Clutch N’ Crab Hockey Weekend Preview 008: Women’s Edition

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS (1-0-1) at NEUMANN UNIVERSITY and MANHATTANVILLE COLLEGE

After a solid first weekend for new head coach Tori Emoff, the Mustangs go on the road and hope to keep their shutout streak alive and well against two conference rivals. While the goaltending was sharp, the offense did have some chances despite the scoreboard telling different. Once this team rounds into shape with the game play, they could make some noise in the conference moving forward.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND TERRAPINS (7-2-0) at VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY

A split weekend should slow the Lady Terps down much, as their offense is still probably one of the most feared in the Delaware Valley Conference. Angeline King and Alix McKillop have 14 goals a piece in nine games, while Eleanor VanVranken joins King and McKillop in the 20-point club already this season, which is top in the conference. Though Villanova has only played two games, the Terps shouldn’t take them lightly, as they trounced Towson last weekend.

NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMEN (6-3-1) at UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO, MERCYHURST UNIVERSITY, and ROCHESTER INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

After a one-game weekend, the Middies will go on a showcase weekend a Mercyhurst playing three games in three days at very odd times. After a big win last weekend to break a three-game skid, the Mids will look to get back to form that had them dominant in the beginning of the season with scoring that was second to none in the league, with Maggie Madigan leading the way with 21 points so far this season. The Mids haven’t given up many shots either, only giving up 21.8 shots per game to their opponents.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY TIGERS (1-4-0) at ROWAN UNIVERSITY and WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY

After a tough 9-1 loss last weekend, the Tigers will face another tough task against Rowan– who has only let up two goals in their six games– and West Chester; as both teams are undefeated this season. There’s always a fighter’s chance for a win, but for a team not average that many goals on the year and only one goal in their last three– it’ll be an uphill climb. Emily Sellers will need to hype the team up offensively and hope they follow her in the scoring department.

Make It Happen, NHL; You Cowards: Women’s Hockey Edition

Huge preface as I know nothing of the inner workings of the NHL or the NWHL, but I do have an idea what would turn casual women’s hockey fan to an appointment fan.

Beyond the Olympics and World Championships, you need to have some kind of league to display these great athletes in their field. I’ve said it before on a podcast and on this blog that the women never to do a year-long tour to major cities to get people to know these athletes more (check with the Dream Gap Tour) and then they need the NHL to be involved somehow in a league in order to take off.

Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada that The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian transcribed with her emphasis being a big reason for this post. Salvian also pointed out that Katie Strang wrote something in May about a WNHL for The Athletic, but the Friedman stamp is one that shows there’s some progress to it.

“If the time ever becomes necessary” and “in case” are interesting buzz words. The fact there’s this secret contingency plan that the NHL is holding onto seems like something that shouldn’t be a contingency plan at all. They tout Hockey is for Everyone and tout this Female Hockey Advisory Committee, but still hasn’t pulled the trigger on this league under the NHL banner?? What are you waiting for, you cowards!?

There will be a blow-back because people inherently think the way the NHL runs things isn’t the most ideal– but if the independent entities for women’s pro hockey hasn’t been able to make it profitable yet, you need to have the NHL’s back behind it– if for nothing else but to build a better business structure to make the players profitable and the league a boom for professional sports. Then, once things get good and there’s some semblance of structure on the higher end of things; the NHL stops taking full reign and more and more independence of the NHL happens, though it has the marketing and media backing behind it.

All due respect, but the NWHL being on Twitch isn’t going to be something that casual people will surf to when they’re looked for “Fortnite” streams. That’s a place where people who have appointments for the games go to, but you get it on NBCSN or even the NHL Network– it’s a big bump in eyes to the programs. The inability to have an accessible television coverage of the games is the downfall of pro hockey for the female side of it. The main stream coverage is needed because what happens after the Olympics if people can’t readily find the feed on their television or streaming service?? They’ll lose interest and move along until the next four years roll around.

If the NHL wants to do it and FOR SOME UNGODLY REASON is just holding onto it until the vibe is right…there’s no better time than now to do something like this than now; hell, even two years ago was the right time to do this. As much respect as I have for the DIY attitude of the people running the women’s professional leagues– there’s a time where you need to have the establishment to help back you up and get you on your feet before you really start to run away with things.

Take the exposure, take the business structure, and run with it. Don’t let the NHL shuffle their feet more than it has on this and push them to get involved in creating a league that’ll be stable and will have more mainstream media exposure and create more people into regular fans rather than when it’s national competitions.

Clutch N’ Crab Weekend Preview 005: Women’s Edition

NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMEN WOMEN (6-0-0) at MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

Last Week: Only one game, but it was a dominating performance with the Women winning 9-0 over Air Force and outshooting them 75-15. The Women Mids have outscore their opponents 51-4 on the season. 

What To Look For: Can the dominance continue in East Lansing?? There’s really no sign of this team letting up and quite frankly– they shouldn’t either. With each game being more important than the last, the Women Mids will have to keep the pedal down if they want to get noticed on the national stage. 

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND TERRAPINS WOMEN (1-1-0) vs. LOYOLA UNIVERSITY GREYHOUNDS and TOWSON UNIVERSITY TIGERS 

Last Week: We welcome the Women Terps, who were all or nothing last week in a 20-0 lost to Rowan University, but a 12-0 win over George Washington. Alix MacKillop, Amanda Schweitzer, and Aya Gandolfo had two goals apiece in the win. 

What To Look For: We’ll see what happens after the crazy free-for-all weekend from last weekend and if it’ll carry over against two other Maryland teams. 

TOWSON UNIVERSITY TIGERS WOMEN (1-0-0) vs. MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY RED HAWKS and UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND TERRAPINS

Last Week: Another newcomer to the list is the Towson women, who won their first game since the 2017-18 season by beating George Washington 12-5. Lily Warshaw led the way with a hat trick in the big win for the program. 

What To Look For: We’ll see if the good times keep rolling, as they’ll take on two teams who will have to go through Loyola first. Maybe someone could scout out that talent before the game. 

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY GREYHOUNDS (0-0-0) vs. MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY RED HAWKS and UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND TERRAPINS

Last Week: It’s the first game of the season for the lady Greyhounds, as they’ll look to improve on their 11-win season last year out of their 16 games. 

What To Look For: It’ll be a fresh start for all over, though it’ll be interesting to see how they approach Maryland– who was an all-or-nothing team last weekend.

The NWHL, Twitch, and You

It was announced today that the NWHL will stream their games on Twitch, the streaming video platform, mainly for gaming. However, as times have changed, the platform has become a very wide array of everything on that platform.

First, the good part of it– it’s great exposure for the league. It’s going to be able to reach all people without many hurdles for people in other countries from watching the games. Second, it’s much more interactive than traditional television deals and will definitely allow fans to connect more to the people who are presenting the game. Third, all the games will be there. That’s something you want to have for a section of sport that goes underappreciated and underrecognized for the skill and talent the players bring to the sport. With Twitch teaming up with the NBA’s G-League and the NFL, it could mean good things– so long as they hire the right production people.

Now, the bad part– the most known players haven’t committed to playing in the league yet. The players are sitting out in the hopes the sanity prevails and the league can find a way to provide a living wage for the players. The formation of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association stated that 200 players strong will NOT play a professional game in North America until they get a living wage of being a professional hockey player. The games seems to be going on as planned for the five-team league, but many people may not know the names, which could deter them from watching. That, or the viewers will support those who are on strike to support them in making a living wage, thus hindering the exposure that this deal will give.

Also, I don’t know if this is the best platform for the game. There’s been an issue with porn being streamed on channels (and then becoming the highest viewed channels), harassment of streamers— mainly women– on the platform, as well as abuse of animals and spouses during streams that have been widely public. Not to mention streamers selling their bath water for their viewers.

It’s basically seems like the Wild West out there.

While this is a step in the right direction for women’s hockey in the mainstream, I don’t think it’s necessary now. I’ve plotted out a while ago a plan that should be done in order to make a professional women’s hockey league viable and none of it includes the NWHL as it is now. However, part of it is being done with the PWHPA’s Dream Gap tour. The big name players need to be out there, touring North America to get people more familiar with them as players and people. Do that for a year and keep women’s hockey out there, while you wait for the NWHL to cave and sell their assets to the NHL and let the NHL run the women’s league to start in 2020-21 with all their marketing, production, and footprint on the landscape.

When NHL teams supported NWHL or CWHL teams, it was more noticeable in the mainstream and it helped those teams a lot to have the synergy of the NHL clubs doing promotion for them. It only makes sense for the NHL to step up, buy the assets of the NWHL, get a living wage for the players so they can actually focus at their task at hand, and we’re all enjoying women’s hockey in a bigger form and on a bigger scale than what’s out there now.

A streaming TV deal is all well and good, especially for three-years and money being put into their pocket; but I doubt it’s good enough to lure the top names out of a strike and to create a living wage for players who have committed this season.

Golden Homecoming for Maryland’s Haley Skarupa

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Haley Skarupa/ Photo by Jen Conway (@NHLHistorygirl)

The US Women’s National Team has been on a non-stop media tour since winning the country’s first gold medal in 20 years. For defender Haley Skarupa, she says that it started to hit her of this accomplishment on the flight back to the US.

“I was thinking about it from our flight back from Korea,” Skarupa remembered during media availability Saturday night in Annapolis. “It was the first time it started to sink in that, ‘Wow, we’re going back to the United States bringing our country a gold medal.’ You can’t put words to that experience. You’re kinda going non-stop, but it’s good.”

The Rockville, Maryland native played in all five games for the US, though she did not register a point during the tournament, helped the defense for the US keep a co-tournament low of five goals against during the Olympics. Saturday night at the NHL Stadium Series game in Annapolis was a sort of homecoming for Skarupa, who was a Capitals fan when she was growing up.

“It’s awesome to come back here,” said Skarupa. “I was going to come back and watch this game regardless with my family and friends, but it’s awesome to come back here with my teammates and bring home a gold medal and show it to my family and friends.”

One of the last moments of the celebration of the gold medal was the fact that two flags were on the ice were the USA flag and the flag of Maryland. It was brought on the ice by Skarupa’s former teammates from the Washington Pride.

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Kelly Sherman, Haley Skarupa, and Kat Mackey/ Photo by Kush Sidhu

“Two of my best friends (Kelly Sherman and Kat Mackey) literally flew in the day before the game,” Skarupa said. “I didn’t know they brought the flag– it was so dang cool to see that. I brought it down, took a picture with it and it was so crazy to bring a piece of home out there with me. I love the flag it’s great. It’s so much cooler than all the other ones.”

While Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic is without a professional women’s team, the game has been growing in the girls’ ranks. Ranging from U12 to U19, the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (AKA the DMV) area has been starting to grow with the influx of girls picking up the sport– something that may rise from the USA winning gold.

“The sport has come a long way in this area,” explained Skarupa. “It used to be you play boys’ hockey until you’re in high school. Nowadays, there’s so many girls’ teams in the area. At the clinic, there was over 200 girls register from the DMV area. It’s awesome and really exciting. To see how far it’s come since I’ve been playing has been really incredible.”

Despite not playing on a girls’ team until she was in her teens, Skarupa relished the challenge of playing on the boys’ roster. It’s something she said that was fairly invaluable to her development to where she is today.

“I loved playing against the boys,” remember Skarupa. “They challenge you, they’re aggressive, and they’re ruthless. I played until I was 12 against the boys and then my brother and his friends out in the driveway. Getting beat up by the boys really helps you in the long run. Getting to prove the boys wrong is a good feelings.”

The Rockville native doesn’t forget her roots. She said she had numerous people coming up to here this week from people who went to pre-school with her to old teachers from Wooten High School. She also credits former Capital Jeff Halpern (and to an extent his Astro Donuts store) for helping her on her way to development.

“Jeff Halpern helped me throughout my career,” mentioned Skarupa. “We both skated through the same power-skating coach, Wendy Marco and Cold Rush and he became a coach there. Skating with him helped push me, too. He’s a great role model for this area with his success and how he gives back to the community.”

While she is riding high now, Skarupa is also taking the future into account with a clearer head. She said that she’s taking it one day at a time and while there’s not a team there and Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis hasn’t talked to her about one coming through– she believes the area should be rewarded with a professional team sooner rather than later.

“In the future, women’s pro hockey should expand to this area,” according to Skarupa. “With all the girls that play here and all the interest, there’s a huge opportunity for women’s hockey in this area.”