Minnesota Whitecaps 21-22 Preview

Minnesota Whitecaps
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This weekend the Minnesota Whitecaps will hit the ice again in 21-22 in the Premier Hockey Federation or PHF (formerly NWHL) looking to win their second Isobel Cup. After winning the Cup in their inaugural NWHL season the Whitecaps have advanced to the Cup Final in each of the past two seasons, only to come away empty-handed – once because of covid (2020) and once because of the Boston Pride (2021).

If you’ve seen the Whitecaps play before you’ll recognize a lot of the names on the roster for the upcoming season, probably all of them. Nearly every player has played at one point or another in the state of Minnesota at some point in their lives or with each other.

Minnesota Whitecaps 21-22 Roster 

Goalie: Amanda Leveille, *Jenna Brenneman

Defense: Winny Brodt Brown, Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, Lisa Martinson, Emma Stauber, Maddie Rowe, Sara Bustad, *Taylor Turnquist, *Patti Marshall, *Mak Langei

Forward: Jonna Curtis, Allie Thunstrom, Audra Morrison, Nicole Schammel, *Ashleigh Brykaliuk, *Alex Woken, *Lexie Laing, Stephanie Anderson, Haley Mack, Haylea Schmid, Brooke White Lancette, Meaghan Pezon, Meghan Lorence

* = newcomer 

The regular season will be 20 games long, with Minnesota playing each of the other five franchises four times (two home, two road) apiece. The 21-22 season starts for the Whitecaps on the road against the Pride on Nov. 6 and the home opener at TRIA Rink is on Nov. 20 against Boston. 

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Once again Jack Brodt and Ronda Engelhardt will be behind the bench as co-head coaches, and captain Winny Brodt Brown is back for her 18th season, yes 18th with the Whitecaps for the 21-22 season.

“We’re definitely excited for the start of a new season, hopefully as close to a real season as possible and I think the girls are excited for that,” said co-head coach Ronda Engelhardt during PHF Media Day. “No matter the opponent, we are excited to be back on the ice.”

In a weird scheduling quirk, that opponent will be Boston for the first four games (two home, two road) of Minnesota’s fourth season in the NWHL/PHF. “It feels like the longest off-season ever, so now being five days away from flying to Boston we are super excited to be playing a game again,” said star winger Allie Thunstrom who was the co-MVP of the 2019-20 season behind a single-season record of 24 goals.

“We have some unfinished business from last year because we didn’t win that final game. Starting the season with our first four games against Boston, it’s an opponent we’re going to get to know, and know really well during our first two series of the year.”

There are seven new players on the Whitecaps 21-22 roster this season, eight if you include Nicole Schammel who wasn’t signed last season but was an All-Star in the previous one as a rookie.

“We always want to grow and continue to get better, so we’re excited about all of our newcomers and bringing Schammel back to the team. It’s always our goal to be one of the top teams,” Englehardt said. “Our strength has always been having more than one line to contribute offensively. We have newcomers at every position and ready to go.”

On the backend, Minnesota will miss Amanda Boulier (Boston) and former Gopher Sydney Baldwin but were able to retain six defenders from last season’s team and signed Taylor Turnquist away from the Pride plus their top 2021 Draft Pick in Mak Langei (Bemidji State). At least to start the season, Turnquist will be paired with Brodt Brown.

“You always say how old you are, but I think it’s just a number. I see guys playing in the NHL that are older than me – and that’s a lot more physical, a lot faster. For me, it’s all a mindset,” said the living legend. “I’m feeling good and yeah my game has changed immensely from when I was young. I was a very offensive D, now I’m a defensive D; I let the younger players like Taylor Turnquist – just go, go have fun. I’ll be here in the back.”

“I think it’s really neat that myself, Ronda, and Allie have been around this team a long time, including my dad – and we’ve all been here through all of the different stages of the franchise,” added Brodt Brown. “It’s awesome to see the women’s game continue to evolve, and that’s what it’s going to take (to keep going). To be part of this season with the name change to the PHF, I think it will help to grow our game as big as we can.”

Brodt Brown could easily walk away from the game if she wanted, and it sounded like she contemplated it this summer (I hope I misread that!). So why come back for another season?

“I love to play the game, and I love being around my teammates. After playing all this time I couldn’t have my last game be in Boston, to be honest. And lose. So whenever anyone asked me I just say I’m a Minnesota kid and that’s not how I wanna go out.”

Chances are with the team assembled this season she may have a chance to go out on top if she so chooses.