The 25 Greatest Goalies of Women's Hockey History
This project began near the end of 2016 although the idea had started before then. Hockey history is littered with high end goalies and we have heard about the Hasek/Roy/Brodeur/Plante/Dryden/etc. debates for a long time now. Yet we haven’t seen anything of a debate or discussion regarding women’s hockey and the respective players. Part of that is due to lack of information and relative to men’s hockey/NHL women’s hockey is pretty new. We don’t have an Original Six or a hundred years of the Clarkson/Isobel Cup. During the war years women’s hockey leagues popped up but they were purely amateur, didn’t last longer than the wars, and stats are scare if not non-existent.
That excuse is slowly starting to go away though. Women’s hockey is here to stay and stats are becoming more available the more people are willing to put the effort into pulling them off game sheets from tournaments/leagues. As women’s hockey is becoming more modernized or accessible we can now have those Knight vs. Poulin debates or whoever. Other than acknowledging that Hayley Wickenheiser is the greatest player in women’s hockey or taking about players who deserve to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame we don’t often touch the history of women’s hockey.
The NHL and fans of men’s hockey have no problem putting together all-time lists for teams at all levels. They do so to acknowledge their history, inform new fans, and create discussion to keep fans engaged. The CWHL/NWHL don’t have the means to do so yet. The CWHL could but they most likely want to wait a bit to build up more of a history before undertaking a project. This leaves us to our own devices. Lucky for us though weeks and weeks of research, resource gathering, and creation of easy to access resources for goalies has been finished so we can now have these discussions.
So before we get into the meat and potatoes of the list I’d like to point out the thought process to how I ended up ranking each goalie on this list. I did my best to make sure that the bias to towards modern goalies was cut down. We have more information and better recollections of goalies that have played recently. What I also aimed at doing was trying to balance the different accomplishments each goalie made through the years. Goalies from the 1990’s had far less opportunities to play than goalies now thanks to the NWHL/CWHL. So what this means is there needs to be some credit given to goalies that didn’t have a lot of opportunity to play yet were able to force their way into men’s leagues. This applies to even recent goalies because of the lack of pay for players in women’s hockey.
It’s been 37 years since women’s hockey was made an official part of the IIHF and 31 years since women’s hockey was added into the Winter Olympics. It’s about damn time someone has done this. Even if you don’t care for rankings these profiles help keep track of the history these goalies made but are a part of as well. Women’s hockey has been a victim of terrible historical record keeping and I don’t wish to see that continued so if you don’t care about which goalies are in front of others I hope this is still a good opportunity to learn the history of these great goalies in the game of hockey.
For the Top 4 goalies on this list I went the extra half kilometer and added a small play style breakdown to their profiles. Their profiles go a bit further into detail because the Top 4 are so close together more needs to done to help differentiate the four of them.
So without further ado let’s get this going...
1. Shannon Szabados, Canada
It’s over and finally over. We’ve reached the very last profile of this crazy huge project that has taken up over 18,000 words and too many hours to count researching, writing, and more. I hope you all have enjoyed reading and thinking about this as much as I have had writing this. This spot realistically could have gone to any goalie and you could make a compelling argument for any one of the Top 4. As always at this stage it was close but I’ve gone with Shannon Szabados for the no. 1 spot and not without good reason as we’ll obviously go through in the coming paragraphs.
First off what is the play style of Shannon Szabados? Her crease depth is more akin to Raty than Schelling as Szabados prefers to set up with the back half of her skate blade on the edge of the crease. Normally this would be unnecessary as Szabados is one of the bigger goalies in the game at 5’ 9”. Szabados though likes to get low and wide with her stance to take away the bottom portion of the net which means she partially loses her height advantage. However she trusts her skills, technique, and ability to read the play to play aggressive so she presents a literal wall to shooters that forces them to make the perfect shot. It’s a treat to watch in her play as you can see the consistent attention to the little details that makes Szabados the goalie she is today.
Szabados was in the eye of the hockey world early on as she played Alberta Boys Midget AAA hockey in 2001. After two seasons there Szabados found herself in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. We could have seen Szabados in the NCAA but because she took part in a WHL training camp which featured her in four exhibition games she lost her eligibility. So instead she went and
played CCAA men’s hockey with Grant MacEwan University for three seasons and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology for her last two seasons. This saw Szabados win a championship in her last CCAA season which took place in 2012/13. Afterwards Szabados found a place in the SPHL for four seasons before she left and is now currently looking for a team. The path to the national team was different though for Szabados when compared to Schelling or Raty. Schelling/Raty found themselves on the national team radar very early whereas Szabados wasn’t trusted at the highest level until she won three straight Gold’s at the U22 4 Nations from 2006-2008 and was named 3rd goalie of the 2009 World Hockey Championships. Then the amazing happened, Szabados flat out stole the starting job for the 2010 Olympics from underneath both Charline Labonte and Kim St-Pierre. From then on whenever Szabados has joined Team Canada she has been the most trusted goalie taking over for Kim St-Pierre.
Szabados’ career outside of the international stage has taken place in Midget AAA, the AJHL, and the CCAA. The majority of her known non-international career takes place in the AJHL and CCAA. In her first game in the AJHL she made quite the impression by posting a shutout. Szabados also saw herself sent twice to the AJHL All-Star game where she was the co-MVP in her All-Star which took place during her second year in the AJHL. In her second season Szabados was named co-MVP of her team the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Her last year was her most successful though as Szabados posted the 3rd best SV%, helped her team to the best record in the league, and was one game away from being AJHL champions. For her efforts during the season Szabados was named the AJHL Top Goalie. In the CCAA Szabados found herself getting better as the years went on posting the 4th and then 3rd best SV% in the CCAA which finally culminated in that Championship Trophy she’s been aiming for since getting so close in the AJHL.
The biggest impact that Szabados has had in her career though has been at the international level for Team Canada. She’s the most trusted goalie for a reason and it’s because she gets results. If a team wants to get the best possible chance at winning you bring in Szabados who has shown consistently elite play at both the Olympics and the WHC. At the WHC she’s been underrated which is weird to say but when you look at her stat line and performances at the WHC you have to wonder what’s been going on? Just look at this year where Szabados posted a 1.000 QS%, was 1st in GSAA, and 1st in GSAA/60 while having a SA/60 that was only 0.1 lower than Noora Raty. The consistently high play also shows in the rate at which Szabados finishes in the Top 5 of both SV% and GSAA which is 0.750 that only Kim St-Pierre can match among goalies with three or more WHC appearances. Szabados is also currently sitting at 6th overall in WHC All-Time GSAA and 6th as well in GSAA per a WHC appearance. To top it all off no goalie has a higher all-time QS% than Szabados when having 10 or more WHC starts. If you make the bar five or more starts Szabados only slides down to second all-time in QS%.
The Olympics are the bread-and-butter though of Szabados. If Florence Schelling isn’t the greatest goalie of all-time in Olympic women’s hockey than it has to be Shannon Szabados. In two Olympic appearances so far Szabados has made herself a name. Szabados currently has one Olympic Top Goalie award and was named to the Olympic All-Star team. Now Szabados in only 3rd All-Time in Olympic GSAA but both goalies in front of her have played in seven more games and Szabados has the highest Olympic GSAA/60 among all goalies with three or more games played at an astonishingly high 1.263 GSAA/60. Only four other goalies have a +1.000 GSAA/60 while playing three or more Olympic games. While Szabados’ 2010 Olympic tournament is the better of the two so far it’s not the complete reason why Szabados has the statistics she has. This shows in how Szabados has finished in the Top 3 of SV%/GSAA at both tournaments. No other goalie has been able to finish in the Top 3 of SV%/GSAA at a 100% rate. The finishing touch on Szabados’ Olympic career right now is that she’s 1st among goalies in GSAA per an Olympic appearance.
Before this profile reaches its conclusion I’d like to point out one more aspect of Szabados’ career, her consistency versus the Americans which. Szabados currently has a 0.919 SV% versus the US at the WHC which 2nd among all goalie with 3 or more starts. The goalie in front of her is Kim St-Pierre who faced 28.20 SA/60 compared to Szabados’ 35.28 SA/60. At the Olympics though Szabados is untouched with two starts versus the Americans, which both occurred in Gold Medal Games, Szabados has posted a 0.965 SV%. Next highest Olympic SV% versus the North American teams is Sarah Tueting with a 0.938 SV%. It’s a razor’s edge in difference but the Olympics and play vs USA is what vaults Szabados to the top of this list. With a career like this there is no doubt that Szabados will be among the great goalies Canada has produced in the Hockey Hall of Fame. She has set the bar so high that Szabados should be talked like she belongs in the same conversation as Hayley Wickenheiser. Not above Wickenhieser but when you think players who made a consistently high impact for Team Canada Wickenheiser and Szabados should be the two you think of.
2. Noora Raty, Finland
It is my absolute pleasure to say that Noora Raty is the 2nd Greatest Goalie of All-Time in women’s hockey. It was close both ways in terms of Raty potentially ending up 3rd or ending up 1st. Raty completely deserves being this high and recognized like this. Whenever Raty decides enough is enough and hangs up the skates she’ll be another 1st Ballot Hockey Hall of Famer plus being known as one of the greatest goalies in Finnish hockey history. Raty has dominated in almost every facet of the game and has made her name well known in the hockey world. I have a lot of respect for the way Raty approaches not only goaltending but the game of hockey as well. She wants to give her best and will not be satisfied with average.
When you watch Raty play the first part of her game you’ll notice is how quick she is. It’s a controlled quickness though as she rarely leaves a body part behind while moving showing not only high technical skill but high end hockey IQ as well. Raty is only 5’ 5” so she doesn’t get the same size advantage as Florence Schelling or Shannon Szabados but she knows that and closes the gap with superb footwork and edgework. Her ability to change directions and make the save on a deflected puck is the primary example of this ability. Canadian and American players can tell you all about how they’ll think they have Raty in a vulnerable spot but she’ll perform a change in direction so quickly that the opportunity is gone.
Raty has been in the eye on the hockey world for a long time now. It started in 2004 when she started to play with Finland in international tournaments. Her first IIHF World Hockey Championship tournament was in 2005 at the age of 15yo and is the
only time Noora Raty has been a back-up at a high level IIHF tournament. At the age of 16 Raty found herself on the Finnish National Olympic team for the 2006 Torino Olympic Games. Including the 2005 WHC and the 2006 Olympics Raty has played in a total of 11 WHC/Olympic tournaments so far which includes eight WHC’s and three Olympic Games. Outside of her international career Raty has spent the majority of her career in Finland. She started out playing in the Finnish women’s league but after the 2014 Olympics and contemplating retirement Raty found herself in the men’s Finnish 2nd league and then the men’s Finnish 3rd league making her the first women in both men’s leagues. Of course we can’t ignore Raty’s NCAA career where Raty showed the type of quality goaltending that was over in Europe waiting to be discovered over her 4 year reign of domination.
Before Raty created vaulted herself to where she is now from her play on the international stage and in the NCAA what was she doing in Finland? At the age of 16 Raty was named the Finnish Women’s Leagues Top Rookie, goalie which resulted in the award being named after her later on, and was given the Tuula Puputti award for being the top goalie. In 2007 Raty left with more awards as she was once again given the Tuula Puputti Award and named to the All-Star team. The last award that Raty left the Finnish women’s league was twice being named the Playoffs MVP in 2008 and 2009.
In the NCAA Raty came in the way she left the Finnish women’s league, dominant. Just take a look at her first season in the NCAA which took place in 2009/10. Raty left her freshman season being named the WCHA Top Goalie, named to the WCHA All-Rookie team, the WCHA 1st All-Star team, NCAA 1st All-Star team, and named as a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award. The next season saw Raty walk away with being named to the WCHA 1st All-Star team and the NCAA 2nd All-Star team. In Raty’s last two years in the NCAA she ramped it up with her team winning not only the WCHA Championship twice but also the NCAA Championship twice and was once more named as a Patty Kaz Award finalist. When Raty left the NCAA, she left as the best goalie to have played and the mark she left was obvious. You’ll see Raty’s name in the NCAA record book for setting the highest single season Win %, 6th All-Time in NCAA Win %, 1st All-Time in NCAA Wins, once lead the NCAA in SV%, 2nd All-Time in NCAA Shutouts, 9th All-Time in NCAA Saves, and 3rd All-Time in NCAA SV%.
During Raty’s play in the NCAA and back home in Finland Raty was also plenty busy representing Finland at various tournaments. As mentioned above Raty has currently appeared in eight WHC tournaments and three Olympic Games. As of right now Raty has been the starter in all but two of her combined WHC/Olympic appearances and that’s because she was 15/16yo at the time of these two tournaments. Afterwards of course she’s clearly been the starting goalie and why wouldn’t she be? Her international resume, specifically the World Hockey Championships, is above reproach. No other goalie quite has the trophy case that Raty has as in her WHC career Raty has earned four Top Goalie Awards, three times named to the WHC All-Star team, and first goalie to be named WHC MVP. Raty has the statistics to back up her play as well. She’s currently sitting 3rd All-Time for WHC GSAA behind Florence Schelling and Kim St-Pierre. The rest of her stat line is equally impressive as she’s played in 33 games, had 32 starts, has a 32.3 SA/60, 5 shutouts, 0.719 QS%, a 0.501 GSAA/60, four finishes in the Top 5 SV%, and four finishes in the Top 5 of GSAA.
The other impressive portion of Raty’s international resume is how she’s gone toe-to-toe with Canada and the USA. No goalie has gone head-to-head versus North American teams than Noora Raty has as she’s put up a combined 20 WHC/Olympic starts. So far only Zuzana Tomcikova and Jennifer Harss are the international goalies who have put up better SV%’s versus the North American teams. At the WHC Raty has a 0.533 QS% versus the NA teams which is currently good for 10th out of 41 goalies with a start versus NA teams. At the Olympics Raty jumps up not only in QS% with a 0.600 QS% but ends up 8th out of 25 goalies to put a start versus a NA team. In terms of workload you can see the effect of Raty playing on decent team in Finland as she ends up 14th out of 25 goalies in SA/60 in the Olympics and 24th out of 41 goalies in the WHC though it is still a pretty large workload.
What’s the difference between Noora Raty and the no. 1 goalie? The biggest difference is in the Olympic play. If there is one imperfect part to Raty’s resume it’s in the Olympics. Raty has put up above average numbers at the Olympics but it’s not enough when compared to her peers and the no. 1 goalie on top of the list. Currently Raty is sitting at 12th All-Time in Olympic GSAA with no individual awards and only once made it into the Top 3 of SV%/GSAA with a stat line of 14 games played, 13 games started, 27.9 SA/60, 0.615 QS%, and a 0.214 GSAA/60. The gap is small though and the next few years before her potential retirement somewhere around 2022 are going to be important. Regardless of what does happen Raty is someone we should all be happy to have around in the game of hockey and happy to have written about her.
3. Florence Schelling, Switzerland
Are you surprised to see Florence Schelling this high on the list? It’s natural to think that way if you are focused mostly on the North American side of women’s hockey. Though if you’ve been following me for more than a few months you should have guessed this could happen especially when she didn’t appear earlier on in the list. It was an absolute pleasure though to jump down the rabbit hole that is Schelling’s career and it raised questions. Questions such as “Why do we not hear more about Schelling” and “We talk a lot about Raty/Szabados but why is Schelling never in the same conversation”. Playing for Switzerland has that affect as Schelling and the Swiss have been stuck in a fight to stay in the top division of the World Hockey Championships which has resulted in Schelling playing in Pool B which means barely any coverage. Before we go any further I would like to say we were very close to seeing Schelling at no. 2 with another goalie at no. 3 and as you read on you’ll hopefully see why.
Florence Schelling is the ideal goalie you want in your crease. She’s not just big, she’s knows what her size gives her and how best to use with the type of excellent footwork you usually see from smaller goalies. You see this in Schelling’s crease depth where she’ll often opt to play a bit more conservative than Emerance Maschmeyer for example. On a team like Switzerland you know there is the chance that there will be more than a few lateral plays against so Schelling needs to be able to give herself a chance on those high end scoring chances. On the technical side of the game Schelling presents a wall. Coming down the wing Schelling only gives you three choices: 1) Attempt a lateral pass 2) Aim for a corner and miss 99% of the time 3) Shoot it right at Schelling for the easy save. Schelling’s ability to track the puck and her ability to adapt is why she’s had the success she’s had so far. With the way teams are able to move the puck against the Swiss and without Schelling’s ability to track the puck or adapt we’d see a career more akin to Jennifer Harss or Sara Grahn.
Schelling has been on top of her game since we’ve seen her in the relatively known world of hockey when she came up through the Switzerland junior system when she was 14yo in 2003. 22 days after turning 15yo Schelling played in her first World Hockey Championship Game against Russia in the 2004 WHC. It was a loss but certainly not because of Schelling who made 31/33 saves and finished the tournament very strong with a shutout versus Japan. Schelling’s star status didn’t dip as she forced the Head Coach to use her in a tandem role at 16yo with the 26yo veteran Patricia Elsmore-Sautter. Schelling would secure the starting role on the Swiss national team at the 2007 WHC at the age of 18. In total we’ve seen Schelling in 13 total WHC/Olympic tournaments and in each tournament she would at least be considered the starter with the amount of minutes she played compared to her goalie partner. Outside of her international career Schelling has spent the majority of her time playing men’s and women’s hockey in Switzerland. Schelling also did have a good four-year career in the NCAA along with one season in the CWHL where she was a Top 2 goalie and more recently she’s been a monster in the SDHL.
We’ll start with Schelling’s career that occurred outside of the international play with the focus on the NCAA, CWHL, and the SDHL. I don’t know how Schelling was perceived during her four year career in the NCAA which occurred from 2008 to 2012 but her impact is there in individual awards as well as in the NCAA record book. Schelling’s trophy case is full of Hockey East accolades which features being named to the All-Rookie team, twice named as the HE Player of the Year and Top Goalie, and once to the HE 1st All-Star team. Schelling also has her name twice in the NCAA record books as she lead the NCAA once in SV% and is 8th All-Time in SV%. Before heading back home Schelling spent a season in the CWHL which can only be described as successful as she finished 2nd in GSAA while posting a 0.700 Quality Starts %. Currently in her SDHL career Schelling has finished 2nd and 3rd in GSAA. Schelling would have finished first if she played anywhere close to the number of games that the others ahead of her played.
The international career of Florence Schelling is potentially her most underrated aspect of her career. She’s done so much for so long you’d expect her to be in mid-30’s not late 20’s. Looking back at the history of women’s Olympic hockey it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Schelling is the greatest goalie to have played in the Olympics. Her trophy case is pretty impressive with Switzerland’s only Olympic medal in hockey and hitting the Olympic Trifecta (Top Goalie (or top in position), All-Star Team, MVP) which is a first in women’s hockey and only the third time in all of Olympic hockey to have been accomplished (it’s happen twice so far in men’s Olympic hockey with both being goalies). Schelling also currently sits on top of All-Time GSAA in women’s Olympics with a 9.402 GSAA in her three appearances while sporting a 0.692 QS% in 13 starts. Schelling hasn’t had it easy either as she currently has a 39.9 SA/60 in her Olympic career which is first among goalies with two or more Olympic Appearances. To top it all off Schelling has finished once in the Top 3 of SV%, twice in the Top 3 of GSAA, and has 3.134 Goals Saved Above Average per an Olympic appearance which is 3rd All-Time behind Shannon Szabados and Manon Rheaume.
Now onto the last part of Schelling’s career the World Hockey Championships. As mentioned above Schelling has appeared in 10 WHC’s and put up starting level minutes in all 10 of them. It’s just been a stunning career at the WHC for Schelling where she’s shown that she’s an absolute workhorse. Schelling is sitting at 41 games played and 40 games started. It’s not like Schelling has seen a low amount of shots either as she’s currently sporting a 34.7 SA/60. She’s been highly consistent as well in her play which shows in her 0.775 QS% which is higher than goalies such as Raty, Harss, Tomcikova, Vetter, and Grahn. Schelling also has a Bronze Medal, a WHC Top Goalie award, and was once named to the WHC All-Star team. Just like in the Olympics, Schelling is currently sitting atop of all WHC goalies in GSAA and currently the only goalie to sitting at the +30 GSAA mark at the WHC. There’s one last part of Schelling’s WHC career that needs to be brought up and it’s the rate she finishes in the Top 5 of SV%/GSAA. Right now Schelling has a 0.700 rate of finishing in the Top 5 of SV%/GSAA in her 10 WHC appearances which is utterly impressive. Vetter, Raty, and St-Pierre all have 8 WHC appearances and only St-Pierre finished at a better rate in the Top 5 of SV%/GSAA than Schelling.
The career of Florence Schelling is definitely outstanding. By the time she retires she’ll be a shoe-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame as well being known as the most dominant Swiss goalie in hockey history. Now as I said above Schelling barely missed out on being no. 2. Why is that? The biggest difference between Schelling and Raty/Szabados is that Schelling has struggled in her games against Canada/USA in both the Olympics and the WHC. Schelling currently has a 0.876 SV% at the WHC and a 0.880 SV% at the Olympics. Of course this isn’t completely Schelling’s fault as she also faced significantly more shots with an Olympic 58.19 SA/60 and 66.88 SA.60 versus Canada/USA. Until we have analytics that can further help show why each goalie fares the way they do it’s makes this hard to do. Maybe in five or ten years we’ll have better information and Schelling will be either 2nd or 1st All-Time. Until then let’s enjoy Schelling as much as possible before she leaves us to go travelling for the rest of her life.
4. Kim St-Pierre, Canada
At some point in every ranking whether it be forward, defender, or goalie you’ll get to a handful of players that are nearly impossible to separate. Sometimes it’ll happen at the lower end of the list, other times in the middle, and there are moments where it occurs at the top of the list. In this case there are four goalies at the top of the list that could be interchangeable with each other: Shannon Szabados, Florence Schelling, Noora Raty, and Kim St-Pierre. For this list Kim St-Pierre is 4th for good reason and not because she did anything wrong. At this stage of the project it’s tough but I believe each goalie is where they deserve to be.
To give you an idea of Kim St-Pierre’s style in one word is hybrid. She has no problem getting down and on her knees to cover up the bottom portion of the ice. St-Pierre preferred though to stay on her feet as much as possible. Combine this with her hockey IQ and high end puck tracking and it was an obviously it was an effective style of play as St-Pierre had a long and successful career.
Kim St-Pierre took her first step to ending up at 4th on this list in 1998 when she joined the McGill University women’s hockey team. She spent five years in the women’s program then one year in the men’s program becoming the first woman goalie to win a men’s CIS game. St-Pierre struggled to find a place to play until the CWHL came into existence in 2007 where St-Pierre proceeded to play four seasons in the CWHL making a significant impact in the three seasons she played in as a starter. In her international career St-Pierre made 12 combined appearances at the World Hockey Championships and the Olympics giving her three Olympic Golds, five WHC Golds, and four WHC Silvers.
Unfortunately stats from St-Pierre’s career at McGill are all but impossible to find. However what we do know is pretty impressive. In 2000 St-Pierre was named the MVP in the CIS Championship game. In St-Pierre’s last year in the women’s program in McGill she was named the CIS Most Outstanding Player. Naturally this kind of individual success followed St-Pierre into the CWHL. As mentioned above St-Pierre played three full seasons in the CWHL and came away with one Clarkson Cup, three Top Goalie awards, and was named three times to the CWHL 1st All-Star team. Unfortunately the CWHL didn’t start taking proper goalie stats until the 2010/11 season so we only have one statistical season from St-Pierre. From the stats we do have St-Pierre was the obvious choice for goalie of the year as she posted the highest Goals Saved Above Average along with the highest Quality Starts % at a 0.688 QS%. Her last full year didn’t end with a subpar regular season. St-Pierre went out with a bang helping Montreal win the 2011 Clarkson Cup which made her the first goalie to enter the Triple Gold Club.
St-Pierre’s international career is no joke either. The competition for the starting position on Team Canada is tough as shown by the highly talented Charline Labonte only being the starter in two total WHC/Olympic tournaments. Kim St-Pierre was able to lock down the starting position in six of nine WHC’s but only started one of three Olympic tournaments. With only once being the starter in the Olympics it does somewhat hurt her overall stat line. St-Pierre is currently 8th All-Time in Olympic GSAA but only has a 1.561 GSAA per an Olympic Appearance. I’m sure St-Pierre doesn’t mind though being the first Canadian goalie to win a Gold Medal at the Olympics and was named the Top Goalie of the 2002 Olympics.
On the WHC side of St-Pierre’s international career is where she was money. Currently St-Pierre sits at 2nd in WHC GSAA above Noora Raty but below Florence Schelling. Among goalies with 3 or more WHC appearances St-Pierre is 2nd in GSAA per a WHC appearance behind only Florence Schelling and ahead of Shannon Szabados. The success for St-Pierre doesn’t stop there as she has two WHC Top Goalie awards and once was named to the WHC All-Star team. Currently St-Pierre is only one of two goalies to be awarded the WHC Top Goalie award more than once. Another impressive part of St. Pierre’s career is that she’s been in the Top 5 of both SV% and GSAA six times. Only Florence Schelling has more Top 5 finishes in SV%/GSAA than St-Pierre.
With a career like this it’s a fair question to ask why isn’t St-Pierre higher. The one blemish is obvious though in that St-Pierre wasn’t able to make more of an impact at the Olympics. Making an Olympic team three times is a huge accomplishment. The issue is the goalies ahead of her were starters more than once. With the type of career St-Pierre has had she should have been in the Hockey Hall of Fame this year. Hopefully we’ll see her in 2018 because she more than deserves her place among the greats.
5. Manon Rheaume, Canada
This might be the most controversial selection apart from what is coming up next in the Top 3. Manon Rheaume has had one of the most far reaching careers of any goalie on this list along with a high peak but also one of the oddest careers we’ve seen from these goalies. We know the goalie Manon Rheaume was when she was given two exhibition games with the Tampa Bay Lightning. We know the history she made when she first stepped onto the ice and the fame that followed. What happened outside of those two games with Tampa is we’re going to go through today. If you want to know what Manon Rheaume was like on the ice just take a look at her son, Dylan St. Cyr. Both goalies are on the small side with a keen eye for the technical part of the game, a never say die attitude, near perfect footwork, along with the IQ to put it all together.
Manon Rheaume first stepped onto the big hockey scene in 1991/92 to play with Trois-Rivières Draveurs of the QMJHL making her the first woman to do so at the age of 20. After the season was over Hockey Canada came calling for Rheaume and she was thrown into the starter’s position at the 1992 World Hockey Championships where she won her first WHC Gold Medal. What followed next is the well-known story of how Rheaume was brought in and played in one exhibition game for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rheaume spent the rest of the season in the IHL with the Atlanta Knights getting in two games making Rheaume the only woman to have played pro regular season hockey two leagues away from the NHL (IHL at the time was considered the equivalent of today’s ECHL). Rheaume would play men’s pro hockey with six different teams which came from the IHL, ECHL, and WCHL for a total of 25 games which wouldn’t be beaten until Shannon Szabados found her way into the SPHL. What you might still know but is worth bringing up is that Rheaume played in a second NHL exhibition game in 1993. Apart from her career making waves in men’s pro hockey, Rheaume got in two more stints with Team Canada at the 1994 WHC and the 1998 Olympics which came after she retired. That’s right Rheaume has retired a total of three times from hockey, once in 1997, once in 1998 and then in 2009 where Rheaume made a comeback as the 3rd string goalie for the Minnesota Whitecaps getting in some game time during the 2009 Clarkson Cup Finals.
Obviously the career of Rheaume is short but we have a fair amount of information outside of her running around making her name in the world of men’s pro hockey. In Rheaume’s two WHC appearances she was twice named to the WHC All-Star team. Only two other goalies in the Women’s WHC have been named two or more times to the All-Star team and both have more appearances. Among Canadian goalies at the WHC Rheaume has the 4th best Goals Saved Above Average. All three Canadian goalies ahead of Rheaume have more WHC appearances than her as well. Rheaume also has one WHC Top 5 SV% finish and one WHC Top 5 GSAA finish. We only have appearance for Manon Rheaume at the Olympics but it was pretty darn good. In 1998 she posted the 2nd highest SV% of the tournament and the 3rd highest GSAA. This one tournament puts her 9th All-Time in the Olympics in GSAA. Lastly during the tournament Rheaume finds herself 5th All-Time in SV% against a North American team in Olympic play.
So to summarize why Manon Rheaume is this high with only three international tournaments under her belt, it was a high peak combined with her blazing a path when only Erin Whitten was able to do the same. The difference between Whitten and Rheaume is the amount of games played in the pros plus Rheaume having more success at the international level. The
unfortunate part of all this of course is how short Rheaume’s career was. It’s obvious she has the talent and the IQ to be a dominant goalie but felt that she accomplished all she could because of the lack of opportunities. Thankfully this generations Rheaume’s in Szabados/Schelling/Raty are making use of the opportunities that Rheaume didn’t have.
6. Jessie Vetter, USA
If you are asked the question of who is the greatest goalie in American women’s hockey history and you don’t say Jessie Vetter I’ll be extremely disappointed in you. Will Vetter still hold the title in the next five or ten years? Maybe, right now though in the present Vetter has put together a career that has set the bar high for the young Americans behind her in Alex Rigsby and Nicole Hensley. The bar may be set even higher depending on what happens next for Jessie Vetter and her career because so far, she’s not done yet.
Vetter first popped up in the known hockey world at the University of Wisconsin in 2005. There she had a prominent four year career that would later see Alex Rigsby and Ann-Renee Desbiens meet the high bar that Vetter set. In Vetter’s sophomore year at Wisconsin she was noticed by USA hockey and they brought her along to the 2007 World Hockey Championships. After the 2007 WHC Vetter would go on to play in nine more international tournaments for the USA which consisted of two Olympic appearances and eight WHC’s all-together. This would result in Vetter racking up two Olympic Silver Medals, six WHC Gold Medals, and two WHC Silver Medals.
With the career that Jessie Vetter had at Wisconsin it creates the foundation that pushes Vetter into her spot on this list. As far as individual awards go Vetter has enough for a good sized trophy case. In this trophy case Vetter has two Frozen Fury MVP awards, a WCHA Top Goalie award, once named to the WCHA 1st
All-Star team, and was once a NCAA season SV% leader. The cherry on top of Vetter’s career is being the named Patty Kazmaier Award winner in 2009. This made Vetter only the second goalie to win it at the time and the first since Ali Brewer in 2000. Vetter also has her name in the NCAA record books four times for official records: finishing 6th All-Time in SV%, 6th All-Time in Wins, 8th All-Time in Win%, and 3rd All-Time in Shutouts. Vetter also has two other records that are not in the NCAA record book: first to record a Frozen Fury shutout and the longest shutout streak in all of NCAA hockey which includes the men’s side as well.
What about Vetter’s international career? The verdict right now is it’s overall above average with a decent peak. The amount of talent that has come through USA Hockey Vetter still managed to be named the starter in the two Olympic tournaments she participated in along with being the starter in five of eight WHC tournaments. Vetter’s international peak occurred between 2009-2011 which involved two WHC tournaments and one Olympic tournament. In the two WHC tournaments Vetter finished 1st in both SV% and GSAA which earned Vetter a spot on the 2009 WHC All-Star team. At the 2010 Olympics Vetter finished 1st in GSAA and 2nd in SV%. The 2014 Olympics was a bit below average for Vetter which caused her numbers to drop a bit to what we see now which is two Olympic appearances, 8 games played/started, a 0.750 QS%, a 4.972 GSAA, and a 0.614 GSAA/60. Vetter is currently 7th All-Time in Olympic GSAA.
The World Hockey Championship has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Jessie Vetter. There’s a clear peak for Vetter as mentioned above when she played in the 2009 WHC and the 2011 WHC. After the 2011 WHC she put up two slightly above average tournaments in 2012 and 2013. There obvious struggles though in the next two WHC tournaments that took place in 2015 and 2016. This left Jessie Vetter with an overall positive WHC career as she finished with a stat line of eight WHC appearances, 20 games played/started, 17.6 SA/60, 0.600 QS%, 4.239 GSAA, 0.216 GSAA/60, three Top 5 SV% finishes and two Top 5 GSAA finishes.
After becoming a mother for the first time in 2017 Jessie Vetter went out to try for the 2018 USA Olympic team. She didn’t make the team and right now the hockey world is kind of in limbo right now waiting for her decision. Vetter is another reminder that even North American goalies still don’t have the type of opportunities they need in order to keep playing. This hurts Vetter because she wasn’t able to add any non-international or non-NCAA accomplishments that could beef up her resume a bit more. What doesn’t hurt Vetter is the immense strength of her overall career that should see her in the Hockey Hall of Fame at some point.
7. Charline Labonte, Canada
If there ever comes a time when the debate strikes up amongst CWHL fans with who is the greatest goalie to have played in the CWHL Charline Labonte will surely be a name that pops up in the conversation. And Labonte won’t just be a name that pops up, she’ll be a primary contender for Greatest All-Time CWHL Goalie along with fellow francophone Kim St-Pierre. Labonte’s name will also be all around Canadian international history as well. You don’t get this high on the list unless you have a high peak and even though Labonte is currently sliding down due to age, she’s still one of the CWHL’s best. What has made Labonte one of the most effective goalies in the game is her technical ability. Labonte has never been the quickest goalie in the back but she knows her size and she’s knows the position. Labonte keeps herself on top of the hockey world through also adapting her game year-by-year to cover up whatever holes are there.
Charline Labonte first got her start in the known hockey world by playing with the Acadie-Bathurst Titans of the QMJHL. Labonte was drafted in the 11th round of the 1999 QMJHL draft and went on to play in 28 regular season games for Acadie-Bathurst. After her career in the QMJHL was over Labonte found herself playing for McGill University in the CIS because the NCAA does not allow CHL players to join the NCAA but not before Labonte found herself playing in the old NWHL winning the championship with the Montreal Axion. In the CIS Labonte played five years and was the starter every year. With McGill Labonte won three CIS championships while posting some insanely high single season SV%’s along the way (0.959, 0.971, 0.965, 0.953, 0.944). After Labonte’s career at McGill finished she joined the Montreal Star’s and has been there for currently four seasons. In between all of this Labonte was called upon to play for Team Canada 11 times for both World Hockey Championships (2 Gold’s & 6 Silver’s) and Olympics (3 Gold’s).
Starting with Labonte career with McGill in the CIS she was obviously a star player. As mentioned above Labonte had the following season SV% finishes: 0.959, 0.971, 0.965, 0.953, 0.944. In those five years in the CIS Labonte finished 1st in SV% four times and 2nd in SV% once. In terms of team accomplishments Labonte finished with three CIS National Championships and a record of 69-2.
At the international level Labonte has never been able to lock down the starting role despite her talent. In the 11 official IIHF tournaments she’s been involved in Labonte has only been the starter twice, once in the Olympics and once in the World Hockey Championships. Labonte’s Olympic resume is quite nice and showed how well she handled the starting role. At the 2006 Olympics Labonte started three games, posted two shutouts, a 1.000 Quality Starts %, and a 1.361 GSAA/60. It was at this tournament that Labonte finished in the Top 3 for SV% for the only time in her Olympic career. In three total Olympic appearances Labonte finished with 6 games played, five games started, three shutouts, a 1.000 QS%, and a 5.665 Goals Saved Above Average which is 5th All-Time among Olympic goalies. Being the back-up for the majority of her WHC career has left Labonte with above average numbers though not as great as you’d expect from a goalie that has seen 8 WHC tournaments. Labonte is currently sitting at 16 games played, 15 games started, a 0.625 QS%, and a 1.933 Goals Saved Above Average which is 8th All-Time among Canadian WHC goalies. Her peak play though allowed her rack up one WHC Top Goalie award, two finishes in the Top 5 of SV% and four finishes in the Top 5 of GSAA.
It’s Labonte’s CWHL career that has pushed her into her spot. She’s only one of two goalies to be the three time winner of the CWHL’s Top Goalie award. The goalie she tied with? Kim St-Pierre. In the four years Labonte has played in the CWHL there’s only been one season that Labonte hasn’t finished 1st in GSAA and that was Labonte’s first season in 2012/13. This prowess has also been evident for Labonte in the CWHL playoffs as she’s a two time winner of the Clarkson Cup MVP award of which she’s the only goalie to have earned this honour twice. Labonte is also the most member of the Triple Gold Club after winning her first Clarkson Cup this past year.
The future is unclear right now for Charline Labonte. She finally got to hoist the Clarkson Cup and has played well past the normal age that goalies in women’s hockey retire at. While there is some regression happening it’s not enough on its own for Labonte to be pushed out of the game. If she came back next season there’s a good chance she’d be about the 3rd best goalie in the league. While we wait and Montreal’s management waits for Labonte to make her decision we’ll all know that even if she retires she’s left behind a great legacy.
8. Kim Martin, Sweden
Kim Martin is a name that quite a few American women’s hockey fans will know and remember for good reason. She was a large reason why the Americans were given their worst finish at an Olympics tournament in women’s hockey in 2006. Martin forever etched her name in history as the goalie that gave Sweden its highest finish at an Olympics game while also giving the Americans their worst. It didn’t stop there for Martin who is known as the greatest Swedish goalie in women’s hockey history.
It’s been a long 16-year career for the Swedish goalie and the journey for Martin started at the 2001 World Hockey Championships like all elite European goalies in women’s hockey at the ripe old age of 15yo. The very next year at the 2002 Olympics Kim Martin delivered Sweden its first Olympic medal at 16yo as the starter. Two more starting jobs at the WHC later and Martin found her way onto the University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s hockey team. Her career in the NCAA was four years long and full of accomplishments. After leaving the NCAA Martin would join the SDHL and dominant the league before retiring.
A lot of Kim Martin’s trophy case comes from her time in the NCAA. Martin’s team awards from the NCAA include a NCAA National Championship and a WCHA Championship. For the part she played in the championship Martin was named to the Frozen Fury All-Star team along with being named the Frozen Fury’s Most Outstanding Player. The other honours that Martin saw herself awarded the WCHA Top Goalie award along with being named to the WCHA 1st All-Star team. The lasting impact that Martin made on the NCAA was putting her name into the NCAA record book four times: once as when she lead the NCAA in SV% for a season, finishing 4th All-Time in NCAA SV%, 17th All-Time in NCAA Wins, and 23rd All-Time in NCAA Win%. Martin saw the same success in her 3-year SDHL career where she finished in the top 3 for GSAA all three years along with being a two time SDHL champion.
Martin’s international career is very interesting in terms of how her Olympic career is compared to how average her WHC career is. At the Olympics Martin has shown herself to be one of the best and currently holds the most Olympic appearances at four of which she was the starter for three of them. At the 2006 Olympics Martin found herself not only taking down the Americans but was named as the Top Goalie and to the All-Star team. Martin also holds the record for most Top 3 GSAA finishes in women’s Olympic hockey with three along with having two Top 3 finishes in SV%. Martin finished her Olympic career with the following stat line: four Olympic appearances, 11 games played, 7 games started, 31.4 SA/60, 0.571 Quality Starts %, and a 2.982 Goals Saved Above Average.
Looking at Martin’s World Hockey Championship career its average overall but if you get closer into the numbers Martin looks a little bit better. Martin saw herself getting terrorized by the big nations at the WHC early in her career before the 2006 Olympics and struggling to adjust to the strength in competition. Against the North American teams in the WHC Martin posted a 0.846 SV% while seeing 40.09 SA/60. After the 2006 Olympics Martin saw an increase in her numbers as she matured and learned. In the four WHC’s that Martin played in after the 2006 Olympics she posted positive GSAA numbers in three of them. The three WHC’s before the 2006 Olympics she didn’t once post a positive GSAA and it’s important to remember that she those three WHC were played before she hit the age of 20. Martin finding her game after the 2006 Olympics showed as she put up three Top 5 SV% finishes and one Top 5 GSAA finish.
Martin might have been able to push her way higher in the rankings depending on how much weight you put on Martin’s WHC career and how much blame she gets for the poor performances pre-2006. It’s a distinguished career nonetheless and one Martin should be proud of. It’s unfortunate for hockey fans everywhere that Martin retired early but her passion keeps her in the game as the GM of Linköping HC while still providing some goalie lessons from what made her successful.
9. Zuzana Tomčíková, Slovakia (2003-2015)
I promise this is the last goalie that will have you saying “who the hell is this person?” I think I might be the biggest fan of this criminally underrated goalie. In doing my research I dove down further into the rabbit hole that is Zuzana Tomčíková’s career and became more astonished at each turn. It also made me quite sad that Tomčíková had to retire from hockey at the age of 27. Tomčíková will definitely be missed as the majority of fans will not get to see just enveloping her play style was. Standing at an impressive 5’ 11” and with the leg strength to effectively move that frame around the net Tomčíková made it very difficult on shooters. Add in an excellent glove which has more than a bit of flair and it makes Tomčíková a goalie that was fun to watch.
Tomčíková was first pressed into service at the international level for Slovakia at the 2003 Division 2 WHC at the age of 15. At a young age Tomčíková was relied upon by the national Slovakian women’s team to keep the team afloat as she was the starter in every tournament she played in for Slovakia which consisted of twelve different tournaments. Those tournaments included one Olympics, two Olympic qualifiers, and nine WHC that ranged from the top division to division 2. Tomčíková also found herself in the NCAA playing for Bemidji State University which fit her style well as she would see a lot of shots in her four year NCAA career. It’s unfortunate that Tomčíková wasn’t able to find herself a home in any league whether it be men’s or women’s other than the NCAA.
In the NCAA Tomčíková found herself a home and success. Twice Tomčíková was named to the WCHA 2nd All-Star team. Tomčíková was also named Co-Player of the Year in 2010 where she was also a Patty Kazmaier Award nominee. During her career in the NCAA Tomčíková only had one season where her SV% dipped below 0.930 which was in her freshman year and posted a 0.917 SV%. Tomčíková never won any titles with her team as Bemidji State wasn’t a team that won a lot of games but that didn’t stop Tomčíková from leaving her name in the NCAA record books being 3rd All-Time in Saves. Tomčíková did win a Bronze Medal during her time at University but it wasn’t with Bemidji State. It was with Slovakia at the 2011 Winter Universaide beating the US 3-1 in the Bronze Medal game while posting the 3rd highest SV% in the tournament.
Tomčíková’s international resume isn’t too shabby itself. In the 2nd Division of the WHC Tomčíková finished 1st place in SV% twice (once when she was 15yo) along with being named Top Goalie once in three Div. 2 tournaments. While in the 1st Division of the WHC Tomčíková was named Top Goalie in consecutive years which earned her team a promotion to the WHC top division. In the top division Tomčíková and the Slovakians had a brief stay but it wasn’t a quiet one for Tomčíková. In two WHC top division appearances Tomčíková started and played all 10 games while ending with a stat line of 42 Shots Against/60, 0.700 Quality Starts %, and a 10.939 Goals Saved Above Average. And despite only being in two WHC’s at the top division Tomčíková is currently 4th overall in WHC All-Time GSAA. Her stellar play didn’t go unnoticed as Tomčíková was named once to the WHC All-Star team and became only the second goalie in WHC history to be named the tournament MVP.
The one hole in Tomčíková’s career is the Olympics. It’s the weakest part of her career statistically. At the 2010 Olympics Tomčíková saw 47 SA/60 in 5 starts, a 0.600 QS%, and a -7.33 GSAA. I think Tomčíková serves as a reminder to everyone that women’s hockey still has the issue with its talented players failing to find places to play which results in retirement. Tomčíková hasn’t even hit 30yo yet but thankfully her passion for the game has lead her into the GM role of the Slovakian women’s national team. Hopefully she’s able to help the next Zuzana Tomčíková to have a long career.
10. Ann-Renee Desbiens
For my first sentence in the Ann-Renee Desbiens profile I’d like to propose that Desbiens change her name to Ann-Recording Breaking Desbiens. Yes it’s a bit wordy but fits her perfectly as her name is all over the NCAA record book. She’s also the second youngest goalie on this list behind CWHL rookie and fellow Canadian Emerance Maschmeyer. Desbiens is on a meteoric rise in the hockey world that has seen her named to the Canadian 2018 Olympic team and currently the favourite to take over the Canadian crease for Shannon Szabados after she retires.
Desbiens was on the radar early for Hockey Canada as she was the starting goalie for the team at the 2011 U18-WJC. Before heading to the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA, Desbiens made one small stop in the CWHL. She was called up in the 2012 CWHL playoffs and managed to get in one game. The Montreal Stars went onto win the 2012 Clarkson Cup making Desbiens a Clarkson Cup winner. Desbiens was then called-up part way through the2013/14 season to take over for Alex Rigsby after she went down with an injury. When Rigsby left in the next season Desbiens went to work on chipping away at the records Noora Raty had set years before and wrecked quite a few of them by the time she finished her NCAA career.
The NCAA career that Ann-Renee Desbiens had will be hard to touch for many years. Desbiens could easily be described as a generational talent in the NCAA. The accomplishments of Desbiens are many and we’ll first start with the in-season accolades. Firstly is the really big individual award, the Patty Kazmaier Award which goes to the NCAA’s most outstanding player. In 2016 Desbiens was a runner-up for the Patty Kaz. In 2017 though Desbiens became only the3rd goalie to win the Patty Kaz and the first goalie to win since Jessie Vetter did in 2009. Desbiens also saw herself named twice to the WCHA 1st All-Star team while once being named the WCHA Player of the Year and USCHO Player of the Year. In the NCAA record book Desbiens’ name is plastered all over it. Desbiens was twice the NCAA season leader in SV%, ended her career 4th All-Time in Wins, and owns the records to the NCAA All-Time Shutout record, All-Time SV% record, the single season shutout record, single season SV% record, and the single season GAA record.
Being so young the international career of Desbiens isn’t nearly at the same level as her NCAA career. Desbiens is currently the holder of two Silver Medals, one from the U18-WJC and the 2015 World Hockey Championships. Her only individual award to date is being named a Top 3 player for her part on the Canadian U18-WJC team. Anyone who pays attention to women’s hockey knows how Desbiens 2015 WHC ended. It wasn’t pretty and it’s the last time we’ve seen Desbiens at a WHC so naturally we don’t view the tournament as a positive for her. Overall the tournament was mostly positive for Desbiens as she posted a 0.667 QS% and a 0.896 GSAA/60.
Right now the sky is the limit for Ann-Renee Desbiens. At the young age of 23 she’s already at 10th overall on the list with a long career ahead of her that could see her challenge for the top spot in not only Canada but the world. She already beat the many records of Raty which shows she’s on the right path. What Desbiens has left to do to secure her spot amongst the elite of the sport is to start racking up some awards outside of the NCAA either in a league or international play.
11. Erin Whitten, USA
Manon Rheaume is a name known to everyone in the hockey which makes sense considering the publicity she got for being the first woman to play in a NHL game. After her brief time with the Tampa Bay Lightning Rheaume went into pro men’s hockey. She wasn’t the first goalie to do so though. The first goalie to play adult men’s pro hockey was American goalie Erin Whitten. Whitten is the first woman to have played in the ECHL, CHL and CoHL.
Before Whitten entered men’s pro hockey she started her accomplished career in the NCAA playing for the University of New Hampshire. Her play in the NCAA earned her playing time with the USA National Women’s Team which resulted in playing in four straight World Hockey Championship tournaments for the American national team.. During the time between her last game played at the 1999 WHC and her last NCAA game, Whitten found herself playing 17 combined games in the ECHL/CHL/CoHL at a time where it was unheard of until Manon Rheaume did so.
Whitten of course did not make this list just because she played in a few men’s league. Her career speaks for itself and it starts in the NCAA with the University of New Hampshire. In Whitten’s four years in the NCAA her and her team were two time ECAC champions. Whitten also found herself being named Top Goalie of the ECAC in her last year of NCAA hockey in 1992/93 while making the ECAC 1st All-Star team every season she played with New Hampshire. That kind of feat of elite consistency is rare to see in a goalie.
The international portion of Whitten’s career is strong as well but incomplete statistically because it took place where stat taking in women’s hockey was not taken care of properly leaving us wondering what exactly happened in the 1997 and 1999 WHC. The sticking point for Whitten though is she was the first American goalie to be named the Top Goalie of the WHC. Statistically we only have two tournaments worth of information for Whitten. We do know though that she was the starter for the four tournaments that she did participate in winning the job over sterling goalies such as Sarah Tueting. In Whitten’s last tournament, the 1999 WHC, she posted the highest SV% of her international career with a 0.944 SV%.
The majority of Whitten’s career took place during a time where she didn’t have many opportunities for her play to shine through on a stat sheet. It’s unfortunate because based on her accomplishments in the NCAA she might have had her name in the NCAA record book in more than a few categories. Also considering the talent and dedication she showed that lead to her career in men’s hockey at a time when women had to make their own way is incredible. Of course Whitten did not make the Top 10 on this list because her international career lacks any type of Olympic appearance while her counterpart in Manon Rheaume was at least the starter in the 1998 Olympics.
12. Sami Jo Small, Canada
If there’s a goalie who exemplifies the meaning of longevity and being passionate about the game it has to be Canadian goalie Sami Jo Small. Even at her current age of 41yo and taking a year off recently due to becoming a mother Sami Jo Small has not showed signs of slowing down her involvement in the game of hockey. It’s only natural that she’s married to another hockey crazed player in Billy Bridges who plays forward for Team Canada in sledge hockey. How many goalies or players in women’s hockey stick around when they are passed over for the national team? Not many do yet here is Sami Jo Small still wanting to stop pucks.
We first see Sami Jo Small playing for the Stanford University men’s hockey team in the ACHA Div. 2 hockey league. She spent three years there and her play for Stanford earned her a spot on the 1998 Canadian Olympic team. This resulted in Sami Jo Small being named to Team Canada six times after the 1998 Olympics including two more Olympics. After the 2006 Olympics Small found herself in the CWHL which she helped start up in 2007. Since then Small has been a part of the league in mostly a starters capacity though more recently she’s been put into the back-up role but has provided valuable mentorship to the young goalies coming through.
To go along with the longevity of Sami Jo Small she also had some pretty high moments in her career both on the international stage and in the CWHL. Her first major award was being named the ACHA Div. 2 MVP which is no easy feat for any goalie. After Manon Rheaume left the national team after the 1998 Olympics Small took over the starting position where she proceeded to not only win two Gold Medals but was twice named the WHC Top Goalie along with once being named to the WHC All-Star team. Unfortunately we don’t have Small’s 1999 WHC tournament stats which means her overall WHC career was losing a prime year of her stats. Small played 7 games in the three WHC’s we have stats on posting a 6.665 Goals Saved Above Average which is third among Canadian goalies at the WHC along with finishing once in both the Top 5 of SV% and GSAA. Sami Jo Small’s international career features four WHC Gold Medals, three Olympic Gold Medals, and one Olympic Silver Medal.
While Small’s international career ended after the 2006 Olympics her high level of play did not diminish. Small would move into the CWHL and make her own mark there. Small would be the starter for four straight years in the CWHL from the 2007/08 season to the 2011/12 season. In that span of time Sami Jo Small was twice named to the CWHL 2nd All-Star team. In the two statistical years that we have for Small as a starter she finished both years in the positives for GSAA and in the 2010/11 season she finished 2nd in GSAA behind Kim St-Pierre. Small’s longevity also lead to her becoming the first CWHL goalie to hit 60 career wins. In the same year Small recorded her 60th win she won the Clarkson Cup as the back-up to Christina Kessler in 2014 which made Small the 3rd goalie to join the Triple Gold Club (Olympic/WHC/Clarkson).
What is holding Small back from being higher on the list is her Olympic career. Three times she was named to the Canadian Olympic team which is a huge accomplishment but she only saw game action once in 2002. The other two Olympics she was the 3rd string goalie. When Sami Jo Small retires (which looks like it’ll happen in a decade) her career should be more than enough to earn her a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
13. Sarah Tueting, USA
If asked who is the only American starting goalie to win Gold in women’s hockey at the Olympics how many would know the answer? The answer to this particular trivia question is Sarah Tueting. I wrote about Tueting earlier in the year after I finished my research in goalies at the Olympics in women’s hockey. Tueting showed herself to be one of the best Olympic goalies that women’s hockey has seen in its short time as an Olympic sport and the one of the best pure international goalies that the American national team has seen.
Tueting played during the era that didn’t afford women goalies or players didn’t have many opportunities to play so her career is rather short as a result. In those six short years Tueting proved to be an example of consistency at the WHC and the Olympics. Tueting first showed up on the scene at the 1997 World Hockey Championships backing up Erin Whitten. At the 1998 Olympics Tueting was given the nod and was the designated starter for the Americans winning Gold. From there Tueting was a mainstay on the American national team playing in the next two of three WHC’s and the 2002 Olympics.
Tueting would end her career with one Olympic Gold, one Olympic Silver and three WHC Silver Medals. The devil is in the details though and the details are the minutia numbers of Tueting’s international career. With two Olympic appearances under her belt Tueting currently has the highest Goals Saved Above Average among American goalies. Her GSAA is currently 4th All-Time in the Olympics as well as GSAA per an Olympic Appearance. Her 1998 performance saw Tueting finish in the Top 3 of both GSAA and SV%. In Tueting’s WHC career it isn’t the best numbers among American goalies or all goalies. It’s still very solid though and Tueting holds two Top 5 finishes in both GSAA and SV%. Only Jessie Vetter among American goalies has more Top 5 SV% finishes and no American goalie has more than two Top 5 GSAA finishes. Another small detail is at the Olympics Tueting currently holds the best numbers versus Team Canada, in two starts against Canada Tueting boasts a 0.938 SV%, 24 SA/60, and a 2.608 GSAA.
What puts Tueting ahead of the goalies behind her is her absolute peak in the five year period between 1998 and 2002. What keeps Tueting from being in the top 10 is both longevity and the lack of any individual awards from either the WHC or Olympics. As always it’s bittersweet going through the career of a goalie like Tueting and wondering what could have been if she had the opportunity to keep playing.
14. Meeri Raisanen, Finland
This selection might cause a bit more discussion than the others because it looks like it might be due to the recent success that Meeri Raisanen has had in her career. That is actually partially true as Raisanen has stormed onto the stage of women’s hockey in the last few years after being in the background for the majority of her career. Her recent success though shows the type of goalie Raisanen is which is while not being on the same level as her Finnish counterpart Noora Raty, she’s a bit closer than you would think. In fact Raisanen is quite close to Raty is playstyle. Raty has Raisanen beat on the technical side of the game but Raisanen has a little more quickness to her game.
Where has Raisanen been before we first saw on the international stage? She’s been in Finland for the majority of her career playing in the Finnish women’s league. There was also a one year stint in the NCAA with Robert Morris University but it only lasted one year for whatever reason. Raisanen came back to Finland and gained the attention of the Finnish Hockey Federation. This resulted in Raisanen being named to Team Finland for five straight international top level tournaments which also featured one Olympic tournament in 2014. For the first three tournaments Raisanen found herself behind Noora Raty. In 2015 and 2016 Raisanen finally found her way into the starting role for the Finnish WHC team. It only took two tournaments for Raisanen to prove that she’s one of the better goalies in women’s hockey. Back home in Finland Raisanen has dominated the Finnish Women’s League and earned her place in the men’s Finnish3 league.
Raisanen started to enter her prime at the age of 23 in the Finnish women’s hockey league. With JYP in the 2011/12 season Raisanen posted an impressive 0.927 SV% which was good enough for 5th in the league. The next two seasons is where Raisanen really made an impact in the Finnish Women’s League. Raisanen was awarded the Tuula Puputti Award for being the Top Goalie in the Finnish Women’s League and named to the league’s All-Star team in consecutive seasons. Those were the last two full seasons that Raisanen has played in the Finnish Women’s League as she played with Kiekkokopla for the past two seasons in the Finnish3 men’s league. Though after every time her men’s league finishes Raisanen comes back and dominants the Finnish women’s league with really high numbers.
On the international level, specifically the World Hockey Championships, Raisanen has made her impact in the relatively short time she’s had. Her overall career numbers are good but not fantastic at first glance. They are better than her Finnish predecessors in Liisa-Marie Sneck and Tuula Puputti but not better than Noora Raty. This is partially due to Raisanen’s first WHC tournament in 2012 where she struggled in her first start only stopping 13/17 shots against Russia and then stopped 23/28 against the Americans in relief after starter Isabella Portnoj was pulled. In her two WHC tournaments where Raisanen was the starter she was great. In the 2015 tournament Raisanen was named to the WHC All-Star team and posted the highest Goals Saved Above Average while having a 1.000 Quality Starts %. In the 2016 tournament Raisanen was again named to the All-Star team while posting the 4th highest GSAA and a 0.667 QS%. Overall in WHC career Raisanen has the 2nd highest GSAA among Finnish goalies while finishing twice in both the Top 5 of SV%/GSAA.
Naturally though Raisanen is held back by her lack of an Olympic resume and how short her WHC career is. The Olympic career portion will be hard to add too with Raty in front of her and the same goes for WHC career if Raty decides to stick around for a few more years. Even with the challenges in front of Raisanen she’s a hard worker who will continue to push Raty for the starting position and if there’s ever an injury to Raty Raisanen has shown she’s very capable of filling the skates of Raty to make her own legacy.
15. Jennifer Harss, Germany (2004-Present)
Have I told you how much I love the diversity of women’s hockey? A German goalie hits the 15th spot on this list and you wouldn’t be able to say the same on the men’s side. Right now you can say that Harss is the best German-born goalie in hockey history. Olaf Kolzig might claim the title to the top German goalie in hockey history but he was born in South Africa so my point remains. Harss is an absolute joy to watch as she is effective in all aspects of the goaltending positioning. She might not have the best footwork but she more than makes up for it with good depth control, puck tracking, and know the advantage her size gives her.
It didn’t take long for Jennifer Harss to make her impact on the national stage and say “hey look how awesome I am at goaltending”. She found a spot on the German National Team for the 2005 World Hockey Championships and got in one game. Then the next year at the 2006 Olympics Harss found herself as the starting goalie over veteran Stephanie Wartosch-Kurten. In the next six WHC that Germany found themselves in Harss was the starter for four of them. Harss’ workhorse attitude lead to her taking over the starting position for the University of Minnesota-Duluth after Kim Martin left. It was a highly successful part of Harss’ career that saw Harss win the NCAA Championship once and was named as an Alternate Captain in her last year there. Since leaving the NCAA Harss has found a spot playing in the Germany3 and Germany4 leagues where she won a championship with ERC Sonthofen 1999 in 2013/14 which resulted in their promotion to Germany3.
We’ll tackle the NCAA career that Harss had first. Harss spent only three seasons at Minnesota-Duluth whereas most players spend four years there since there aren’t any professional teams offering big contracts like we see in the NHL. Being a part of Team Germany Harss naturally sees a lot of rubber so it was a perfect fit for her in Minnesota-Duluth during her rookie year to set a team record by making 1138 saves in 2009/10 (this is the 5th highest Saves in a Season that the NCAA has seen so far). That same year Harss helped her team to their 5th NCAA Championship and the last one they’ve won since. For her efforts Harss was named to the WCHA 3rd All-Star Team.
The international career Harss has is impressive especially for a goalie that is playing on a German team that leaks shots against. The German team is also a team that doesn’t win much at the international level. In the 9 WHC’s that Harss has been too she’s won a total of 4 games (with three coming at the 2017 WHC) for a 0.333 WHC Points%. Despite all the losses that Harss has seen at the WHC she holds a 0.667 Quality Starts % which shows that Harss is giving her team the performances to win and they just can’t cash in on them. What else I find impressive is that Harss holds a positive Goals Saved Above Average in both the (6.227) WHC and the (5.223) Olympics. In two Olympic tournaments Harss finished once in the Top 5 of both SV% and GSAA. In her seven WHC appearances Harss finished Top 5 twice in both SV% and GSAA. The importance of Harss to Team Germany is obvious through how many times she’s been named Top 3 player of her team which for the record is four times. And while I don’t usually like to assign team accomplishments to players, Jennifer Harss was a major factor in why Germany had its highest finish ever at the WHC in women’s hockey.
What is holding Harss back from being higher on the list? While her international career is quite impressive it’s still lacking those individual accomplishments such as being named to any WHC/Olympic All-Star team or named as the Top Goalie of a tournament. Harss isn’t out of her prime though and still has a few more years to add to her already impressive resume. At the end of her career there’s a legitimate chance that she’ll be known as the greatest German goalie to play the game.
16. Annica Ahlen, Sweden
Annica Ahlen is another one of the few great goalies that are relatively unheard of or not talked about in the world of women’s hockey. Ahlen is a part of the one of the best stretched the Swedish women’s hockey team has seen and was the predecessor to Kim Martin who everyone does know. Martin and Ahlen gave the Swedes a tandem they haven’t yet been able to replicate though Martin/Grahn is a pretty close second.
When women’s hockey was finally given a spot on the international stage of in the 1990 World Hockey Championships, Annica Ahlen was there. In 1990 Ahlen was the back-up but that is darn impressive considering she was playing as a 15yo goalie against players with more experience and maturity. Two years later at the ripe old age of 17 Ahlen as named as the starter of Team Sweden and was named as the Top Goalie of the 1992 WHC tournament. Ahlen would then start in the next two of three WHC tournaments she played in. Ahlen also saw action in the 1998 Olympics as the starter and the 2002 Olympics as the back-up where she walked away with Sweden’s first Olympic Medal in women’s hockey. The 2002 Olympics is the last time we saw Ahlen on the international stage as she played four more seasons in Sweden before retiring.
As mentioned above Ahlen being named the Top Goalie at the 1992 WHC is her biggest accomplish on record apart from playing two games as a 15yo. To date Ahlen is the only Swedish goalie in women’s hockey to be named the Top Goalie of the tournament. Not even Kim Martin received that honour. In regards to Ahlen’s Olympic resume it’s not overly impressive as she has a negative GSAA/60 though that can be partially attributed to a defense that allowed 36.4 SA/60 on Ahlen compared to the next highest Swedish goalie at 33.8 in Valetina Wallner. Ahlen’s impact on the hockey world is best felt at the World Hockey Championship. Ahlen boasts the highest Goals Saved Above Average among Swedish goalies by a fair margin (8.848 vs 3.859) while having the second highest SA/60 behind only Lotta Gothesson who only played in one WHC tournament showing a heavier workload than Grahn/Martin. The cherry on top is Ahlen holds the best ratio of Top 5 finishes in SV%/GSAA to WHC appearances with four statistical WHC appearances and two Top 5 finishes in both SV%/GSAA.
Why isn’t Annica Ahlen higher on the list? Well it’s the lack of an impressive Olympic resume that hurt her especially when compared to Kim Martin who was named the starter over Ahlen in 2002. The lack of awards outside of the international stage aren’t enough to make up for her not-so-great Olympic career. It’s no slight to Annica Ahlen though to be named the 16th goalie on this list and to be so close to the top Swedish goalie in Kim Martin.
17. Chanda Gunn, USA
In terms of good goalies you don’t hear of Chanda Gunn has to be close to the top of that list. I’ll admit that I knew very little about her before I started gathering resources. In fact Gunn wasn’t even on the preliminary short list for this ranking. She was only added at the end of the resource gathering when it was obvious that her World Hockey Championships and NCAA careers put her somewhere on this list. Gunn is also a bit special in the regard that she originates from California which wasn’t a hockey hotbed in the late 90’s/early 00’s. A little known fact (at least for me) is that she has epilepsy and is a spokesperson for Epilepsy Therapy Project.
Chanda Gunn first came onto the known stage of women’s hockey in 1999 with the University of Wisconsin. At some point in her NCAA career she switched from Wisconsin to the Northeastern University Huskies. After graduating from the Northeastern women’s hockey program she immediately jumped into the USA Hockey women’s program. With USA Hockey she played four straight international tournaments which featured an Olympics Games. Now is it a relatively small and obscure hockey career? It most certainly was. Women’s hockey in the NCAA wasn’t exactly given primetime spots on TV or promoted well and her international career isn’t propped up by a string of gold medals. In fact being a part of the only American women’s hockey team to win a Bronze at the Olympics.
Despite that though Chanda Gunn has some very solid numbers and accolades that show she more than deserves her spot at 17th. Gunn’s NCAA career ended in 2004 and she ended it on a bang. She finished the year as the Hockey East Player of the Year and being named as a Top 3 Finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award. That’s not all Gunn left the NCAA with. Gunn was the SV% leader twice in the entire NCAA and left a small note in the NCAA history books with being 21st All-Time in NCAA SV%.
The success that Gunn had in her NCAA career does translate over into her international career even if it did occur during a not-so-great time for American hockey. We’ll get Gunn’s Olympic year out of the way. It was an above average effort from Gunn despite the result of a Bronze Medal. She posted a 0.750 QS% and a 1.655 Goals Saved Above Average. Where Chanda Gunn makes her mark in the history of women’s hockey is in the WHC. She has a nice stat line with 9 starts, 11 games played, 0.778 QS%, 5.431 GSAA and a 0.594 GSAA/60. Gunn put up these stats while twice being the starter and once as the back-up. Gunn would finish her career with two Top 5 SV% finishes and one Top 5 GSAA finish. The most important part of Gunn’s resume though would have to be her Top Goalie Award she won in the 2005 WHC. She’s the last American goalie to have been named Top Goalie at the WHC and only the second American goalie to receive the award as Erin Whitten was named Top Goalie before her.
The reasons why Chanda Gunn isn’t higher are obvious. While she does have her name in the NCAA record book and a WHC Top Goalie Award the rest of her resume doesn’t make up for those accolades. Her Olympic career was above average but not enough to lift it above the goalies in front of her. Gunn is done in by pretty much every aspect most goalies in her time dealt with, lack of playing time outside of international hockey which resulted in a short career. I am happy though to have found her accomplishments and hope more people would look towards Gunn as one of the American greats.
18. Genevieve Lacasse, Canada
The strength of the Canadian goaltending pipeline is obvious. You have a currently elite goalie in Shannon Szabados who commands most of the attention. There is also the two rising stars in CWHL rookie Emerance Maschmeyer and Patty Kaz winner Ann-Renee Desbiens. This leaves Genevieve Lacasse in kind of a limbo where she’s not on the same level of Shannon Szabados while at the same time Lacasse isn’t young enough anymore to be considered a rising star. What we have with Lacasse though is a highly talented goalie because she otherwise would not have made it on this list ahead of some pretty good goalies.
Playing in America isn’t an uncommon occurrence for the 28yo from Montreal, Quebec. Lacasse first spent some time down there playing for the Midget AAA Detroit Little Caesars winning the Silver Medal in the 2008 USA Nationals. From there Lacasse was brought up to play for Providence College where she had a pretty darn good four year career for the Friars. When her NCAA career ended Lacasse found herself very busy from being the starter for the Boston Blades of the CWHL along with playing with Team Canada at not only the WHC but in the Olympics as well.
In 2008 Lacasse walked into the dressing room of the Providence College women’s hockey team and in 2012 she left that dressing room holding Providence All-Time records in wins, games played, saves and lastly shutouts. Lacasse didn’t just leave Providence with some records to her name. She made an impact early being named as Hockey East’s Top Rookie, Hockey East’s 2nd All-Star team, and of course Hockey East’s All-Rookie team. The rest of her NCAA career went along nicely as she was named to Hockey East’s 2nd All-Star team again along with the Hockey East Tournament All-Star team in 2012. Lastly you’ll see Lacasse’s name three times in the NCAA record books as she finished 4th All-Time in Saves, 13th All-Time in SV%, and 19th All-Time in shutouts.
Joining the CWHL for the 2012/13 season Genevieve Lacasse didn’t miss a beat. In her first CWHL season Lacasse walked out with more trophies than she could handle. Firstly Lacasse and the Boston Blades won the Clarkson Cup. In the Cup tournament that took place Lacasse was named to the tournament All-Star Team and as the tournament’s Top Goalie. In the regular season she also posted what could be considered the most dominant performance from a CWHL goalie to date with a 1.000 QS% and 1.150 GSAA/60. Lacasse’s CWHL career has remained strong through the years and is currently showing no signs of slowing down. Even when she was left on an island during the 2015/16 season Lacasse still put up a +0.550 QS%.
Outside of the NCAA and CWHL we have Lacasse’s international career which is surprisingly sparse. Lacasse was named to the 2014 Canadian Olympic team but didn’t see any ice time in the actual tournament itself. In her four WHC appearances she was never the starter and only saw playing time in two of the tournaments. This has resulted in two starts and two times Lacasse has come in relief of the starting goalie resulting in her WHC career stats being affected leaving her with a negative GSAA. It’s this lack of an international resume that is currently holding Lacasse back from being higher on the list. However we know she’s a talented goalie thanks to her play in the CWHL and the smaller tournaments that Team Canada participates in. A good comparable for Lacasse would be Sami Jo Small. Very talented but because of country goalie depth struggles to grab the starting position though she’s making a strong and noteworthy career in the CWHL.
19. Alex Rigsby, USA (2008-Present)
After our first Canadian on the list we get our first American on the list in Alex Rigsby. She’s very similar to Emerance Maschmeyer in terms of career and is in the same age range. There are two reasons though as to why Rigsby is ahead of Maschmeyer. The first is Rigsby managed to accomplish more in her NCAA career and secondly a bit bigger World Hockey Championship resume. Both though are currently in a fight to be the top heir to their respective national’s team’s crease. Maschmeyer is in her own little battle with Ann-Renee Desbiens while Rigsby has to deal with Nicole Hensley who stole the starting job from Rigsby at the 2017 WHC.
Alex Rigsby has been on the radar for USA Hockey for a long time. Her pre-NCAA career is littered with trophies and awards. Like Maschmeyer Rigsby played boys AAA Major Bantam hockey where herself and her team won state and regional championships which earned them a spot in the USA Hockey National Championships. Rigsby also saw herself named twice as the starter for the American U18 WJC team where she left not only with Gold and Silver Medals but two Top Goalie of the tournament honours. The success didn’t stop there for Rigsby as she took over for Jessie Vetter at the University of Wisconsin when she left which lead to Rigsby leaving her mark during her four-year NCAA career which including one NCAA national title. More recently though Rigsby has been to three straight WHC’s resulting in three straight Gold medals, once as a starter.
Other than the heavy amount of team awards that Rigsby has won through her career why is she 19th on this all-time list? As mentioned above Rigsby left the U18 WJC tournament with not only one Top Goalie award but two of the them. The NCAA career that Rigsby had is no joke either in terms of individual accolades. To this day only three goalies have managed to hit the 100 win mark in the NCAA and Rigsby is one of them which also leaves her tied for 2nd in NCAA All-Time Wins and 13th All-Time in NCAA Win%. The other parts of the NCAA record Rigsby has her name in consist of holding 7th All-Time in NCAA shutouts and NCAA SV%, along with being 14th All-Time in NCAA Saves. Last but not least was Rigsby being named to the Frozen Fury All-Star Team in 2011 after winning the Championship.
Moving onto Rigsby’s WHC career it doesn’t quite have the sterling shine that her NCAA career but it’s slowly getting there. Prior to the 2017 WHC Rigsby has shown herself to be a rising star for USA Hockey on the international stage. She took over for Jessie Vetter in the 2015 WHC Gold Medal game that allowed the Americans to secure Gold in a 7-5 win. In 2016 we saw Rigsby as a starter for the first time and had a fantastic tournament allowing only one goal in three games plus finished first in GSAA and SV%. Rigsby’s 2017 campaign was a little less stellar only starting in one game where she allowed three goals on 24 shots against. Rigsby’s overall WHC career is turning out to be one of the better American careers statistically with a 0.800 QS%, 0.964 GSAA/60, and a 5.781 GSAA which is currently the highest among American goalies in WHC play.
What is currently keeping Rigsby from being higher on the list is a combination of no Olympic resume and a lack of being the proper starter during the majority of WHC tournaments. There’s also the small issue that Rigsby does not play in any proper league (CWHL/NWHL/etc) outside of the international tournaments that she attends lessening the chances of earning any individual awards. The task for Rigsby moving forward is building her resume while fighting for starts with Nicole Hensley and Maddie Rooney.
20. Emerance Maschmeyer, Canada (2008-Present)
Finally we have our first Canadian on the list and the youngest goalie as well. For me Maschmeyer is one of the more interesting goalies on the list in terms of her career path and how quickly the public view of her has changed from 2016 to 2017. Maschmeyer comes seemingly out of nowhere in the NCAA, becomes the starter for Team Canada at the WHC, looked upon as one of the future greats, has a tremendous CWHL season and after one playoff then WHC game she’s thrown back onto the sidelines.
Unlike most goalies in women’s hockey Maschmeyer’s name first became noticed when she was playing AAA boy’s hockey in Western Canada. She spent three years playing AAA boys hockey (Major Bantam, Minor Midget, Midget) which resulted in four games in the Alberta Junior Hockey League but more importantly this lead to Maschmeyer being named as starter to the Canadian U18 WJC team. With her teammates Maschmeyer won her first medal in a Canadian jersey with a Gold Medal in 2012. From there Maschmeyer was brought over to the NCAA where she had a successful career and as mentioned above played in two WHC’s while being the 3rd goalie in another. This of course leads us to Maschmeyer being drafted 4th overall by the Calgary Inferno and a dominant rookie season that followed.
Just how dominant was that rookie season from Maschmeyer? With the stats that are available to us only Genevieve Lacasse can lay claim to having a better season than Maschmeyer had this year. Only two goalies can boast about posting a +0.700 Quality Starts % and +1.000 GSAA/60 in a single season in CWHL history and it’s Lacasse(2013)/Maschmeyer. The fact she was snubbed for Goalie of the Year and Rookie of the Year should not enter the equation other than being wary of the goalie related voting prowess of the CWHL. This type of season wasn’t much of a surprise though to those who paid attention to Maschmeyer in the NCAA. With Harvard University Maschmeyer never posted a SV% lower than 0.935 in her four years as a starter. Maschmeyer also helped her team to the Frozen Four Championship game but ultimately lost 4-1 to Minnesota. Maschmeyer left her mark on the NCAA record books finishing 9th All-Time in SV%.
Now Maschmeyer’s World Hockey Championship career is short but very interesting. She stepped into the starting role in 2016 like a pro. As of right now Maschmeyer holds the highest GSAA/60 against a North American team (Canada/USA) when having two or more starts against a NA team. Her 2016 tournament is also on par with many of the elite goalies recent performances (Szabados 2017/Rigsby 2016/Schelling 2015). This of course earned her Top Goalie honours putting her in exclusive territory being only the 4th Canadian goalie to be named Top Goalie at the WHC. This obviously means that yes Maschmeyer finished in the Top 5 of SV% and GSAA. Yes her 2017 WHC appearance wasn’t great however it was only one game and it didn’t hurt her career statistics much.
The biggest mark against Maschmeyer and why she’s only 20th on the list is because of how young she is. Maschmeyer hasn’t had the time to build up the impressive resumes of the goalies in front of her like Labonte or Lacasse. There is also the lack of individual accolades from the NCAA that would have pushed Maschmeyer up a bit more on the list. As long as Maschmeyer can keep her focus going, keep herself on the right path then we’ll see her resume beef up more and more as the years go by. It’ll be exciting to watch her in the upcoming CWHL season as her primary competition will be Noora Raty.
21. Hong Guo, China (1992-2005)
How many men’s hockey all-time greatest lists have players from the continent of Asia (not including Russia)? Not many if any can lay claim to the diversity of women’s hockey lists. It’s a good thing and something that women’s hockey should be proud of. It shows that players from anywhere have what it takes to be an all-time great and that there is an opportunity for players to make these types of lists. There’s no greater example though of a player making an impact from an obscure hockey nation like Hong Guo of China.
Hong Guo was a part of the Chinese national program from 1992 to 2005 when after losing out in Olympic Qualifying she finally retired. She retired with a legacy that the Chinese national program is still trying to get even close to as we approach the 2022 Winter Olympics. Guo impressed hockey writers/fans/players in her career earning herself the nickname “The Great Wall of China”. While the name isn’t completely original it fit Hong Guo who is an impressive 5’ 8” and kept the Chinese national team competitive for eight years which consisted of six World Hockey Championships and two Olympic tournaments. While China and Guo didn’t walk away with any medals they managed to come out with a few 4th place finishes.
What I personally like about Hong Guo is that she backs up her reputation with the necessary stats. In the Olympics Hong Guo did great posting Olympic career numbers such as a 0.600 Quality Starts %, 1.736 Goals Saved Above Average, and a 0.160 GSAA/60 in 11 games played with 5 of those being starts. There is a big difference in starts and games played because the 2002 Olympics does not have the available game sheets needed to track quality starts. The GSAA and GSAA/60 though are completely accurate. It wasn’t easy to put up these types of numbers as seen by the sudden increase in competition in 2002 where Hong Guo had the highest SA/60 with 46.1 SA/60. Give Guo a competent defense like she had in 1998 and she’ll end up being a top 3 goalie in the tournament. Guo proved this by making it into the Top 3 in GSAA in the 1998 Olympics.
I personally am an even bigger fan of Guo’s WHC career. I like it because there’s longevity to it and the numbers are a bit more impressive than her Olympic numbers. Guo played in 25 WHC games (4 starts) posting a 0.750 QS%, 3.039 GSAA, and a 0.144 GSAA/60 while having a 32.3 SA/60. There were some nice highs in Guo’s play which resulted in two Top 5 finishes in both SV% and in GSAA. Her most impressive moment though came in the 1996 Pacific Rim Tournament where Guo made 38 saves in a 1-0 loss to Canada. It’s just hard not to be impressed with Guo as she was a major part of China not just being generally competitive but giving the top nations a scare every so often.
What plagues Guo is what plagues the goalies around her on this list in that she lacks individual awards of any kind. It’s partially unfair because when Guo was in her prime there were really no options for her in terms of non-international play which held her back from racking up a bigger resume. If she was born later on she could be headed into the CWHL season with Kunlun Red Star to fight for a Clarkson Cup MVP or Top Goalie award. However she doesn’t have that and it does hurt her standing. I do hope though that her story is told and we see another goalie from a non-traditional hockey country work their way back up into the elite.
22. Irina Gashennikova, Russia (1997-2016)
The Russians have a good history with developing goalies with the greatest goalie being Vladislav Tretiak of the dominant Soviet Union teams. Yet their women’s team hasn’t had that same success with goalies which is why Irina Gashennikova is the only Russian goalie on this list. If you’re only going to have one goalie on this list though Irina Gashennikova is someone to be proud of if you are Russian and is someone who should be known not only in the annals of women’s hockey but in Russian hockey in general.
Gashennikova got her start on the international stage at the same time as the Russian Women’s National Team at the 1997 World Hockey Championships. From there Gashennikova went to play in six more WHC’s and three Olympic tournaments. Gashennikova was trusted in the beginning to the end of her international career starting in all seven WHC tournaments and all three Olympic tournaments. It didn’t take long for Gashennikova and her Russian teammates to win their first Bronze Medal at the 2001 WHC’s. Since then the Russian’s have yet to get back into the winner’s circle whether you are looking at the Olympics or the WHC’s. Gashennikova last foray into international play was the 2010 Vancouver Olympics though that wasn’t the end of her career as she played until 2016 in the Russian Women’s Hockey League.
It’s not often a goalie can remain as their team’s respective starter for 10 straight years and Gashennikova deserves a fair amount of credit for her work. With Russia failing to medal all but once in Gashennikova’s 10-year stint with the national team it would be tempting to bring in another goalie to be the starter. The coaches though never demoted Gashennikova to the back-up spot and it was for good reason. First off Gashennikova has the best career among Russian goalies in both the WHC and Olympics. Her Olympics is especially impressive posting a 2.644 GSAA per an Olympic Appearance which is 5th All-Time in Women’s Olympic History. The other stats are just as impressive for Gashennikova as she posted a 0.625 Quality Starts %, 7.931 Goals Saved Above Average, and a 0.629 GSAA/60 in her Olympic career. The only blemishes are no Top Goalie/All-Star honours, no Top 3 SV% finishes and only one Top 3 GSAA finish.
The World Hockey Championships career that Gashennikova had was nearly as impressive as her Olympic career. As mentioned before Gashennikova played in seven WHC’s but unfortunately we only have the data for five of her WHC appearances. Even though we are missing two tournaments Gashennikova’s numbers are quite good and easily the best we’ve seen from a Russian goalie. Her career finished with a high 0.800 QS%, 7.742 GSAA, and a 0.417 GSAA/60. There were also some nice highs in these tournaments for Gashennikova as she once made the Top 5 SV% and twice was Top 5 in GSAA.
While Gashennikova is easily the top Russian goalie in women’s hockey history it’s still not enough to push her higher in the rankings. There is the obvious lack of individual awards such as Top Goalie or being named to
any All-Star team. Also while the longevity is there for Gashennikova she failed to rack up the Top 3/5 finishes you’d expect from someone who has been a starter for 10 straight years in international hockey. Despite these aspects lacking from Gashennikova’s career she deserves her spot as an All-Time Great in Russian hockey.
23. Tuula Puputti, Finland (1992-2003)
Tuula Puputti is one of the lost greats of Finnish hockey. She is only one of two starting Finnish goalies to win a Medal at the Olympics by winning a Bronze over China in 1998. For those in the early 90’s to early 2000’s Puputti was the first in a line of strong Finnish goalies that we know today as Noora Raty and Meeri Raisanen. We know Finland is a powerhouse now in modern women’s hockey history but they held the crown as the 3rd best nation from the mid 1990’s to the second Olympic Games in 2002.
Puputti stepped onto the women’s hockey scene in 1992 in the Finnish women’s hockey league with KalPa. She later joined the international stage with Team Finland in the same year to play in the Women’s European Championship where they won the whole thing. Puputti was once again named to the Finnish team for the Women’s EC where they won the tournament again in 1995. We don’t know for sure if Puputti was the starter for either European Championship team. What we do know is that after being the back-up in the 1997 WHC Puputti was promoted to starter for the 1998 Olympics over the long time Finnish starter Liisa-Marie Sneck. From there Puputti was named starter four times in a row for World Hockey Championships and the 2002 Olympics. Puputti also found herself playing in North America in the NCAA for Minnesota-Duluth for a full 4-year period leaving with one record to her name, being 12th All-Time in NCAA Win %.
Before there was a Noora Raty or a Meeri Raisanen making their names in the world of hockey it was Tuula Puputti who owned the crown of best European goalie. Unlike the two goalies behind Puputti on this list Puputti has a strong Olympic resume. In two Olympic appearances Puputti ended up with one Bronze Medal and one 4th place finish. Her individual statistics are impressive as well. She finished her Olympic career with a 0.750 Quality Starts % and a 0.209 GSAA/60. Puputti wasn’t named to an Olympic All-Star team or named as the Top Olympic Goalie but she did finish in the Top 3 for SV% once. Also Puputti is currently 10th among goalies in GSAA per an Olympic Appearance with two or more Olympic appearances. Cherry on top is Puputti being one of
the few European goalies to go up against a North American team more than once and come out with a positive performance in the Olympics.
Puputti’s World Hockey Championship career was quite good though with a lesser individual than her Olympic career. Statistically we only have two of Puputti’s WHC on record though we know she participated in four WHC’s and came out with three Bronze Medals. In the two WHC that we have stats for Puputti finished once in both Top 5 SV% and Top 5 GSAA. Now while Puputti did finish in the positives regarding GSAA it wasn’t by much with a 0.092 WHC GSAA and a 0.012 GSAA/60. It’s unfortunate that game sheets from the 1999 or 1997 WWHC’s do not exist as the only two WHC we have for Puputti are polar opposites leaving us with a slightly unfair representation of her skills.
The reasons for Puputti not being higher on the list are obvious. Her known WHC numbers are just not good enough to warrant Top 20 consideration and her work in the NCAA is relatively unknown as well. It’s unfortunate that this is the case as it’s possible she could be higher on the list. Despite that Puputti’s career is still known and good enough to make it onto the list. I hope that this helps her with building a case for the IIHF Hall of Fame at least and when people talk about great goalies in Finnish history they mention Tuula Puputti.
24. Sara Grahn, Sweden (2001-Present)
Sara Grahn is an interesting case. She’s the current go-to goalie for the Swedish Hockey Federation and has been more than adequate yet doesn’t quite have the trophy case that many other goalies do on this list. She’s been in the SDHL and the WHC for many years now yet doesn’t have many individual awards to her name. The only individual awards we know for Sara Grahn is being twice named as a Top 3 Player for Sweden at the World Hockey Championships in both 2013 and 2015.
Sara Grahn first came onto the scene of women’s hockey in 2001 playing with HC Örebro 90. Her international debut didn’t come until 2007 though where she was part of a tandem with legendary Swedish goalie Kim Martin. Grahn got a good dose of international play by getting into three games which consisted of two starts. From there Grahn saw action in eight more WHC’s along with one Olympic Games. With Kim Martin slowly fazing herself out due to getting older, Grahn took control of the Swedish crease earning the starting position five times out of the nine tournaments she’s played in so far. With the 2018 Olympics coming up this could be the first time we see Sara Grahn as the designated starter for Sweden taking over for Kim Martin.
With few individual trophies and limited team success why is Sara Grahn 24th on the list of all-time greats? Despite the lack of a significant trophy case Grahn has done well for herself both at home and on the international stage. In the six seasons Grahn has played in the SDHL finishing in the Top 4 five of the six seasons in Goals Saved Above Average with the latest season Grahn only finishing 8th. Twice Grahn has finished 1st in GSAA in the SDHL. Grahn’s resume on the international stage does well to mirror Grahn’s SDHL career so far.
Grahn’s only team award is a Bronze Medal she won with the Swedes in 2007. No medals or individual accolades other than the aforementioned Top 3 Team Player accolades. Despite that Sara Grahn has had a very solid career in the World Hockey Championships as a five time starter. Through 25 total
starts at the WHC Grahn sports a 0.680 Quality Starts %. Only Florence Schelling and Noora Raty hold a higher QS% than Grahn among WHC goalies with +20 starts. Grahn also finds herself 21st among WHC goalies in All-Time Goals Saved Above Average and second among Swedish goalies behind Annica Ahlen. The other impressive part of Grahn’s resume is that in her WHC career to date she’s finished in the Top 5 of SV% four times while finishing in the Top 5 of GSAA three times proving herself to be a force when she’s a starter and gets ample ice time.
Now Grahn doesn’t finish any higher because of two missing parts to her resume: 1) lack of individual trophies and 2) Olympic resume isn’t impressive. The lack of individual trophies isn’t completely Sara Grahn’s fault. As far as I know the SDHL has only given the Top Goalie award once for the 2015/16 season. However not being named once to the WHC All-Star team or as the WHC Top Goalie does hurt. Then there is the lack of an impressive or even average Olympic resume. Grahn saw ice time in 2010 as a back-up to Kim Martin but didn’t see a minute of play time in 2014. As a back-up to Martin in 2010 Grahn posted a 0.500 QS% and a -0.802 GSAA in two starts along with three games played.
With being 28yo there is a chance this is Grahn’s last Olympics. However she still has a few SDHL and WHC seasons ahead of her allowing her to beef up her resume a bit which could see her rise on the list. There’s a solid chance that Grahn could finish her career as the top goalie in Swedish women’s hockey history if all goes well.
25. Azusa Nakaoku, Japan (2003-2014)
It was hard to pick the last goalie of this list. As mentioned above goalies in earlier women’s hockey have less information about them. However I feel confident in picking Azusa Nakaoku because while she’s more obscure than many goalies on the list (and not on the list) she has proven herself in her 11 year career to be not only the greatest goalie Japanese women’s hockey has known (possibly the best player in Japanese hockey) but the 25th greatest goalie of all-time.
Nakaoku first entered the international stage at the age of 18 as the no. 2 goalie behind Yuka Oda at the 2003 Division I World Championships. Japan won promotion but Nakaoku did not join the team in the top division for the 2004 WHC. Japan was quickly relegated and the crease was handed over to Nakaoku. She refused to disappoint her team helping them get over the hump and into the 2008 WHC by being 3rd then 2nd in SV% for the WHC Div. I. With Nakaoku as the starter Japan saw two consecutive years in the top division of the WHC which then resulted in two more years at the WHC Div 1A level where Nakaoku kept her role as the starter and a Top 3 goalie at that. The cherry on top of Nakaoku’s career was making the 2014 Olympic Team and though she didn’t play it’s quite the accomplishment to be even named.
Where Nakaoku makes her mark in books of hockey history is the impact she made in her two WHC top division appearances. She’s one of six goalie with two or more appearances in the WHC to post a 1.000 Quality Starts % and the only goalie of the group to be a starter in all WHC appearances. Nakaoku is currently 4th All-Time in GSAA/60 for the WHC for goalies who have been to the WHC more than once with the only goalie with more games played in front of her being Kim St-Pierre. To show that her play was even more impressive is that Nakaoku finished in the Top 5 for SV% and GSAA at a 100% rate in the WHC and is only one of three goalies to do so when appearing in the WHC two or more times. The cherry on top of Nakaoku’s WHC career is being 5th among WHC goalies for Goals Saved Above Average per WHC appearance.
There are a few reasons why Azusa Nakaoku isn’t higher. First off is the longevity if her career. She only spent two years in the top division of the WHC. Then there is the issue of having no Olympic resume. Not being able to make an impact on the world’s largest stage hurts. Lastly is that Nakaoku doesn’t have a career outside of international play. It’s understandable why but it still hurts her in the end as goalies who are able to have a bigger resume end up in front of her. Still though Azusa Nakaoku is the bar that the Nana Fujimoto will have to get over and it won’t be easy.