PHOTO BY MATTHEW RANEY
Amanda Leveille is a winner. Just look at the goaltender’s resume. During college, she won three NCAA titles at the University of Minnesota, and her team played in four title games. During her two NWHL seasons, she won an Isobel Cup as a rookie and finished as the runner-up last season, losing a 1-0 game in the Final. For those keeping track, that would be six consecutive seasons now that Leveille has helped her team reach the championship game. That’s good news for her new team, and the NWHL’s newest team - the Minnesota Whitecaps.
On June 18 Leveille left the Buffalo Beauts (who drafted her 12th overall in the 2015 NWHL Draft) for the Whitecaps, and while Minnesota isn’t where she was born, it’s just about as close to home as she could get given her history in the State of Hockey.
“I’m really happy to be back in Minnesota,” said Leveille. “I am really grateful for my time in Buffalo and I have nothing but good things to say about that entire organization - from the coaching staff, the support staff, all of the players. My decision (to leave the Beauts) was based on a career outside of hockey. I got offered a really good job opportunity that I couldn’t turn down with OS Hockey, which is one of the largest girls’ training programs in North America.”
PHOTO BY TROY PARLA
“I think it’s really cool that it’s all females training and the majority of the coaching staff if females as well, so it really provides a good environment for young and older girls to train among people who have played at the college level and even pro level,” she explained. “So that was one of the bigger factors in going to Minnesota. Also, I played in Minnesota before, for the Gophers, so I know the atmosphere around here and how hockey-crazy they are. So I’m really excited to be back here and experience that atmosphere again this year.”
Although she is proudly Canadian from Kingston, Ontario, where she grew into the person and competitor she is today was Minnesota as Leveille went on to tell us. “It won’t ever take my home away from Canada, I’m very proud to be Canadian and my parents still live there. Last year I spent a lot of time in Kingston with them, traveling to Buffalo to play for the Beauts. Playing for the Gophers I was able to live in Minnesota for four years, and that’s where I got to discover who I was outside of hockey.”
“The first year playing for the Gophers I had Noora Räty on the team as my goaltending partner; she’s probably one of the better female goaltenders in the world. So I didn’t play that much my freshman year, but I learned that hockey is something that I do and it’s not entirely who I am. That was a huge life lesson I learned in Minnesota.”
Leveille was a star in goal for the Beauts, and leaves as the franchise’s all-time leader in wins (16) and shutouts (1), and is the reigning NWHL Goaltender of the Year. She enters this upcoming season third on the league’s all-time wins list behind the Pride’s Brittany Ott (26) and the Riveters’ Katie Fitzgerald (19).
She also leaves Buffalo after a tough loss in which she surrendered only one goal in losing the Isobel Cup to Fitzgerald’s Riveters. “It was pretty difficult to lose, not because winning is everything. To see your teammates pretty upset and know all the hard work they put in during the year because you put it in as well, is pretty disappointing,” the 24-year-old said.
“It didn’t take away from the fantastic season that we had. We won 11 games in a row after we got signed by the Pegula family, and that had such a positive influence on our team and the Beauts organization. As much as it was not fun to lose, we still were very proud of our season and the NWHL in general; and the growth of women’s hockey.”
Leveille was the first player that the Whitecaps officially signed in mid-June and two months later they signed two other fantastic goalies when they inked Sydney Rossman (who started every game for the Connecticut Whale last season) and Julie Friend who split goaltending duties with Fitzgerald while at St. Cloud State. But she was quick to defuse any ideas that may arise in assuming that she is the clear-cut no. 1 while Rossman and Friend are just there to look nice in their goalie gear. Remember, Lev has been through this before, both in college with Räty and in the NWHL with Brianne McLaughlin.
“All the players in the NWHL are very good and each team has three good goaltenders. It pushes everyone to be better. I had the opportunity to play against Julie Friend at St. Cloud and she’s a phenomenal goalie,” Leveille told us. “I actually got to be roommates with Syd Rossman at the NWHL All-Star Game last year and she’s just an awesome person and a really good goaltender. I’m really looking forward to working with those two this year and pushing each other. Whatever happens - whether I get two play or I’m in more of a supportive role - I’m just going to be thankful that I get to be a part of this team and get to be teammates with those two great goaltenders.”
A new season and a new team also means a new mask for Leveille (which is like Christmas for goaltenders) and this is the year that she finally ditches her old reliable Gophers mask for a sharp looking Whitecaps bucket that she revealed on Twitter recently - in her own unique punny way.
"I’m so excited to finally get a new mask that finally fits! Last year I had one for the Buffalo Beauts but unfortunately the sizing of the helmet prevented me from being able to see out of it, which defeated the purpose of it,” Leveille explained. “This year I got my mask painted by 88 Custom Dezign; I told the guy what I wanted and he brought it all to life. If anyone follows me on social media you know I like to do a lot of stuff in my goalie gear, have fun, and get a few laughs. I wanted to incorporate that into my mask so there are a few goalies doing different things (snowboarding, laying on a raft). It’s supposed to represent both summer and winter in Minnesota, the two really drastic seasons that we have here.”