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BLOG: Dunne's Road to the Show



Running updates on 2017 graduate Cassie Dunne's quest to play professional hockey


FINS UP FOR THE POD
August 24, 2017 | 12:18 p.m.

Dunne's road to the show has ended happily and in the Emerald City - quite literally, in fact, as she has signed with the bright green-clad Connecticut Whale of the NWHL.

Most of the pertinent information at this point has been covered in this site's article or in the NWHL's release, but here are Dunne's full responses from the latter in an interview conducted by the league's Chris Botta:

Please share your reaction to signing with the Whale, your thoughts on being part of the NWHL now and your expectations for next season.

"During my senior season at Penn State, I captained the U.S. Women's National University Team and traveled to Kazakhstan to compete in the 2017 Winter World University Games. That amazing experience made me realize that I had so much more to give and I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the sport that gave and taught me so much. When I returned to Penn State, I applied as an NWHL free agent and attended the free agent camp in May. It was a long waiting game until I received an email from Coach [Ryan] Equale. I was ecstatic. I felt excitement and nerves coupled into one. I am honored to sign with the Whale for the 2017-18 season and join a league whose commitment to growing the game is one of my own. There is so much potential for the Whale this season and I can't wait to get started. I am excited to join Coach Equale in his first season with the Whale as head coach and grow together as a team and fierce competitor."

Could you please tell me what you majored in in college and if you are currently working - where, what, for whom, etc.?

"I studied Pubic Relations in the School of Communications at Penn State. Additionally, I received a minor in business from the College of Liberal Arts, a business certificate from the Smeal College of Business and a Sports Journalism Certificate from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. After graduation, I accepted a position with Comcast in the Philadelphia headquarters where I am a Communications Coordinator on the Internal Communications, Technology and Product Team. This is my second time back at Comcast, after an internship with the company during my junior year summer. It's a great company that I've been so lucky to be a part of."

Where did you develop as a player before college? Anything you want to say about high school and the youth programs you were in?

"Growing up in Philadelphia, there wasn't much ice hockey specifically for a girl. A small group of us started the first girls ice hockey team at our club, Wissahickon Skating Club. I was in third grade and my sister was in seventh...playing on the same team. That kind of gives you an idea of the wide age range on our very first team. Probably not the best idea but what else were you going to do, growing up in Philadelphia trying to forge the growth of ice hockey? Eventually, I started playing boys ice hockey and split my time between the two teams. In high school, I played for the Princeton Tiger Lilies in New Jersey and played on my guys varsity high school team.

What would you say about the experience of playing at Penn State?

"My hockey career at Penn State was an amazing experience. Playing Penn State women's D1 club ice hockey allowed me to experience life as a Penn Stater while playing the sport I loved. It also provided me with the opportunity to make the 2017 World University Games team and have the experience of a lifetime. As most hockey careers go, we had breakout seasons and building seasons. I learned a lot and grew a lot and shared some of my best memories in that blue and white jersey with my best friends. My coach, Pat Fung, was always committed to pushing us forward and demanding the best out of us. I will always be thankful to Pat and his commitment to helping me succeed throughout my career at Penn State and beyond. I will miss game nights in Pegula Ice Arena with my teammates, but will never forget the feeling of playing with Penn State across my jersey. We Are."

Is there anything else we should know about you: hobbies, interesting family background, anything like that?

"I am a Philadelphian - born and raised - where I grew up with my mom, dad, brother Vincent and sister Bridget. We have three dogs: Dino, Dunny and Margo, who I definitely spoil way too much. When I'm not working, you can find me in a lululemon "suit" going to Soul Cycle/Fly Wheel or baking brownies. I love to sweat and I'm such a foodie."

One additional item, mentioned deep in this site's article, but worth reiterating: Dunne and the Whale will be playing a neutral-site game in Pittsburgh, specifically Cranberry Township's UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, on January 14, 2018. While that's obviously the opposite side of the commonwealth from her hometown, it's still a great opportunity for Penn Staters in that area or in State College to see PSU's latest pro play live. Tickets for that game and all others are available through the NWHL's website. For those unable to make that game, or others in the four regular league cities, the NWHL recently struck a deal with Twitter to stream roughly half of its games, while others have been broadcast and archived on the league's YouTube channel.




BLADES FORMALLY SELECT DUNNE
August 20, 2017 | 7:12 p.m.

While it took until the waning stages of Sunday afternoon's proceedings, the CWHL's Boston Blades have officially made Dunne a member of their 2017 draft class.

In all, 25 of the 113 total draft picks were Blades designations and taken by the team, continuing the trend of the league's sole U.S.-based franchise also being its most popular with registered players. In light of the mostly-unpaid nature of women's professional hockey in North America not being conducive to border crossing, the lack of an alternative American CWHL team, and the abundance of women's college hockey in New England, it's a rather easily-explained phenomenon. Of Boston's 25 draftees, eight (including Dunne) were defensemen:

Player
College
Grad.
Year
Hometown
Cassie Dunne
Penn State (ACHA)
2017
Wyndmoor, PA
Erin Hall
Holy Cross (NCAA)
2017
Pembroke, MA
Taryn Harris
Manhattanville (NCAA)
2017
Morrison, CO
Kelly Kittredge
Brown (NCAA)
2014
Mahwah, NJ
Megan Servaes
New England College (NCAA)
2017
McKinney, TX
Meaghan Spurling
St. Anselm (NCAA)
2017
Byfield, MA
Amie Varano
Sacred Heart (NCAA)
2017
Duxbury, MA
Refika Yilmaz
Hacettepe University
N/A
Ankara, Turkey

The list, as anticipated, only differs slightly from the list of American defensemen registered for the draft presented three weeks ago in this space. Turkish player Refika Yilmaz was the lone addition to that group, balanced out by NCAA Division I products Taylor Marchin and Rose Alleva going to the CWHL's two Chinese expansion teams instead of the Blades.

Here is the team's list of eligible returning defensemen, accounting for the recent trades of both Nachi Fujimoto and Maggie DiMasi to Montreal:

Player
College/Last Team
Years
Pro
Hometown
Dru Burns
Boston College (NCAA)
4
Burlington, MA
Sato Kikuchi
Japan National Team
1
Tokyo, Japan
Taylor McGee
Holy Cross (NCAA)
1
Nyack, NY
Cassandra Opela
Connecticut (NCAA)
1
Penfield, NY
Clara St. Germain
Middlebury (NCAA)
2
Ashburnham, MA
Tara Watchorn
Canada National Team
4
Ajax, ON

In all, that's up to 14 defensemen who could be vying for a spot on the 2017-18 Blades, although one of Sunday's draftees, Amie Varano, has already signed to play in Hungary. The constantly-in-flux nature of women's hockey also means that the Blades will probably see less than 100 percent retention of previous players.

Still, the uncertainty of having to try out means that Dunne will likely continue to pursue opportunities in the CWHL's rival league, the NWHL. Knowing that the CWHL is officially present as an option, however, is a decided boost to her effort to skate at the next level.



BLADES SHIP OFF TWO DEFENSEMEN
August 16, 2017 | 1:08 a.m.

With Sunday's CWHL Draft - which will formally assign Dunne's league rights to the Boston Blades - rapidly approaching, the Blades made a move that could potentially help clear the road to her eventually making the team next month. On Tuesday, defensemen Nachi Fujimoto and Maggie DiMasi were traded to Les Canadiennes de Montreal in exchange for sixth and seventh round draft picks, in a year to be determined.

The move trims the number of possible returning Blades blueliners from eight to six. Meanwhile, the Blades' draft pool for Sunday, while not publicly disclosed ahead of time, is likely to include roughly eight more defensemen, counting Dunne.

In addition to that CWHL deal, positive news has also come from the NWHL while Dunne simultaneously tries to secure a deal in that circuit. Since this blog's last update, on August 5th, NWHL free agent signings have mostly screeched to a halt, with just two new players inked since then. On August 7th, forward Harrison Browne (notable as one of the first openly transgender athletes in any pro sport) ended his brief retirement and signed with the New York Riveters. On Tuesday, the Connecticut Whale added their own forward, 2015 Middlebury College graduate Emily Fluke. The league did still manage to fill the news cycle with the announcement of its 2017-18 schedule, season and single game tickets going on sale, and the buildup to its own draft, on Thursday.



The NWHL's Connecticut Whale is still looking for players. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Ice Garden

NWHL FREE AGENT FRENZY WINDS DOWN
August 5, 2017 | 3:26 p.m.

The NWHL will hold its draft on August 17th, three days prior to the CWHL's version. While that draft doesn't involve Dunne - the NWHL drafts rising college seniors, with the idea that this month's picks will play in the league in 2018-19, or possibly late in 2017-18 after college seasons end - it does set something of a loose, informal timeline with respect to NWHL roster construction. After all, in order to draft for 2018, it's helpful to know what your needs are in 2017, and it's hard to have a better answer than "everything" without a close-to-full roster. Beyond that, coaches naturally want as much time as possible with their complete team before the season gets underway in just about two months.

Here's a look at where each team stands as (possibly) the last leg of free agency is underway, including the remaining potential openings for Dunne:

Boston Pride: The Pride still have some room, with 16 players (10 forwards/5 defensemen/1 goaltender) signed against the roster limit of 25. However, while the team's league-high seven Olympians being absent for the 2018 games created opportunity in the beginning of the free agency period, they also may take it away now. Boston, more than any other team, is likely to leave open roster spots in the hopes that a Hilary Knight or a Kacey Bellamy rejoins the squad for the playoff push after PyeongChang. Still, at five defensemen (one of which is ACHA grad and potential advocate Paige Harrington) and with only two others headed to the Olympics, another depth blueliner or two wouldn't be an awful move for the 2016 Isobel Cup champs.

Buffalo Beauts: Once thought the NWHL's most promising situation due to their status as the last roster to fill up over the previous two offseasons, Dunne's participation in a team-hosted camp, and their past employment of ACHAers Harrington and Hayley Williams, the Beauts have instead become the first fully closed door in the process. Buffalo has 21 players signed (11/7/3), and accounting for their pair of Olympians (defensemen Emily Pfalzer and Megan Bozek) along with the possible need for injury replacements, co-coaches Ric Seiling and Craig Muni may very well be completely done for 2017-18 and almost certainly are with respect to a defense group that includes Penn State NCAA team alumna Kelly Seward.

Connecticut Whale: Connecticut (which will play its home games in Stamford this season) is the lightest remaining roster in the league, at 11 signings (4/6/1) and just three since June 19th (it seems like ancient history now, but the Whale jumped out of the gates and at one point had five players on board before Buffalo or Boston had any). While defense might be the one position where the Whale aren't paper thin, the severe shortage of forwards still offers opportunity for a player like Dunne, who can accurately be sold as a depth defenseman fully capable of playing up front as well. One of Connecticut's mainstays, NWHL Players Association director Anya Battaglino, is most frequently a defenseman but also capable of playing forward, a potential move that would theoretically open up another blueline spot. The Whale also has an ACHA connection in recently-signed forward Stephanie Mock, who played collegiately at NCAA Division I's Yale from 2011-15, but had more recently served as an assistant coach at ACHA Division 1's Lindenwood-Belleville.

New York Riveters: At 16 players signed (8/6/2), the Riveters are similar to Boston in still having some space, although most of it is at forward. Where New York presents a slightly better situation is in terms of Olympic recapture - in contrast to the Pride's potential haul, the Rivs will only be hoping for forward Amanda Kessel and Korean goaltender Shin So-jung. The primary drawback is within those six defensemen, not just their numbers but in their status as arguably the league's most skilled group, including former Princeton star Kelsey Koelzer and Wisconsin grad and former U.S. National Under-18 Team player Jenny Ryan. So undoubtedly and at this point, head coach/general manager Chad Wiseman is prioritizing filling out his forward numbers.



ANALYZING THE BLADES' DEFENSE POOL
August 2, 2017 | 1:31 a.m.

The registration deadline for the 2017 CWHL Draft passed at midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, meaning that the identities of the 114 players set to be picked on August 20th are now locked in.

The designated "acceptable locations" of each registered player are not made public ahead of the draft but, uniquely among CWHL teams, the Boston Blades' pool is generally easy to approximate. During 2016-17, only four American players skated for one of the CWHL's four Canadian teams (one of which was ACHA alumna and Illinois native Hayley Williams, with the Brampton Thunder). Meanwhile the Blades, the CWHL's only U.S.-based team, carried two Canadians, defenseman Tara Watchorn and forward Kayla Tutino - both of whom attended Boston University and one of whom (Tutino) has already been traded to a Canadian team (Les Canadiennes de Montreal) this offseason. That the player pool would break cleanly along national lines is no surprise: the CWHL does not offer visa sponsorship, meaning that players who wish to head across the border need to take care of those legalities elsewhere, generally through a day job. With that in mind, here are the American defensemen who have registered for the draft:

Player
College
Grad.
Year
Hometown
Rose Alleva
Princeton (NCAA)
2014
Red Wing, MN
Cassie Dunne
Penn State (ACHA)
2017
Wyndmoor, PA
Erin Hall
Holy Cross (NCAA)
2017
Pembroke, MA
Taryn Harris
Manhattanville (NCAA)
2017
Morrison, CO
Kelly Kittredge
Brown (NCAA)
2014
Mahwah, NJ
Taylor Marchin
Yale (NCAA)
2017
Algonac, MI
Megan Servaes
New England College (NCAA)
2017
McKinney, TX
Meaghan Spurling
St. Anselm (NCAA)
2017
Byfield, MA
Amie Varano
Sacred Heart (NCAA)
2017
Duxbury, MA

Notably the last player on the list, Sacred Heart grad Amie Varano, has already signed with KMH Budapest in Hungary and will not be playing in the CWHL this season.

If that were the only piece of the puzzle, Dunne would be in great shape. However, the Blades carried eight defensemen last year, any or all of whom could seek to return to the team:

Player
College/Last Team
Years
Pro
Hometown
Dru Burns
Boston College (NCAA)
4
Burlington, MA
Maggie DiMasi
Northeastern (NCAA)
2
Burlington, VT
Nachi Fujimoto
Japan National Team
1
Hokkaido, Japan
Sato Kikuchi
Japan National Team
1
Tokyo, Japan
Taylor McGee
Holy Cross (NCAA)
1
Nyack, NY
Cassandra Opela
Connecticut (NCAA)
1
Penfield, NY
Clara St. Germain
Middlebury (NCAA)
2
Ashburnham, MA
Tara Watchorn
Canada National Team
4
Ajax, ON

There may be at least a passing bit of familiarity in a few of those names. Both Japanese players, Nachi Fujimoto and Sato Kikuchi, were members of Japan's team at 2013 World University Games that was held down by Lady Ice Lions alumna Katie Vaughan and Team USA in that year's bronze medal match. Taylor McGee started her collegiate career with Penn State's NCAA team in 2012-13 before transferring to Holy Cross (and then re-entered the PSU news cycle last year with comments critical of former NCAA team and Lady Icers head coach Josh Brandwene).

All in all, the numbers present a tough situation for Dunne, but not an impossible one. Former Canadian national teamer Watchorn (who was not chosen for 2018 Olympic centralization) will have a roster spot if she wants it, and Dru Burns has also been a Blades mainstay. But beyond those two, only Fujimoto, Kikuchi and Clara St. Germain played in more than half of the Blades' games last year, and it's certainly fair to wonder if the Japanese players ever intended to stay overseas for more than one season. Another factor that will play into roster selection: the general manager who assembled last season's squad, Krista Patronick, has departed for the director of hockey operations position at Colgate University, with no replacement announced as of yet.

On the draft side of things, only Rose Alleva, Kelly Kittredge and Taylor Marchin played in NCAA Division I, with Kittredge and Alleva multiple seasons removed from any high-level playing experience (Alleva's EliteProspects.com profile, in fact, lists her as "retired").

So for a player like Dunne, whose calling card is her DI-caliber skating (one of the quickest - pun partially intended - ways to grab someone's attention), there is certainly a workable opening to impress at her tryout next month and, ultimately, play professional hockey.



PREPPING FOR THE CWHL DRAFT
July 29, 2017 | 8:31 p.m.

With her ability to secure an NWHL contract for 2017-18 still uncertain, Dunne has taken steps to help her cause with the rival CWHL.

The choice to largely pursue the NWHL first did not have anything to do with any preference in league, it was simply related to the timing and manner with which each fills its rosters. In the NWHL, teams sign players throughout the summer, forming a race to grab a spot with one of four squads before they're gone. The CWHL, meanwhile, is more deliberate and relies more heavily on its draft. Players interested in joining the league register for the annual CWHL Draft, with this year's version set for August 20th in Toronto (the rapidly-approaching registration deadline is August 1st). Upon registration, players designate between one and three "acceptable locations," places where they would be willing to play. All players who register are then drafted by one of their acceptable location-based teams and invited to try out.

Dunne, as most Americans entering the primarily-Canadian league do, has marked Boston and their Blades franchise - the circuit's only United States-based club - as her acceptable location. If you're following along, all of this means, essentially, that Dunne will be selected by the Blades on August 20th, and will try out for the team in September. While that process removes much of the drama from things, it has proven effective for ensuring that good hockey players are able to break into the CWHL and end up playing with their drafting team (the NWHL Draft, in contrast, involves selecting still-in-college players prior to their senior seasons, with no indication from those players as to whether or where they would be willing to play in the league, a situation that has led to struggles with bringing in draftees one year later).

With the chase for a spot in the CWHL entirely different from the one seen in the NWHL, there's essentially only one thing left for Dunne to do: ensure that she's as ready as possible for the Blades' tryout. She's doing just that, thanks to some help from friend and now-former teammate Riley O'Connor:



NWHL EXPANDS ROSTER SIZE
July 18, 2017 | 6:42 p.m.

The NWHL announced today that it has increased its roster size for the 2017-18 season, to a maximum of 25 players per team. Here are the specifics, from the league's release:
  • All NWHL teams may now consist of up to 25 players. As in the past, 17 players will dress for games for each team.
  • The option to flex to up to 25 roster spots is available until the last week of the regular season.
  • There are no longer “practice players,” as there were in the first two years of the league.
  • Every player that signs a contract in the NWHL will be considered a regular team member of that franchise.
As touched on there, last season involved 17 regular roster players per team plus up to five "practice players." The practice players, as the name implies, were unpaid and practiced with their teams, but were only eligible to play in games if regular roster players were unavailable.

The NWHL also confirmed later in the day that players will be paid on a per-game basis in 2017-18 (as opposed to the flat season rate of the league's first two years), with only players who dress being compensated.

Both bits of news are certainly positive for Dunne. Obviously, the across-the-board expansion of the number of available roster spots is a boost for anyone who remains unsigned - under the 17-player limit, things hadn't become dire for the free agent pool, but they were getting a bit cozy. Additionally, since teams are only bound to pay 17 players per game regardless of roster size, there's not much cost associated with (for example) adding a 23rd player if a squad only has 22 signed. While each franchise is likely to come in at least a player or two under capacity at the beginning of the season to allow for flexibility later in the year, the bottom line is that the NWHL has gone from a hard limit of 68 full players to as many as 100.




HARRINGTON SIGNS WITH THE BOSTON PRIDE
July 12, 2017 | 8:45 p.m.

Regardless of the outcome of Dunne's situation, Penn State will have at least one former player in the NWHL for the 2017-18 season.

Paige Harrington, a big defenseman who spent 2011-12 with the Lady Icers before transferring to Massachusetts and (eventually) opposing PSU as a senior in 2014-15, signed with the Boston Pride today. She spent her first two professional seasons as a member of the circuit's Buffalo Beauts, highlighted by the 2017 Isobel Cup championship, but found the idea of a move back to her home state and the team she and the Beauts defeated in the 2017 final too good to pass up.

Harrington represents, arguably, the ACHA's greatest success story in professional hockey. On the women's side of things, her only true competition comes from former UMass teammates Chelsea and Raschelle Bräm, and from Hayley Williams, another former Harrington teammate through the 2013 and 2015 World University Games tournaments and the 2015-16 Beauts. The Bräm twins have played in Switzerland since their 2014 graduations, while Williams was voted to the 2016 NWHL All-Star Game in her season in Buffalo before playing with the CWHL's Brampton Thunder last year. With Williams' situation for 2017-18 still up in the air, Harrington and the Bräms are the only ACHA women's alumni ever to play at least three pro seasons.

The bad news, of course, is that Harrington's gain - an increasingly scarce NWHL roster spot - is Dunne's loss. The Pride now have three of their six defensemen locked down, in addition to a full complement of nine forwards. Buffalo also has their forward spots filled, plus four of six blueline openings. Slightly more encouraging situations exist in Connecticut (two forwards, five defensemen signed, with just two of those seven signings taking place after June 2nd) and New York (eight forwards, two defensemen). At the same time, there is a bit of a silver lining in the idea that Dunne now has an advocate under contract with, arguably, the NWHL's premier franchise.



THE WAITING GAME, PART II
July 2, 2017 | 6:04 p.m.

While waiting as a player hoping to secure a professional roster spot can be tough, some solace can come from the fact that the NWHL has a little bit of a history of waiting until - literally - the last minute to fill up its rosters.

During its inaugural 2015 offseason, the league set a free agency deadline of August 17th. Into the final week before that date, just 42 of the then-72 roster spots had been filled after a couple months of free agency. Notably, ACHA alumni Paige Harrington and Hayley Williams were part of the final push, as their signings were announced by Buffalo on August 11th. Even with those two and a few others signing early in the final week, roughly 20 spots remained available into the 17th.

Last year, the deadline was set on July 31st and once again, a large percentage of roster spots remained open into the last week, fueled in part by a high-profile holdout by the members of the U.S. national team.

This time around, the league has not declared an official signing deadline. However, with 29 of 68 full roster spots remaining open (27 of 60 when removing goalies from the math), and with zero signings league-wide since Bray Ketchum re-upped with the New York Riveters on June 22nd, the NWHL seems headed for another drawn-out free agency process.



THE WAITING GAME
June 25, 2017 | 12:34 p.m.

For all but a handful of players looking to break into any pro league, there's a degree of patience required. Teams, generally, prioritize re-signing their existing talent before moving on to fresh blood. And even once that shift happens, there are a lot of variables in play, including geography, finances, system fit and available competition from other players. In Dunne's case (as with many others), that's produced a bit of a waiting game with the NWHL at this stage of the summer.

That's not to say that it's been an unproductive two weeks since she attended the Buffalo Beauts' free agent camp, as the aspiring pro has had positive conversations with coaches from the Beauts and other teams, while keeping her name fresh in their minds. Signing news league-wide has been encouraging in its slowness as well.

NWHL teams carry 17 full roster players (in addition to a few "practice players"), two of which are goalies, leaving 15 forward and defense spots on each squad. So far, with nearly two months gone since teams were first allowed to re-sign current players (a period that began May 1st) and nearing one month of being permitted to sign anyone else (the unrestricted period began June 1st), here's how things stack up for 2017-18 to this point:

Boston Pride: 8 forwards, 2 defensemen, 1 goalie
Buffalo Beauts: 3 forwards, 3 defensemen, 2 goalies
Connecticut Whale: 2 forwards, 5 defensemen, 1 goalie
New York Riveters: 8 forwards, 2 defensemen, 2 goalies

All in all, just 33 of a projected 60 non-goalie spots league-wide have been filled. Dunne's positional flexibility - she played primarily defense in college of course, but spotted on wing and is training with the idea of possibly playing up front in the pros - will definitely offer a selling point on a small roster. Another major positive on the speedster's ledger has always been her persistence and tenacity, traits that will continue to be required in healthy doses as the days grind on.




DUNNE REGISTERS FOR THE CWHL DRAFT
June 15, 2017 | 7:49 p.m.

Although the NWHL has been an early-summer focus due to free-for-all fashion in which it fills up its teams, Dunne has taken an important step forward with North America's other professional women's league by registering for the 2017 Canadian Women's Hockey League Draft.

The CWHL Draft works a little differently from most other league drafts. Players registering must designate between one and three "acceptable locations," or places they would willing to play, a process that makes sense given the present realities in women's pro hockey concerning geography and salary. Acceptable locations are not made public, but are known to the league's six teams - Boston, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Brampton and new expansion squad Kunlun Red Star in Beijing, China - who are then only allowed to select players that have approved their location. Furthermore, the draft continues until all registered players are selected, even if it means that the end of the proceedings have numerous one-pick "rounds" to exhaust the list, as happened with the Boston Blades last year. All selected players are then invited to their team's tryout.

The last two drafts have each involved at least one former Penn State opponent from the ACHA. In 2016, Rhode Island alumnae Sydney Collins and Kristen Levesque were taken by the Blades with consecutive picks. In 2015, Liberty's Sarah Stevenson went in the fourth round, 17th overall, to the Toronto Furies. Both Levesque and Stevenson went on to play for their drafting teams.

This year's version will see Dunne assigned to a CWHL team on August 20th, with player registrations accepted through August 1st. An up-to-date list of draft prospects is available on the CWHL's website.



BEAUTS SIGN JORDAN OTT
June 14, 2017 | 3:17 p.m.

The Buffalo Beauts have made their first free agent camp-related transaction, inking SUNY Potsdam's Jordan Ott to a contract after she put together an impressive weekend at the event. Ott is the Bears' all-time leader in points and was USCHO's national NCAA Division III rookie of the year in 2014, so the idea that she would earn a pro contract is far from stunning.

From Dunne's perspective, the news isn't discouraging, as Ott's is the only spot in Buffalo that has become unavailable since the camp, and the move demonstrates that the Beauts coaching staff considered the camp a legitimate roster-building tool.




RECAPPING A PRODUCTIVE WEEKEND
June 13, 2017 | 7:49 p.m.

The write-ups are starting to roll in concerning the Buffalo Beauts' free agent camp this past weekend, with Erik Wollschlager of FanRag Sports working a Dunne mention into his piece.
[Penn State NCAA team graduate Kelly Seward] was joined by standout Cassie Dunne, who wore the ‘A’ for Team USA at the University Games, helping to lead the team to a bronze medal.
Factual errors aside (Dunne was a co-captain of Team USA with Jessie Rushing, and the two rotated wearing the C due to tournament rules only allowing one C at a time), Wollschlager included other bits of encouraging news, including that 23 players registered for the camp with a few unable to attend. The Beauts presently have 15 full roster spots available plus any practice player positions given out. Co-coach Craig Muni was encouraged by the level of those in attendance as well.
“I believe the camp was very productive,” Muni told FanRag Sports. “You can see the skill level of the young ladies getting better with every season. The players who set themselves apart from the pack are those with speed and hockey knowledge.”

Muni drew an optimistic comparison to the camp held last June.

“[For] an overall comparison to last year’s free agent, [this year’s] camp is very similar but there was more noticeable speed on the ice this year,” he said. “Some players stood out not only on the ice, but come with high recommendations from their college coaches. We have some tough decisions to make for the season.”
Without a doubt, it will be interesting to see how the camp affects the formation of the Beauts' 2017-18 roster over the next few weeks.



SKATING WITH THE PROS
June 12, 2017 | 5:03 p.m.

Over the weekend's Buffalo Beauts free agent camp at the Hockey Outlet Ice Complex in North Tonawanda, NY, there wasn't a ton of mystery concerning how Dunne would fit in with the pro team - much of it was already there.

While a full camp roster has yet to be released, confirmed attendees included goalie Kelsey Neumann, who has already re-signed with the team for next season, as well as Hayley Scamurra, Jacquie Greco, Kourtney Kunichika and Sarah Casorso, all of whom were with the team during their 2016-17 championship run. ACHA alumna Hayley Williams and Hannah McGowan, who were inaugural Beauts in 2015-16, also attended.

Ohio State NCAA Division I grad Katie Maroney and Marissa Graham (most recently of Canadian school Brock University, although she began her collegiate career with two seasons with ACHA foe Liberty) were attendees among those in Dunne's category of seeking to enter the league for the first time.

For her part, Dunne felt like she acquitted herself well among the many accomplished players, particularly after making key adjustments to her game between the first and second days.

"It was a great opportunity to skate at the Buffalo Beauts invitational camp this weekend," she said "The speed and skills of the girls at camp was impressive, and it was a lot of fun to be out on the ice with them."

"This weekend was a great opportunity, and I look forward to potential opportunities to come."

For now, the focus will continue to be on looking for those opportunities, by finding additional chances to get on the ice in front of pro coaches and by monitoring the roster situations and needs of the nine NWHL and CWHL teams while keeping contact.




SHUFFLING OFF TO BUFFALO
June 8, 2017 | 7:45 p.m.

On June 10th and 11th, Dunne will attend her second NWHL free agent camp. While the first, in Massachusetts last month, was a general, league-wide camp, this one will be held in Buffalo and is specific to the Beauts franchise.

The Beauts, arguably, present the most wide-open opportunity of the four NWHL teams. To this point, co-head coaches Ric Seiling (who also serves as general manager) and Craig Muni have just two players committed for 2017-18: goal-scoring forward Corinne Buie and goaltender Kelsey Neumann (the others have signed ten, nine and five of their 17 full-time players). Buffalo, further removed from the East Coast hockey hotbeds than the other three teams, has generally been the slowest-developing roster of the group during the NWHL's three offseasons so far - although the 2017 Isobel Cup champions would certainly have a point in countering that "slower" doesn't mean "worse."

Still, Dunne and the other attendees, many of whom were also at the May camp, will undoubtedly be looking to impress this weekend and earn a contract with the team that has employed both of the ACHA alumni to play in the NWHL to date.



NWHL UNRESTICTED FREE AGENCY UNDERWAY
June 1, 2017 | 12:00 a.m.

Following a restricted free agent period spanning the entire month of May, during which only re-signings of previous players were permitted, NWHL free agency is now officially open to Dunne and all other new players seeking a contract in the league.



MARLBOROUGH CAMP ROSTER RELEASED
May 18, 2017 | 2:23 p.m.

The full roster from the NWHL Free Agent Camp in Marlborough, MA over the weekend made its way to the public today.

Among the notables skating alongside Dunne were Paige Harrington and Hayley Williams, the two ACHA alumni with the longest professional careers in North America. Harrington, a 2011-12 Lady Icers player who subsequently finished her career at UMass, is one of two known former Penn State ACHA players to play professionally (2002 graduate Andrea Lavelle is the other). She's been with the NWHL's Buffalo Beauts for two seasons, winning the league's second Isobel Cup championship at the end of 2016-17.

Williams' nomadic collegiate journey began in 2009-10 at NCAA Division I Bemidji State. She then left the sport for three seasons, before returning with single seasons at ACHA schools Robert Morris (2013-14) and Miami (2014-15). The Crete, IL native teamed with Harrington on the 2015-16 Beauts and was voted to the NWHL's first-ever all-star game - where she scored a goal - before moving over to the CWHL and the Brampton Thunder in 2016-17.

Coincidentally - or perhaps not - all three players have been a captain for the U.S. National University Team at World University Games. Dunne, of course, was 2017's co-captain. Harrington and Williams were both alternate captains on the 2013 squad that also won bronze medals, then again in 2015.

Jersey
Player
Pos.
DOB
College/Previous Team
Red
42
Rachael Ade
D
2/25/1995
University of Vermont (NCAA)
Red
28
Kaycie Anderson
W
4/29/1991
Norwich University (NCAA)
Red
18
Denise Cardello
C
7/7/1988
Castleton University (NCAA)
Black
20
Megan Delay
D
4/8/1997
Brock University (U-Sports)
Red
14
Cassandra Dunne
W/D
10/12/1994
Penn State University (ACHA)
Black
38
Emily Fluke
W
9/3/1992
Middlebury College (NCAA)
Goalie
1
Keira Goin
G
7/22/1994
Utica College (NCAA)
Red
40
Paige Harrington
D
5/28/1993
University of Massachusetts (ACHA)
Buffalo Beauts (NWHL)
Goalie
2
Lindsey Hartfiel
G
12/15/1994
College of St. Scholastica (NCAA)
Black
1
Kristin Lewicki
C/W
6/10/1995
Adrian College (NCAA)
Red
20
Katie Maroney
C/W/D
8/14/1984
Ohio State University (NCAA)
Black
17
Hannah McGowan
C/W
8/11/1992
Adrian College (NCAA)
Neuberg Highlanders (EWHL)
Black
20
Sarah Moe
W
6/10/1980
Gustavus Adolphus College (NCAA)
Minnesota Whitecaps (Ind.)
Red
32
Elizabeth Parker
C/W/D
7/29/1991
Harvard University (NCAA)
Goalie
3
Lindsey Post
G
1/11/1994
University of Alberta (U-Sports)
Goalie
4
Sarah Quigley
G
11/13/1992
Buffalo State College (NCAA)
Red
38
Corey Stearns
C/W
12/27/1990
Princeton University (NCAA)
Black
33
Kathryn Tomaselli
W
5/12/1993
Union College (NCAA)
Boston Pride (NWHL)
Red
36
Courtney Turner
C
6/17/1994
Union College (NCAA)
Black
42
Amie Varano
D
6/18/1994
Sacred Heart University (NCAA)
Black
14
Hayley Williams
C
6/3/1990
Miami University (ACHA)
Brampton Thunder (CWHL)



WORKING ON A DREAM
May 15, 2017 | 3:30 p.m.

Cassie Dunne (left) looks to break out at the NWHL's free agent camp on May 13th

The NWHL's official website published a recap of the free agent camp.
From seasoned veterans to players fresh out of college, 21 players were invited to attend the two-day NWHL Free Agent Camp held at the New England Sports Complex.

The group of forwards, defenders, and goaltenders went through a series of drills, while representatives from around the league scouted the action.

For nearly everyone in the camp, the hope was to be able to continue playing in an organized setting.
Although Dunne was not among the several attendees quoted, she nevertheless got a nice boost through being featured in the photo accompanying the article.



Cassie Dunne defends against Russia's Liudmila Belyakova - a former NWHL player - at World University Games

THE JOURNEY BEGINS
May 11, 2017 | 8:41 p.m.

Dunne, inspired by her bronze medal run while captaining Team USA at World University Games this past season, will attempt to catch on with a professional team this summer, in the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL), the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), or possibly in Europe. The first step in that process: her invitation to an NWHL free agent camp, set for this weekend at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, MA.

From the linked story:
"I was ecstatic when I received the email to attend the free agent camp," Dunne said. "There is definitely a lot of hard work still ahead of me but I'm honored to be given the opportunity."

"I can only hope that my hard work pays off and I have the same success at the NWHL camp that I did at World University Games camp.

It was the experience at WUG that triggered her current quest.

"Before our big game against Canada, Coach Shelley [Looney] asked the captains to meet and tell her how we were feeling and what the sense in the locker room was," Dunne recalled. "I immediately blurted out, 'During camp in Chicago I fell in love with hockey again and I'm ready to share that excitement with my teammates and help them feel the same way.'"

"Playing against Lindenwood [at WUG camp] reminded me of why I've always continued playing hockey and where my love for the sport came from," she continued. "The game is fast and competitive, it rewards the hard workers, and when the teamwork is cohesive, there's no better feeling in the world."
The NWHL, founded in 2015, is based in the United States and made headlines as the first North American women's league to pay its players (the amounts are less than a full-time job however, and start at $5,000 per year, with every contract carrying a one-season term). Undrafted players new to the league, such as Dunne, will be permitted to sign with any team beginning on June 1st, while returning players and draft picks have been able to re-sign with their previous teams since May 1st.

Meanwhile, the CWHL has one American franchise, the Boston Blades, but is otherwise based in Canada. Its method for stocking rosters differs substantially from the NWHL in that all incoming players first register for the CWHL Draft, a procedure that carries a deadline of August 1st. All registered players will be selected in the draft and all draft picks will have an opportunity to subsequently try out. So, early on in the offseason, more attention is likely to be on the NWHL, which will fill its rosters with contract signings first.

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