Leading up to the 2018-19 National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) season, we'll be prepping fans for what lies ahead with capsule previews of each team.
First up: the league's newest addition, the Minnesota Whitecaps.
What Happened Last Season
This season will be the Whitecaps' first in the NWHL, after their addition to the league was announced earlier this offseason. The team has retained many of its players from last season, where they faced mostly collegiate teams in their schedule.
The team struggled last season, winning just two of its 13 games. Among the opponents the Whitecaps faced: Shattuck-St. Mary's School, Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Jack Brodt and Ronda Engelhardt will serve as co-head coaches for the Whitecaps' inaugural NWHL season.
Brodt co-founded the team in 2004 and has served as either head coach or co-head coach ever since then.
Engelhardt was an original member of the Whitecaps and was named Minnesota's Ms. Hockey in 1999. She also played with the Gophers and was named the WCHA's defensive player of the year twice. She is currently the only woman serving as a head coach in the NWHL.
Laura Slominski, another Whitecaps alumna, will be an assistant coach.
This Season's Roster
Forwards: Brandt, Schipper, Coyne, Thunstrom, Curtis, White-Lancette, Menke, Lundquist, McGovern, Funk, Lund, Schmid, Pezon (F/D), Barnes (F/D)
Defense: Stecklein, Boulier, Stauber, Eisenschmid, Brodt Brown, Brodt Rosenthal, Martinson, Schlagel
Goalies: Leveille, Rossman, Friend
Sat., 10/6 vs. MET
Sun., 10/7 vs. MET
Sat., 10/20 @ MET (at Prudential Center)
Sun., 10/21 @ MET
Sat., 10/27 vs. BUF
Sun., 10/28 vs. BUF
Sat., 12/1 vs. BOS
Sun., 12/2 vs. BOS
Sat., 12/29 @ BUF (at KeyBank Center)
Sun., 12/30 @ BUF
Sat., 1/12 @ BOS
Sun., 1/13 @ CT
Sat., 1/19 vs. CT
Sun., 1/20 vs. CT
Sat., 3/2 @ BOS
Sun., 3/3 @ CT
The Whitecaps are by and large the "wildcard" in the NWHL this season. It's hard to know exactly what to expect from them, given that they're a new team to the league and also that nearly all of their roster is new to the NWHL.
Having players like Olympian Kendall Coyne and Lee Stecklein on their roster is huge, and adding Amanda Leveille from the Beauts cannot be ignored. Leveille was arguably one of the NWHL's top goaltenders last season, and to have her–and Connecticut's Sydney Rossman–in tow will help bring some NWHL experience to the team.
Of course, just because there isn't a lot of NWHL experience on the Whitecaps doesn't speak to the team's level of play. Most of their roster has played for the Whitecaps organization at one point or another. They've got a number of storied players set to dress this season, with long-time team head coach Jack Brodt returning behind the bench. It's refreshing to see a woman added as a co-head coach as well.
It's a test for Minnesota to start the season, as they face the Isobel Cup Champions for the first four games–but then don't have to see them again all season. There are also some significant gaps in the Whitecaps' schedule; the team doesn't play any regular season games in the months of November or February at this point. It's expected that the team will setup several exhibition games against opponents including the British Columbia Thunderbirds and the Minnesota State Mavericks.
How will the Whitecaps do this season? It's anyone's guess, really. Overall, adding a fifth team to the league changes a lot of things–including playoff format–and it will certainly be an interesting season. The returning players are largely used to playing a schedule against collegiate teams, so facing other pro teams will likely be a welcome challenge for them. But with talent like Leveille, Brandt, and Coyne, the Whitecaps are in good shape for their first NWHL season.