It feels like a lifetime ago (four months ago right before Easter) that I spoke with the NWHL’s two premier goaltenders about the then-upcoming Isobel Cup Final. The championship game had been postponed at that time and was eventually scrapped in mid-May.
Both Lovisa Selander of the Boston Pride and Amanda Leveille of the Minnesota Whitecaps talked about finding ways to stay ready to play, a possible best-of-three series, and the magnificent seasons that they each had.
To recap: Selander won NWHL Goaltender of the Year (as a rookie) and led the league in wins (17), save percentage (.941), and goals-against average (1.71) in the 18 games she played in. The 17 wins are an NWHL single-season record. Leveille finished second in all of those categories (16 wins, .935 save %, and a 2.08 GAA), led the league in shutouts (3), and is the NWHL’s all-time leader in wins (43).
In the playoffs, they turned it up a notch (if that is even possible) as Leveille (a two-time Isobel Cup winner) posted a shutout (1-0 in overtime), and Selander turned aside 29 of the 30 shots she faced.
As collegiate players, Leveille won three NCAA titles with the University of Minnesota and Selander left Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with the NCAA Division I record for career saves (4,167). Both were selected in the NWHL Draft – Selander (20th overall by Boston in 2018), Leveille (12th overall by Buffalo in 2015) and both were All-Stars this past season, with Selander named All-Star Game MVP.
There was a lot of chatter before and during the NWHL season that the “best players” weren’t playing in the league this season, but I defy you to find two better goaltenders in women’s hockey currently. Their resumes and their play on the ice speaks for itself.
When I reached out to both netminders this past week about reworking the article, they both replied (within minutes of one another) similarly: asking that I make sure I only use good quotes! Here is some of what we spoke about right before Easter Sunday.
Season In Review
Leveille: Starting the season the goal for me and my team is to put ourselves in a position to be able to compete for the Isobel Cup and we did that. There were times during the season where we didn’t have the best starts to games or best finish to games and games where I gave up goals that I don’t think I should have given up. The ultimate goal for me, in every game, is to give my team the opportunity to win that game and to be there for them when they need me to be. For me, overall it was a good season.
Selander: I’m really happy with how the season went. We had such a good team, we had fun at practices, games, and road trips. It was a fun environment to be in and play in. I’m really missing it all right now, especially hanging out with my teammates. Playing professionally was something I was definitely interested in. Technically, I played at the highest division in Sweden before I went to college when I was a teenager, so I wanted to try something new and stay here, see what this league was like and what the players were like. I’m very happy with my decision.
Watching Video of Your Opponent
Selander: I usually don’t watch too much. I never really did it too much in college, either. I like to maybe look at their power play to see what type of plays they run. I kind of just go into every game assuming that a shooter is the best shooter in the world and just stay ready for anything.
Leveille: As a team, before everything was halted, we were all watching some video together to come up with some solutions for playing against the Boston Pride because they are a phenomenal team from top to bottom. For me personally, I always watch game film, so I rewatched the games we played against Boston. Just trying to pick up on little tendencies of how I’m playing, and how they play.
Staying Ready to Play
Leveille: It’s a little bit tricky because this is uncharted territory. Our whole season was building up towards this game, the only difference now is we don’t know when the game will be. With all of the rinks being shut down, it does make it a bit difficult. But I always have thought it’s good to take a little bit of a break, from my perspective I do that after a hockey season and I always feel refreshed.
I feel like I end up in a better headspace to be more productive on the ice. We’ve all seen the videos of our MVP (Allie Thunstrom) taking a lot of shots and doing different exercises and I’m confident that everyone on our team is doing the same thing.
Selander: It’s been a little interesting with gyms and rinks being closed. You kind of just do what you can from home. I try to run when I can. I ordered a pair of Bauer rollerblades so I’ll be skating around town (when I can). You just take the break, relax for a little bit, and get back into shape. With the situation being so unique and no one knows when we are going to play, you just keep working, stay safe, stay healthy, and go from there.
Leveille: I’ve never been someone who has adored going to the workout room or a gym. But during this time when we don’t have that much to do I’ve actually enjoyed doing some workouts (laughs). Hopefully that’s a habit that I can take away from this period. As frustrating as it is that I can’t get on the ice and be with my teammates, there are some habits that we can improve on, and that’s one for me.
Selander: I don’t know if I do more or less than any of my teammates. It’s weird to be in ‘spring mode’ and not be able to go lift (weights) at a gym.
Update: Selander has been hitting the ice with small groups of her teammates in Massachusetts recently.
Selander: I would love a best-of-3! I would love it in a normal situation. Let’s add some extra games!
Leveille: Is that an option?! I haven’t really thought about that, but whatever the NWHL decides going forward, we’ll roll with it. Our goal doesn’t change whether it’s one game or three games. I wouldn’t mind either one because both teams are in the same scenario, and there’s no advantage for us or the Pride. Whatever it is, we’ll be excited and ready to play.
Obviously, the game wasn’t played and we never got to see who was the Queens of the Mountain in the NWHL’s fifth season. But it would be kind of neat to see Boston and Minnesota face-off to kick off the upcoming season in January.
The NHL’s annual Winter Classic is (still tentatively) scheduled to take place in Minnesota on Friday, January 1, 2021, at Target Field in Minnesota. Maybe have the Pride and Whitecaps play before or after the Minnesota Wild tangle with the St. Louis Blues.
Regardless of whether it’s indoors, outdoors, or in bubble wrap, we can’t wait to see Selander, Leveille, and all of the NWHL players on the ice again.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.