Melissa Burgess

NWHL Notebook: Recent Signings

(Photo: Melissa Burgess)

Since my last NWHL notebook, there have been eight additional signings reported, plus some reported coaching news (or rather, non-news).

That being said, let's start with the coaching news. Robb Stauber, who had previously spoken to the Minnesota Star-Tribune and told them he was going to be head coach of the Whitecaps, will reportedly not be coaching the NWHL team.

The news comes from Salim Nadim Valji, a CTV/TSN reporter.

The NWHL had never officially named Stauber the head coach, with no media release sent out about it. A Tweet from the Whitecaps' official Twitter account, proclaiming that Robb and his wife Shivaun would be working with the team, has since been deleted.

Stauber spoke earlier this week at a rally for Donald Trump in Duluth, Minnesota, causing many women's hockey fans and reporters alike to question his coaching status and how appropriate (or rather, inappropriate) such a hiring would be.

Whitecaps Add Olympic Power

While the Whitecaps now apparently don't have a coach after all, they do have two more players on their roster: Hannah Brandt and Lee Stecklein. Both won gold with the US women's national team in Pyeongchang, and previously played at the University of Minnesota. They'll join Amanda Leveille on the Whitecaps' inaugural NWHL roster.

"It's already an incredible organization and hopefully we can take it to another level," Brandt said. "Women’s hockey in Minnesota gets bigger every year, and I look forward to seeing the impact a women’s professional team will have."

In addition to the Olympics, Brandt and Stecklein won collegiate (NCAA) championships together in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Brandt, a forward, and Stecklein, a defender, were both previously drafted by other teams in the NWHL. With no draft tax this year, Connecticut and Buffalo miss out.

"I'm really proud to join the NWHL as part of the Whitecaps, an organization with a long and rich history in the state of Minnesota." Stecklein said. "It's particularly gratifying to be part of this with the Brodt family, who have had a huge impact on my playing career. It would be great to win the Isobel Cup for Minnesota," she added.

In four seasons at Minnesota, Brandt put up 285 points (115G, 170A) in just 158 games, including a career-high 82 points in her freshman season (2012-13). She was strong on special teams, with a total of 29 goals there, but also blocked 91 shots.

She also received a number of accolades over the years, including being twice named a top-three Patty Kazmaier finalist.

Stecklein was at Minnesota from 2012-2017, but she did not play during the 2013-14 season, redshirting to spend the year training with the USWNT and playing in the 2014 Olympics, where she won silver as the youngest member of the team.

Over the four seasons she did play collegiate hockey, Stecklein appeared in 157 games, notching a plus-137 rating and adding eight special-teams goals. She also had 189 shot blocks. She captained the team in her senior season.

Beauts Re-Sign Three

While the Beauts may have missed out on Stecklein, they've added three more players to their roster for the upcoming NWHL season, all returning players. Forward Jordan Juron, defender Jacquie Greco, and goaltender Julia DiTondo will all be back in Buffalo next season.

Juron joined the Beauts late last season after four seasons at Boston University. In two games with Buffalo, she had a goal and an assist. During her time with the Terriers, she put up 40 points (15G, 25A) in 141 career games. She also played alongside Beauts forward Maddie Elia in Boston.

"I am so excited to be back on the ice for the Beauts for a full season," Juron said. "Buffalo is my new home, and I can't wait to make the fans proud."

Also returning to Buffalo is Greco, who is set for her third season in the NWHL. She won the NWHL Foundation Award last season and previously played with Syracuse, including serving as a tri-captain.

Greco has appeared in 33 NWHL games to date. She is also employed by Pegula Sports & Entertainment (the Beauts' ownership) as a hospitality marketing manager, and works as a Learn To Play coach with the Buffalo Sabres.

"I know our team will feed off of the momentum from last season and finish with the outcome we want in 2019," she said. "I'm excited to play in front of the best fans in the league and to continue to inspire the next generations for our sport."

Finally, DiTondo will be one of three goalies the Beauts will likely carry this season. (Nicole Hensley is the other, previously signed.) She has yet to make her official NWHL debut, but did appear in one preseason game last season.

Like several other Beauts, including Greco, DiTondo is a Western New York native. She previously played for Mercyhurst University.

Riveters Re-Sign Goalies

The Metropolitan Riveters solidified at least one position for next season, re-signing all three of their netminders from the Isobel Cup-winning team. Katie Fitzgerald, Sarah Bryant, and Kim Sass will all be back with the team.

Fitzgerald, one of the league's top goaltenders, was named MVP of the Isobel Cup playoffs. She's also a two-time NWHL All-Star and was named Goaltender of the Year in 2017. Fitzgerald also recently participated in USA Hockey's goaltending development camp.

This past season, Fitzgerald was unstoppable in net, going 12-3-0 with an astounding 1.87 GAA and .920 save percentage. She shut out both the Whale and Beauts in the Isobel Cup playoffs to help win her team the championship.

"The NWHL is always a place with incredible talent and competition," she said. "I'm excited to continue to learn and grow with these amazing people."

Bryant appeared in two games in the 2016-17 NWHL season, while Sass appeared in one game last season -- and won, to keep the Riveters' winning streak alive at the time. The duo previously played collegiate hockey at Providence and Colgate, respectively.

"Since the first day I stepped into the locker room of the Riveters, I knew the organization was where I wanted to remain," Sass said. "Sarah, Katie, and I have a very competitive, yet supportive, relationship, and I cannot wait to see it continue."

As of June 22, twenty players have signed on for the NWHL's fourth season. The Boston Pride and Connecticut Whale have still not announced any signings.

NWHL Schedule News

The Boston Pride will play an exhibition game against the Northeastern Huskies at historic Matthews Arena on September 22.

In addition, the Minnesota Whitecaps will reportedly face Minnesota-Duluth's college team on September 22 and November 3; the Ohio State team on January 4 and 5; and Bemidji State on February 2.

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