The National Women's Hockey League is currently in its offseason following its sixth year of play, but things have been anything but normal over the past few weeks. A lot has transpired recently, and it appears as though this could be the tip of the iceberg.
The CWHL is still on holiday break, but will begin action again this weekend. With a little time off, here's a midseason review of the teams so far, along with some midseason awards.
The Women's Winter Classic, featuring Les Canadiennes and the Boston Pride, was officially announced on Monday. Since several Pride players are currently with USA Hockey, the team filled in the roster with local NWHL players. The game will take place on December 31 at 2 PM.
MVP: Natalie Spooner
This was a tough call to make, especially with Genevieve Lacasse's play. But Spooner has been a big reason for Toronto's offensive outbreak of late. She ended the first half of the season on a five-game scoring streak with 14 points over those contests. Not only is she an explosive player on her own, but she frees up space for her teammates -- and she's been taking advantage of that, too.
Best Goaltender: Genevieve Lacasse
Lacasse has been incredible in net. She has the CWHL record for saves and leads the league with 741 stops this season alone. The Blades may not be winning, but Lacasse has been a rock in net. Lacasse, along with defender Tara Watchorn, have led a patchwork defense that's inexperienced and still learning.
Best Coach: Tyler Fines
After all of last year's struggles, Brampton needed a change. The Thunder hired Tyler Fines to lead a rebounding team, and he's done an excellent job making Brampton into a contender. The Thunder have also proven that they can compete with the league's elite, beating Les Canadiennes before the winter break.
The Inferno entered the season as the best CWHL team on paper with plenty of power and a lot of depth. And they've been the best team in the league, using a star-studded roster to claim first place in the standings so far. The Inferno have only lost two games this season -- one to Les Canadiennes, and the other to Toronto. While Calgary is a great team with a lot of depth, they still have room to improve defensively.
Scoring leader: Elana Lovell (19 points)
The Thunder are second in the CWHL, just six points behind Calgary and two points ahead of Les Canadiennes. Under head coach Tyler Fines, the Thunder have been the surprise team of the CWHL. Getting a win over Les Canadiennes before the break was a huge confidence booster for Brampton, who had a string of wins against Boston. The Thunder have a good goaltending tandem in Erica Howe and Liz Knox, who lead the CWHL in save percentages, with .933 and .921 respectively.
Scoring leader: Jamie Lee Rattray (18 points)
Les Canadiennes are just two points behind Brampton in the standings. They have the league's best line in Marie-Philip Poulin, Caroline Ouellette, and Ann-Sophie Bettez. The trio hasn't disappointed, as they've combined for 47 points in the first half. But outside of that top line, Les Canadiennes don't have the scoring depth that the Inferno do. And if you shut down that top line, you can win -- which Brampton has proved.
Scoring Leader: Marie-Philip Poulin (19 points)
We still haven't seen the type of team Toronto can be, mostly because injuries have kept starters Julie Allen and Jenelle Kohancuhk out for the season thus far. But the Furies have been improving. They've gotten good goaltending from Christina Kessler, and are now getting an offensive spark driven by Natalie Spooner's scoring outbreak. If the Furies get healthy soon (and they're hoping to) they can be a dangerous team.
Scoring Leader: Natalie Spooner (19 points)
The Blades are last in the league and haven't earned a regulation win this season. The statistics tell a story of a struggling team, but there weren't many expectations for the Blades, given the offseason departures. While the Blades may not be winning, they're a much improved team from the start of the season. The young, inexperienced team has been growing, and also has the benefits of veterans like Genevieve Lacasse and Tara Watchorn.
Scoring Leader: Erin Kickham (7 points)
CWHL All-Star Game
For the All-Star Game, the CWHL is holding fan voting to choose captains for the All-Star Game.
As of Monday morning, Les Canadiennes' Julie Chu is leading all players with 22.09 percent of the votes. Toronto's Natalie Spooner is second with 20.99 percent. Brampton's Candice Styles has 15.84 percent, and Marie-Philip Poulin has 11.24 percent.
(Photo credit: Toronto Furies/Twitter)
Filed under: cwhl; Toronto Furies; les canadiennes de montreal; brampton thunder; calgary inferno; boston blades; ice hockey; natalie spooner; genevieve lacasse
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