Under the radar and other themes

Carmen MacDonald (St. Lawrence - 30) and Brooke Fernandez (St. Lawrence - 10) clear the puck away from Sally Butler (Princeton - 10). (Shelley M. Szwast)

This week, in keeping with the holiday season, we’re making some lists, but not checking them twice, because everyone knows there is no checking in women’s hockey.

I say “we” because this type of endeavor works best with audience participation. Even a big fan of the game is going to miss far more of the action across the country than that person will see, so it is useful to have input from multiple perspectives. So please point out glaring omissions, as I can assure you that they are plentiful.

Under-recognized veterans
Everyone knows the roster of the team that he or she follows most closely, and most of the players for that squad’s rivals. Then there are likely another couple dozen players that are familiar to most fans in country.

Beyond that, there are some excellent hockey players that progress through careers with far too few plaudits. This is an attempt to note some people that are vital to the success of their teams, but may be forgotten when all-conference awards are made. What types of players should be included? At forward, think of someone like Carolyne Prévost. Not the 2011-12 version. Once she was placed on a scoring line with Brianna Decker and Brooke Ammerman, everyone knew Prévost and what she could do. But through her first three years, she toiled in relative anonymity, flying up and down a wing in whatever role had been assigned to her, and making timely plays to help the Badgers to two national titles.

A good example of a defenseman from past rosters was Marlee Wheelhouse of Bemidji State. At first glance, Wheelhouse was too small to play defense at this level. However, she was utterly fearless. Once the game began, the 5-foot-1-inch dynamo was everywhere, yet always where she was supposed to be. Most often, that was in the path of an opponent’s shot. A player like Erika Lawler would sometimes have difficulty leaving the ice at the end of the shift because she had totally emptied the tank and was running on fumes. In the case of Wheelhouse, she’d occasionally have to struggle off the ice with a limb that had been temporarily disabled by an opponent’s blast. That’s not the only way to stand out. Every time I’d watch Amanda Young of Cornell, I’d think, “Wow, that defenseman is fast!” With teammates like Laura Fortino and Laurianne Rougeau playing the same position, it was tough for her to generate buzz.

Brianne McLaughlin is a goaltender who symbolizes this category. Robert Morris was a new program during her years with the Colonials, and when their bus rolled into town, more than one opponent must have already been subconsciously counting those dates on the schedule as wins. Only after McLaughlin stole a few games from ranked teams did people come to realize the magnitude of her talent.

When looking for this type of player on current rosters, my thoughts initially go to someone like Minnesota’s Kelly Terry. A wing on the Gophers’ second line through the first year and a half of her career, she has mostly been found centering the third line of late, so that role would definitely qualify. Her playing style would as well, as Terry rolls up and down the ice for shift after shift, harassing any poor soul attempting to carry the puck up ice against her. But given she’s tied for 30th in the country in scoring and is included on the Canadian U-22 roster, her profile is likely already too high.

In no particular order, here are some players that I believe tend to fly even farther beneath the radar.

Alison Wickenheiser, sophomore forward, Lindenwood. Hockey fans are very familiar with her name, but likely only the surname. The assumption may be that the Lions’ roster is devoid of skill, but Wickenheiser serves as a skating contradiction of that premise. She’ll set scoring marks that future classes in St. Charles, Mo., will attempt to reach.

Tracy McCann, junior forward, Minnesota State. McCann always seems to be in the middle of good things for the Mavericks. That’s impressive, considering in many of their games that I’ve watched, her team gets less than its share of good things. She’s one of only two players on the team without a negative plus/minus rating.

Nicole Anderson, senior forward, Providence. Anderson has really stepped up her production in the wake of the graduation of several top forwards for the Friars. She’s already exceeded her point total from any of her three previous seasons.

Brooke Fernandez and Amanda Boulier, senior and sophomore defensemen, St. Lawrence. While the Saints top line and goaltender attracted much of the attention last season, the blue-line duo of Fernandez and Boulier was vital to the Saints’ postseason run. This season, they rank third and second in points and are tied for the team lead at plus-6 for a team that has only scored one more goal than it has allowed.

Aubree Moore, junior goaltender, Brown. Having to share time with a quality netminder in senior Katie Jamieson has definitely limited Moore’s opportunities. She’s made the most of them, and appearing in the top 10 for both goals-against average and save percentage while playing for a lower-ranked team like Brown is a definite accomplishment.

Rookies to watch
The previous list focused on players with some experience who have been overshadowed to this point. Here is a set of rookies whose time in the shadows will reach an end long before college eligibility is exhausted. I’m not including those like Erin Ambrose of Clarkson or Hannah Brandt of Minnesota, because they possess a scoring prowess that demanded an immediate spotlight.

Shannon Yoxheimer, forward, Penn State. New programs need young players that generate excitement. Yoxheimer leads the team in both points and goals, and her ability to put the puck in the net against opponents like Robert Morris offers hope that her output will not end now that no games versus Sacred Heart remain.

Julia McKinnon, forward, Ohio State. Few freshmen have found the net more than McKinnon at this point of the season. Her combination of size, speed, and hands suggests that she is someone that OSU can build around in the future.

Lexi Bender, defenseman, Boston College. While watching BC early this season, I often found myself looking at a roster to find the name of the player wearing 21 for the Eagles. And yes, that’s because she had done something positive for her team. On a team with a lot of speed, hers stood out.

Kate Martini, defenseman, Yale. When’s the last time a defenseman for the Bulldogs showed up anywhere other than an opponent’s highlight video? You’d have to go back to the days of Helen Resor. But Martini is in the top four for scoring by rookies on the blue line, and playing for an offensively-challenged team like Yale, that’s something.

Emerance Maschmeyer, goaltender, Harvard. OK, so I’m kind of cheating on this one. However, there may be some that aren’t yet that familiar with Maschmeyer because she’s only played four games. She’ll cement her NCAA reputation sooner rather than later.

Amanda Leveille, goaltender, Minnesota. Unlike the Crimson rookie, Leveille’s first season figures to require her to be far more patient. Possessing many of the same traits as Noora Räty, such as quickness, athleticism, and competitiveness, a year as her understudy may serve Leveille well in the long term.

Those are players I’ve noticed; tell me what you’ve seen.