Record: 10-11-3, 33 points
Final Standings: 4th overall (of 7)
Playoffs: Lost in Isobel Cup Final
Ownership: NLTT Hockey Ventures
Head Coach: Vacant
General Manager: Chi-Yin Tse
Leading Scorer: Natalie Snodgrass - 20 points (10G, 10A) in 22 games
Top Goalie: Amanda Leveille, 9-6-0-2, .923 sv% and 2.43 GAA
Overall, the Minnesota Whitecaps had a decent season, but it certainly had its ups and downs. After starting out the season with a four-game losing streak, the team flipped back and forth for a bit. They then went on a six-game winning streak that helped propel them up the standings – but followed that with an eight-game losing skid to finish the regular season. They squeezed their way into the Isobel Cup Playoffs, just three points – the equivalent of one regulation win – ahead of the fifth-place Riveters.
It's always fun when the lowest seed takes down the highest, and that's exactly what the Whitecaps did in the semifinals. They easily swept the first-place Boston Pride with a pair of three-goal wins, propelling them to the Isobel Cup Final against the Toronto Six. The Six came out victorious with a 4-3 overtime win – but it was really that close.
The Whitecaps didn't have a perfect season, but that's the beauty of hockey. A team can end the regular season on an eight-game losing streak but go on to sweep the top seed and make it to the championship game. In the end, they were really just one goal away from winning it all – a trend throughout the regular season, too, as 10 of their 24 games were decided by a single goal.
By the numbers, the Whitecaps were average. Their power play was second-best in the PHF at 20 percent, while their penalty kill was effective at 83 percent. They scored at a rate of 2.4 goals per game – not spectacular, but not awful. Amanda Leveille carried most of the workload in net, but when she went down with injury, Jenna Brenneman stepped up. Brenneman ended the season with a 1-5-0-1 record and 3.18 GAA. Leveille returned in time for the playoffs and backstopped her team to the Final, comparing favorably to Boston's Corinne Schroeder.
As a franchise, the Whitecaps have made it to the Isobel Cup Final in four of their five seasons in the PHF. Historically, they have been an impressive, well put-together team, and it shows in their successes.
The Whitecaps struggled mightily on home ice this season, going 3-8-1 in their first season at Richfield Ice Arena. Conversely, the Whitecaps found a lot of success on the road, going 7-3-2. The disparity between their home and road records is certainly interesting, though there may be no rhyme or reason to it. Either way, they'll have to find ways to succeed; their lease at Richfield goes through April 2038.
- vs. Boston: 0-2-2 (outscored 17-9)
- vs. Buffalo: 2-2-0 (outscored opp. 11-9)
- vs. Connecticut: 1-3-0 (outscored 11-5)
- vs. Metropolitan: 4-0-0 (outscored opp. 15-7)
- vs. Montreal: 3-1-0 (outscored opp. 13-9)
- vs. Toronto: 0-3-1 (outscored 14-5)
Last summer, the Whitecaps signed just two players to two-year contracts: Sidney Morin and Ashleigh Brykaliuk. Assuming both of them will return, it would also seem logical for Minnesota to re-sign at least a handful more players from this past season. Being the outlier geographically among teams in the PHF, it makes more sense for players to re-sign if they're willing and able, unless they're hoping to relocate across the country.
Natalie Snodgrass had a solid showing in her rookie season in the PHF, and I'd expect similar results from her in her sophomore season. Jonna Albers continues to be an offensive threat and one of the big leaders on the Whitecaps team. Adding even just one or two bigger name players who can contribute alongside these two offensively would help push the team closer to the top of the standings again.
The ownership folks at NLTT Ventures, along with GM Tse, would be wise to look at some of prominent graduating college players in the Minnesota area. Minnesota natives Taylor Heise and Grace Zumwinkle, both members of the U.S. women's national team who have finished up their fifth years as Golden Gophers, come to mind as two players who the Whitecaps should be reaching out to – if they aren't destined for the PWHL.
Some change is afoot with the organization, as they're currently searching for a new head coach. The Whitecaps recently parted ways with Ronda Engelhardt following her first season running solo as head coach. She was with the Whitecaps organization for five seasons, and is departing after being hired as an amateur scout by the NHL's Nashville Predators in 2022. Between her departure and that of Jack Brodt a few years ago, this is really the beginning of a new era for the organization. The Whitecaps will be looking for more of an identity next season, and they now have a background of scrappy wins and surprise upsets to build on.
(Photo: Kayla Franz)