RICHARDS FLOURISHING IN RETURN TO MINNESOTA WITH WHITECAPS
By Rob Darragh
Audra Richards of the Minnesota Whitecaps has established herself as a star in her first two seasons of NWHL hockey, so it might surprise some to learn that hockey wasn’t her first love.
Richards grew up participating in many sports including soccer, track, tennis, volleyball, ski jump, and golf. However, she needed to strike a deal with one of her friends before she finally stepped onto the ice. “I was playing soccer at the time and my friend said she’d play soccer if I played hockey,” Richards said. “I agreed and started playing hockey, but she never ended up playing soccer!”
Clearly, that deal to get Richards off the pitch and onto the ice changed her life. Her love for the game grew quickly in the State of Hockey, and she quickly found a role model in current teammate Stephanie Anderson, who played both for the United States women’s national team and Bemidji State. “I wanted to play just like her. I grew up watching Stephanie play and her game inspired me to play my game the way I do,” Richards said.
After graduating from Tartan High School, Richards went on to play two years in the JWHL for the Minnesota Thoroughbreds where she had 27 points in 56 games. Playing in the JWHL helped prepare the 2019 NWHL All-Star for her collegiate career, “It was very competitive and a good experience for me,” Richards said. “I got to spend a lot of time playing on the East Coast and in Canada. Canada has a different game than here, so it was good to be able to get familiar with that style of play.”
Following the JWHL, Richards went to the University of Maine where she put up 70 points, 45 of which were goals, in 132 games and earned her degree. Playing hockey with the Black Bears gave her an opportunity to establish friendships from people across the globe. “I met a lot of people there,” Richards said. “Some of my best friends are from Maine and since it’s an international college, many of them came from different countries. It gives me a reason to travel to other countries to visit them.”
In 2018, Richards signed with the Metropolitan Riveters and made an immediate impact as she led the team in scoring her rookie year. “It was fun living in the city and playing with high school and college rivals. I had a great time.” Richards certainly had fun scoring goals. She finished the 2018-19 season with eight goals which helped punch her ticket to the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game. In her first season with the Whitecaps, she wants to be just as productive but also get in the scoresheet in other ways.
“I have a similar goal expectation (from last year), but I’d like to get more assists this year,” Richards said. “Last year I didn’t have any, so I’m glad that I’ve already picked up a couple this year. I want to continue to make those improvements in my game.”
Richards will once again be on the ice against her former team this weekend in New Jersey. Thus far, the Riveters and Whitecaps have split the season series 2-2, but Minnesota has picked up points in both of the Rivs’ wins. It’s also worth noting that she has recorded five of her nine points this season playing against her former team. That makes her a player to watch this weekend. Tickets for both games are available at nwhl.zone/tickets and all NWHL games can be watched streaming live and free this season on the NWHL on Twitch.
Photo Credit: Michelle Jay