A Canadian hockey periodical published a special edition featuring the best of everything in hockey. A section was devoted to the best women’s player, but there should have been a few more pages devoted to the women’s game. Features on the best women’s goaltender, the best women’s NCAA team, the best women’s prospect, and the best women’s coach would have been very much required.
In looking at the women’s game, these areas deserve to be reviewed. The best way for the women’s game to grow is to have these sports (and exclusively hockey) publications to cover the women’s game in more detail. A publication like The Hockey News could easily dedicate two full pages every issue to review the women’s game. If THN would dedicate those pages to the game, it would help to stimulate interest in the game and at least supply the casual fan with a handy resource. It is up to the fans to suggest to the periodicals to include more write ups on the game.
Despite the need to see an increase in the coverage on women’s hockey, the objective for now is to cover the features that should have been. While my selections may augment discussion and create debate, there is no numeric ranking for any of the players that are ranked. All players that are considered the best in their respective category are placed in alphabetical order.
*Best Women’s Goaltender
The key to parity in the international women’s game will be defined in its goaltending. Without Florence Schelling, Switzerland does not claim the bronze medal at the 2012 IIHF World Championships. Her goaltending abilities made the Northeastern Huskies an annual threat to compete for the Hockey East title. Deservedly, she was named 2012 Hockey East Player of the Year.
After leading the Minnesota Golden Gophers to the WCHA Postseason title, and the NCAA Frozen Four title, Noora Raty looked drained at the 2012 IIHF Worlds. Despite the performance of Finland, Raty was the factor in giving the Finns the opportunity to play for the bronze medal. Another elite goaltender who experienced a downturn at the 2012 Worlds was Zuzana Tomcikova. After being named Most Outstanding Player at the 2011 Worlds (and breaking many goaltending records at Bemidji State), she was between the pipes as Slovakia was relegated out of the Top Division. Despite this setback, Tomcikova is one of the pioneers of Slovakian women’s hockey, and she remains the only hope that Slovakia has to qualify for the 2014 Winter Games.
Szabados and Vetter played against each other in one of the most important games in the history of 21st Century
women’s ice hockey: the gold medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. The game signified a (turning point) for women’s ice hockey, as the television ratings proved that the game had touched the hearts and minds of many. More importantly, the outcome helped Canadian and American fans, and players alike earn a mutual respect for each other, melting the tensions that existed at the Winter Games in Nagano (1998) and Salt Lake (2002).
**Noora Raty (Finland)
**Florence Schelling (Switzerland)
**Shannon Szabados (Canada)
**Zuzana Tomcikova (Slovakia)
** Jessie Vetter (United States)
*Best Women’s NCAA Team
With Minnesota having recruited some of the top high school players in the state of Minnesota (including Ms. Hockey Award winner Hannah Brandt), the Gophers will find a way to remain competitive. Head coach Brad Frost is one of the elite coaches in the NCAA, and with Noora Raty returning for another season, the Gophers are poised to return to the Frozen Four.
Wisconsin is another team that has done like Minnesota, recruiting more talent from their home state. With Mark Johnson behind the bench, the Badgers have enjoyed multiple Frozen Four titles. 2012 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Brianna Decker is back for her senior season. Coupled with Alex Rigsby, the best American born goaltender in the NCAA, and team leader Lauren Unser, the Badgers will fight neck and neck with Minnesota to be the number one team in the nation.
With the graduation of Florence Schelling from Northeastern, and Genevieve Lacasse from Providence, Boston College and Boston University clearly stand out as the elite teams in Hockey East. Terriers goaltender Kerrin Sperry will have every opportunity to emerge as the top goaltender in Hockey East. In addition, the Terriers have Triple Gold Club member Marie-Philip Poulin, which makes everyone around her better. The Eagles, under the leadership of Katie King, have emerged as one of the best programs in the NCAA. Recruiting Alexandra Carpenter in 2011 makes her the jewel in the crown for the Eagles. As a freshman, Carpenter was a nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Award, and played in the NCAA Frozen Four. As Carpenter goes, so will the Eagles.
Although Harvard was able to recruit a superlative goaltender in Emerance Maschmeyer, the Cornell Big Red have too much talent to not finish first in the ECAC again. Lauren Slebodnick proved herself as the best backup goaltender in the NCAA, playing behind Amanda Mazzotta, and is ready to prove she is worthy of the starting position. Elite forwards Brianne Jenner and Jillian Saulnier provide enough firepower to carry the Big Red. Having recruited Canadian Under 18 National Team member Morgan Richardson (daughter of former NHLer Luke Richardson), the defense has a strong future.
**Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
**Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
**Cornell Big Red (ECAC Hockey)
**Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA)
**Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
*Best Women’s Prospect
The best women’s prospect is an NCAA or CWHL player under the age of 24 who has the most potential to be an impact player at the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Hannah Brandt was the winner of the 2012 Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award and participated in the US Training Camp for the 2012 IIHF Worlds. Heading to the University of Minnesota, one of her teammates will be Amanda Kessel. The younger sister of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel, Amanda is a superstar in her own right. An All-American in just her sophomore season, Kessel is proving that the best is yet to come.
With the graduation of Rebecca Johnston, Brianne Jenner is the best hope for the Cornell Big Red to contend for another national title. A member of the gold medal winning Canadian team at the 2012 IIHF Worlds, Jenner is an All-American selection and an early favourite to win the 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award.
The 2011-12 NCAA season was the final one for Natalie Spooner and Jennifer Wakefield, and both left their mark on the game. Spooner made her final season at Ohio State a memorable one by re-writing the Buckeyes record books. A remarkable talent, Spooner is poised to be the next Jennifer Botterill. She is the perfect complement to Gillian Apps, as both have played on the same line on the Canadian National Team. Wakefield seems like the next Jayna Hefford, a tireless skater with great puckhandling ability who always keeps cool. Having played with Isabel Menard and Marie-Philip Poulin, Wakefield won several awards during her senior season at Boston University. Of all her accolades, none were bigger than being named to the Hockey East 10th Anniversary Team.
**Hannah Brandt (United States)
**Brianne Jenner (Canada)
**Amanda Kessel (United States)
**Natalie Spooner (Canada)
**Jennifer Wakefield (Canada)
*Best Women’s Coach
**Danielle Goyette (Calgary Dinos)
** Katie King (Boston College Eagles)
** Shannon Miller (Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)
**Laura Schuler (Canadian Under 22 team)
**Katey Stone (Harvard Crimson)