When the CWHL draft takes place Sunday, to date, the largest draft in the league’s history at 81, only one player from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut – a program that ranked no. 7 in last year’s preseason poll by the USCHO – will be up for grabs.
While several of her former teammates signed with the nearby Connecticut Whale of the NWHL for the upcoming season, Nicole Brown, a 5’7″ left winger, will be taking a different path.
Brown is a native of Oshawa, Ontario, a short drive down to Toronto or Brampton and opted for the Canadian league over the U.S. one. Given the CWHL’s rule allowing for players to rank location preferences, Brown will likely join one of two teams: the Toronto Furies or the Brampton Thunder, both close to home and both in need of some extra offense.
While both were solid teams this past season, neither made it to the Clarkson Cup Final, a problem the teams will wish to remedy. Brown herself was a big help to the Bobcats in the 2015-16 season.
The winger scored four game-winning goals her senior year alone, the second-highest amount on the team. One of those game-winning goals helped her team win the ECAC Championship over Colgate University and earn their first automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament in program history.
The Bobcats were named the No. 4 overall seed in the tournament. They were toppled by Clarkson (a team then-Buffalo Beaut Meghan Duggan was an assistant coach for), but it was a strong end to the season for the program.
Brown’s penchant for notching game-winners also helped her coach at Quinnipiac, Cassandra Turner, set the NCAA record for most wins by a women’s ice hockey head coach in their first season, coming in at a cool 28. Turner passed Minnesota’s Brad Frost, former New Hampshire head coach Brian McCloskey (who currently coaches the Boston Blades of the CWHL) and former Manhattanville head coach Nicole Hall, who all won 27 games in their first seasons as NCAA women’s ice hockey head coaches.
Under Turner, Brown was also named one of the American Sports Network’s Players of the Week on March 8; she also recorded the first 20-plus point season of her collegiate career, scored a career-high number of goals as well as assists and led all Quinnipiac skaters with eight power-play assists her senior year.
Brown was twice named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team during her sophomore and junior years at Quinnipiac and named to the ECAC Hockey All-Tournament Team as a senior. She played in all but a handful of games, setting a perfect record as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. Her 20 career goals are tied for the no. 20 spot in program history while her 44 assists are ranked at seventh.
Brown took 91 shots this past season, an average of approximately 2.4 per game. While she converted on relatively few of them, her willingness to shoot whenever she sees an opening is a large part of why she netted so many game-winning goals. Brown takes shots when others would rather pass and sometimes that bears fruit in high-pressure situations. At other times, she ends up creating rebounds for her teammates to jam in.
Although either Brampton or Toronto would be pleased to add Brown and her clutch hands, her skill could come in in particularly useful for Toronto, which scored only 59 goals for this past season, and suffered 87 goals against, placing them second-to-last in the league in wins.
Toronto finished with a record of 6-16-2 and a wins percentage of only 29.6, keeping the Furies firmly out of contention for the Clarkson Cup. While the Furies’ shots-for cannot be found online, it seems likely that Brown’s shoot-first mentality could be exactly what Toronto needs in order to turn their scoring situation around.