ALLIE THUNSTROM AND HER ROAD TO A 20-GOAL SEASON
p>By Mike Murphy
Just a few weeks into the 2019-20 NWHWL regular season it became clear that it was going to be a special year for Minnesota Whitecaps’ winger Allie Thunstrom. She started the season with a three-game goal-scoring streak and poured 20 shots on goal in that stretch. Still, no one suspected that Thunstrom would set a new standard for goal-scoring in the NWHL.
On Feb. 23, in a game against the Buffalo Beauts, Thunstrom became the first player in NWHL history to score 20 goals in a season – and the first player to score 21 when she buried her second goal of the game. Her 20th goal of the season was quintessential Thunstrom. She broke away from a pack of opposing players in her own zone before blazing her way through the neutral zone, scoring a goal despite being hauled down from behind and drawing a penalty.
Last season, Thunstrom scored five goals – four at even strength and one shorthanded – in 16 games. So, how did the Boston College alumna quadruple her goal production this year? Some might suspect the new wave of goaltenders in the NWHL to be responsible for that jump in production, but the current league-wide save percentage (.903) is higher than it was at the end of the 2018-19 regular season (.902). What is different this year is Thunstrom’s shooting percentage and how often she’s putting the puck on net.
Thunstrom is averaging 5.82 SOG/GP this season and is cashing in on 16.4 percent of her shots; last year, she averaged 3.25 SOG/GP and had a 9.62 Sh%. The big difference appears to be that she is getting more breakaway opportunities, as evidenced by her four unassisted goals, and she is finishing on more of them than she was in 2018-19. Combine that with the regular season being extended from 16 games to 24 games and Thunstrom’s chemistry with Jonna Curtis and Meaghan Pezon and the stage was set for history.
What makes Thunstrom’s achievement this year even more impressive is that she was competing directly with Taylor Accursi of the Buffalo Beauts and McKenna Brand of the Boston Pride, who finished her season with 19 goals. Like Thunstrom, Accursi has two games left to play, but she is five goals behind Minnesota’s top scorer. Still, the race isn’t technically over, so it’s a good thing that Thunstrom is the fastest woman in the league.
Everyone knows that Thunstrom’s greatest weapon is her speed, but there just isn’t much opposing teams can do about it. If you make a mistake in the offensive zone or neutral zone, you better hope that No. 9 doesn’t get the puck with daylight between her and your goal. She has punished teams all season long with her ability to blow past defenders.
Now, with the 2020 Isobel Cup Playoffs just around the corner, Thunstrom has an opportunity to add to her 21 goal season in two games against the Connecticut Whale at TRIA Rink on Feb. 29 at 7 p.m. CT and on Mar. 1 at 1 p.m. CT. Tickets for both games are available at whitecaps.nwhl.zone/tickets. In her last four games against the Whale, Thunstrom scored a combined eight goals. So, get ready for some fireworks at TRIA Rink.
Photo Credit: Collin Nawrocki