Women’s Hockey Top 6: Amanda Kessel skating; Thunder struck; big, bad Whale



Back in July 2015, Puck Daddy reported Amanda Kessel’s NCAA career was over due to concussions. It was a huge blow to the women’s game because of the bonafide star power and natural talent the American-born Kessel brought. 

It’s still very early, but Kessel’s career might not be over just yet.

According to Brad Schlossman of The Grand Forks Harold, Kessel began skating back in December with the University of Minnesota team. With a semester of NCAA eligibility left, Kessel could theoretically join the Gophers for the rest of this season. 

“At this point, there are so many unknowns in regards to (her playing),” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “This is a step in the progression with her rehab.

“Amanda was the best player in the world when she played here last. One of the things we wanted is to get her as healthy as possible.”

This is a huge step forward for Kessel, but we don’t want to speculate on what this might mean for her future.


It’s not difficult to assume that if Kessel does come back to play and does not regress in her health, there is going to be a big – BIG – play from the NWHL and CWHL to get her to join their league. One player to watch in all of this is the independent Minnesota Whitecaps. Should the team decide not to join the NWHL or CWHL next season, they could also court Kessel to join the chunk of Team USA players not in the NWHL. 

At full strength she has the opportunity to be the Connor McDavid of the women’s leagues but that shouldn’t come at the cost of her long-term health. 

2. Denna Laing update.

On Friday, the Denna Laing Team posted a message from Denna on Facebook about what she’s gone through and the challenges ahead. Her positivity and strength resonate throughout the message. Following up the Facebook message, she posted a video on Monday night from her hospital bed declaring, “I’m back.” Her smile is infectious.

Support continues to roll in through the website DennaLaing.org (DONATE!) and other outlets online. Like this tweet from noted Bostonian, (Marky) Mark Wahlberg:


And a VERY RICH guy who used to be the governor of the state of Massachusetts:


And someone who know’s what could lay ahead for Denna all too well, Jack Jablonski:


Kate Cimini of Today’s Slapshot tweeted out a message from GoFundMe regarding the status of the donations accepted earlier before the Laing family requested the campaign freeze.



  1 2 3 OT TOTAL  
Calgary Inferno 0 2 1 0 3  
Brampton Thunder 1 2 0 1 4  
  1 2 3 TOTAL    
Les Canadiennes 1 2 2 5    
Toronto Furies 1 0 0 1    
  1 2 3 OT SO TOTAL
Calgary Inferno (12-2-2) 3 3 1 0 0 7
Brampton Thunder (13-5-0) 1 4 2 0 1 8
  1 2 3 TOTAL    
Les Canadiennes (12-2-0) 0 2 1 3    
Toronto Furies (4-13-1) 0 1 0 1    

3. Laura Fortino leads Brampton’s offense sweep of Calgary.

It was a huge weekend for Laura Fortino of the Brampton Thunder. The defenseman scored 7-points over two games for the Thunder. In Game 1, she recorded 3 assists, which included a setup for the overtime game winner by Candice Styles. In Game 2, offense went into hyperdrive for both teams, combining for 14 goals in regulation. Fortino’s 2 goals for Brampton in the final 10 minutes of the third pushed the game to overtime. Jamie Lee Rattray cemented the weekend series sweep for Brampton in the shootout.

4. Charline Labonte is the best netminder in Montreal.

At least, she is while that one guy is out of the lineup.

For the first time since mid-November, Les Canadiennes netminder Charline Labonte faced 20-plus shots against in back to back games. Getting to a record of 10-1-0 has been relatively easy for Labonte considering she hasn’t had to do much work; something she should be thanking her defense for, in addition to her Gord-given talent.

Montreal was able to contain the offensive wizardry of Natalie Spooner. The Toronto forward is currently second in overall points in the CWHL with 23. Over two games against Les Canadiennes, Spooner netted only a goal and an assist.


  1 2 3 TOTAL
New York Riveters 1 0 2 3
Connecticut Whale 1 2 1 4
  1 2 3 TOTAL
New York Riveters (3-8-1) 0 0 1 1
Boston Pride (8-3-1) 1 4 3 8
  1 2 3 TOTAL
Buffalo Beauts (2-8-2) 0 1 2 3
Connecticut Whale (11-1-0) 3 0 2 5

5. Big bad Whale.

The Connecticut Whale are emerging as the NWHL’s version of the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks. They are absolutely brutal to play against without sacrificing scoring. So far, they have a league high 2 players who have been suspended for on-ice incidents; yet, the team has only dropped one game.

Look at the current stats by team:

The Whale lead the league in penalty minutes and have 60 more PIMs than the team that is near them in scoring differential. Lucky for the Whale, they have a tremendous penalty kill that is clicking at 85.1-percent.

6. Boston back to who we thought they were.

The Pride have had a more difficult season than they anticipated but glimpses of the juggernaut they could be re-emerged against New York. As the old adage goes, “Your best players have to be your best players” in order to win, so when Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, and Jillian Dempsey each have a 3 point night, that’s a good sign. However, the Riveters were in their second game of back-to-backs on the road and that could have contributed to their loss.

Next weekend the Pride and Whale play each other in Boston. There will be blood.