time Clarkson Cup champs for nothing. Even if Boston finishes the season in first overall, the pressure of the expectations that come with it will result in Boston’s downfall.
Even if Montreal climbs out of third and finishes in second place, the Blades will be considered the favorite to win the Clarkson Cup. With no pressure, Montreal will excel and its elite goaltending will make the difference in becoming the first club to capture the prestigious title three in a row.
Quite possibly the best CIS player of her generation, Melodie Daoust logged a remarkable 35 points in the first half of the 2012-13 CIS season. Her contributions have made the McGill Martlets the number one ranked team in the CIS National Polls. With the club looking to win its first national title since 2011, Daoust is the engine on which this remarkable offense runs.
With the world’s finest women’s ice hockey palyer in Hayley Wickenheiser, and a proven winner in goaltender Amanda Tapp, the Caglary Dinos shall prove next to impossible to beat in the CIS national hockey tournament. Despite tough competition from national powerhouses such as McGill, Laurier, and St. Francis Xavier, head coach Danielle Goyette has the Dinos in a rhythm that will make them difficult to beat.
Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, Ontario will set the backdrop for the final major international competition before the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. With the pressure of having home ice advantage, Canada will be expected to deliver. After the United States impressive performance versus Canada in the first match at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds, and their gold medal win at the 2012 Four Nations Cup, this talent heavy team has all the tools to upset Canada on home ice.
Second-year franchise Team Alberta is on-pace to finish with the worst record in the CWHL. While the young team has one of the best defensive units in the CWHL, its offense is nothing short of dismal. As North Dakota is geographically located in the same region as Alberta, the opportunity to select Lamoureux with the first pick overall shall be too tempting for the building team not to do.
With a lineup that features many Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s ice hockey players (such as Fannie Desforges from the Ottawa Gee Gees, and Jessica O’Grady of the Carleton Lady Ravens); the World Women’s Ball Hockey Championships are a highly contested event.
As ball hockey has emerged as a key method of conditioning for women’s ice hockey players, the level of competition has increased dramatically. Historically, many elite women (like Andria Hunter, Natalie Spooner, and Jennifer Wakefield) have represented Canada in both ball hockey and ice hockey.
During the 2011 Women’s Worlds, Canada claimed a disappointing silver medal. With the 2013 event being held in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada is eager to win the gold on home soil.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Calgary Flames reached landmark agreements with the CWHL’s Toronto Furies and Team Alberta, other franchises such as Montreal are playing the waiting game. As Toronto and Alberta commemorated their agreements with a legendary match at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, it is only a question of time before the Molson Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens allows the Stars the same opportunity. As the greatest women’s hockey team in the world, the Stars deserve to showcase their world class skills at the Molson Centre.
While the Canadian National Team looks to claim their fourth consecutive gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, a heartbreaking loss to the United States at the 2012 Four Nations Cup is too visceral to forget. Depending on the outcome of Canada’s Under-22/Development Team at the 2013 Meco Cup (which will feature Christine Bestland, Melodie Daoust, Jamie-Lee Rattray, and Erin Ambrose), and the gold medal match of the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Sochi 2014 may result in Canada introducing a new generation of women’s hockey heroes.
Despite the graduation of Mercyhurst Lakers teammate Bailey Bram (and five other Mercyhurst stars), Christine Bestland has used the 2012-13 NCAA season to prove that she is one of the world’s brightest young female hockey stars.
The most dominant women’s hockey player in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport, McGill’s Melodie Daoust is a future superstar in the making. If she can help Canada win the 2013 Meco Cup and lead McGill to an appearance in the CIS National Championship game, Daoust deserves to be given every opportunity to try out for the Sochi team.
Ambrose and Rattray are the clear reasons that the Clarkson Golden Knights enjoy a No. 2 ranking in the NCAA mid-season polls. If the dynamic duo can propel Clarkson into the NCAA Frozen Four championship game, there is no question of their potential as invitees to the Sochi selection camp. The two helped Canada claim their first ever gold at the IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds (in 2010) and are poised to lead Canada to more glory at the 2013 Meco Cup.
With the United States developing remarkable young talent in Alex Carpenter, Hannah Brandt, Alex Carpenter, Jincy Dunne, and Alex Rigsby, a youth movement may be just what Canada needs to make it four in a row at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Quickly emerging as a November tradition, the Four Nations Cup is an elite that features the four greatest women’s ice hockey countries (Canada, Finland, Sweden, United States). For the last two seasons, the United States has upset the Canadian squad with their strong goaltending.
As the Four Nations will serve as a great indicator of what to expect in Sochi, one should expect the United States to win again. Heading into every Winter Games competition, Canada struggles miserably against the United States. This trend will continue as Canada will feature a much younger team compared to the 2010 Winter Games edition.
Both hailing from Wisconsin, Jessie Vetter and Alex Rigsby are two of the greatest US born goaltenders in the history of women’s hockey. This dynamic duo helped transform the Wisconsin Badgers into a national power in NCAA hockey. While Vetter graduated from Wisconsin holding the NCAA all-time record in wins and shutouts, Rigsby is on pace to surpass her wins records.
The torch will be passed sometime in November or December and Vetter could not ask for a better goalie to break her program record. Alex Rigsby was the fastest goaltender in NCAA history to win 60 games, and led Wisconsin to the 2011 Frozen Four as a freshman.
Although the FISU Winter Universiade (also known as the World Winter University Games) was supposed to be held in February 2013, the event was pushed back to December. Despite the delay, Canada possesses enough talent at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level to claim its third consecutive gold.
With elite forwards such as Melodie Daoust of McGill, and Alex Normore of St. Francis Xavier, the two will light up goaltenders throughout the tournament. In addition, the abundance of goaltending talent in the Canada West conference (including the legendary Danielle Dube at British Columbia) makes the Canadian squad difficult to beat at this tournament.
For many players in CIS, their only opportunity to represent Canada (due to the ever increasing Canadian talent in the NCAA), comes via the Winter Universiade. This is an extremely important event and the emotions that run high through this event make it one that Canada will try very hard to win.