LEVEILLE READY FOR REGULAR SEASON FINALE AND PLAYOFFS AT TRIA
By Rob Darragh
From Ontario to Ridder Arena to TRIA Rink and now Instagram, Minnesota Whitecaps All-Star goalie Amanda Leveille has flourished between the pipes. Her resume and list of achievements stretches far longer, but her Instagram bio can summarize her story perfectly, “A Canuck living the hockey dream. Professional athlete, 3-time natty champ, 2-time Isobel cup champion, Ph.D in goaltending and Minor in comedy.”
The love for hockey started at a young age for the Kingston, ON native, who grew up in the deeply rooted Canadian hockey culture. “I think the game is just so readily available for a lot of Canadians," Leveille said. "There's a Tim Hortons program that Sidney Crosby is on, there’s Hockey Night in Canada which I grew up watching as a kid and wanted to play in the NHL because of it.”
Leveille’s goal of being one of the best did not always come easy, but the long road trips during her time in the PWHL proved to be worthwhile.
“The team was in Ottawa so me and my dad used to always drive an hour and a half to two hours just to practice on the team because there wasn't a competitive girls hockey team for my age group at that level yet," Leveille shared. "I had such a great experience playing in the PWHL because it was such a talented league. There were many Olympians that played in that league that are current right now."
Although she comes from the birthplace of hockey, Leveille sees a lot of similarities between Canada and the United States, especially in the State of Hockey. “I think the culture in Canada and the U.S. is pretty similar. I used to think that I came from a place that was just strictly hockey and was the number one sport and then when I came to Minnesota my freshman year I went to see the state hockey tournament and was just blown away by how much Canada and Minnestota were similar and how much they loved hockey."
After two seasons tending for the Ottawa Lady Senators in the PWHL and posting .940 and .937 save percentages, Leveille left for the Twin Cities and joined the NCAA women’s hockey powerhouse Golden Gophers.
“There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to be a Gopher, one of the biggest ones was the coaching staff that was at the U of M," the NWHL's all-time leader in wins said. "When I went on my first visit there they were so welcoming and explained that you're not just coming here for hockey and that there's more to hockey at the school - you're coming to get a degree, you're going to be walking into a family culture. They had really good values that I agreed with and related to a ton and that really helped make my decision easier - and obviously the hockey program is phenomenal.”
In her four years at the University of Minnesota Leveille enjoyed both individual and team success. In 116 games she earned 98 wins, posted a .947 save percentage, a 1.18 goals against average, and celebrated 32 shutouts. She was also part of a historic 62-game winning streak, a three-time national champion, and made four national championship appearances under head coach Brad Frost and assistant coaches Joel Johnson and Nadine Muzerall.
“The teams I got to play on were unique," the Whitecaps' All-Star reflected. "Everyone just bought into their role and wanted to contribute to the team in any way that they could because they were so competitive, I think that's why we had a lot of success. We were pretty close off the ice, which really helps for on-ice chemistry, and we had such a great leader in Brad Frost that really directed us in the right direction and gave us the tough love when we needed it."
Since her collegiate career, Leveille has established herself as one of the best - if not the best - goalie in professional women's hockey. But, before her NWHL career began with the Buffalo Beauts, Leveille began another journey which has become something of a trademark for her.
“I had just graduated from college and was waiting for a working visa so that I could cross the border and go to practice and hadn't got it yet, but I just got my brand new goalie pads and really wanted to use them on the ice," Leveille said. "I put them on when I went to go walk my dog and my mom took a photo and I put it online and it really blew up. I think I got like 95 followers after I posted that.
"From there, me and my goalie partner at the time, Kelsey Neumann, just started taking photos like that and we got a lot of really good feedback on social media, so we kept doing it," she continued. "And here I am today still doing it.”
The tradition has continued in Minnesota wth a new partiner-in-crime in goalie partner Allie Morse. Together, they have fun celebrating the holidays and bringing attention to the Whitecaps through social media. Leveille's adventures in her gear off the ice allow her to share her sense of humor and personality with hockey fans, but when she's in the blue paint she's all business.
Before the 2019-20 season began, Leveille was already considered an elite goaltender, but she has found a way to take her game to another level this season. In 20 starts, the Canadian netminder has won 14 games and has a sensationally good .933 save percentage. In other words, she is playing arguably the best hockey of her career with the 2020 Isobel Cup Playoffs just around the corner.
“I just want to take every moment that I'm on the ice and appreciate it for what it is because one day I'm going to have to hang up the skates and with that comes everything, the wins, the losses, and the friendships," Leveille said. "I think my goals for the rest of the year are to obviously win the Isobel Cup with my teammates and on a more personal level, just take every moment that I'm given on the ice and make the most of it. I want to get my team into a position to compete for the Isobel Cup and, if we get (to the Final), hopefully we can win another one."
Before Leveille and the Whitecaps play the Riveters in the Isobel Cup Semifinal on Sunday, March 8, they will look to end the regular season on a high note with a two-game homestand against the Connecticut Whale to close out the season. Tickets for this weekend's games and the Isobel Cup Semifinal at TRIA are available at whitecaps.nwhl.zone/tickets and fans can watch all of the action streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch.
Photo Credit: Tom Morris