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Brand drafted by women's professional hockey team

McKenna Brand was the 11th overall pick in the National Women's Hockey League draft on Aug. 17. Northeastern University athletics photo

When McKenna Brand started playing hockey, she dreamed of representing the United States in the Winter Olympics.

On Thursday, Brand took another step toward achieving that goal.

The soon-to-be senior forward at Northeastern University was selected No. 11 overall by the New York Riveters in Thursday night's National Women's Hockey League Draft. Brand will play her final collegiate season for the Huskies before joining the professional team.

"I was very excited and honored to be drafted into the NWHL. It's a fairly new league that gives female hockey players the chance to play beyond college hockey. So to be given that opportunity to continue playing the sport I love was an awesome feeling," said Brand. "The NWHL is a league for post-graduates, so I will be possibly playing for New York after I graduate from Northeastern. I am looking forward to my senior season at Northeastern."

The NWHL is a women's professional hockey league that was established in 2015. In addition to New York, the Buffalo Beauts, the Boston Pride and the Connecticut Whale comprise the four-team league. This league is the first women's hockey league in the United States to pay its players. Prior to the NWHL, the only choice for top-level women hockey players to compete after college in North America was the Canadian Women's Hockey League, which pays bonuses but not salaries. Boston won the first Isobel Cup in 2016 while Buffalo won the NWHL title last season.

Brand caught the attention of the four teams in the NWHL by excelling during her junior season. Brand compiled 23 goals and 15 assists for 38 points in 37 games last season to earn Hockey East First Team honors. Brand led Northeastern with three shorthanded goals and five game-winning goals in helping the Huskies to a 14-8-2 record for second place in the Hockey East Conference standings and a 22-12-3 overall record. Northeastern ended the season rated No. 10 in the NCAA Division I poll. Brand's 23 goals were tied for fifth among NCAA Division I players and her three shorthanded goals were tied for second in the nation while her five shorthanded goals were tied for fifth in the nation.

Boston College goalie Katie Burt was the first overall pick by Boston in Thursday's draft while Northeastern's Denisa Krizova (a forward) was selected No. 13 overall by Connecticut and teammate Lauren Kelly (a defenseman) was selected No. 16 overall by Boston. Northeastern's three selections tied Hockey East rivals Boston College and Boston University for the most by any college.

Being selected third in the third round of the draft will enable Brand to continue playing hockey when her collegiate career is over and prepare her to earn a spot on Team USA for the 2022 Olympics.

"When I first started playing hockey, this league wasn't around. So growing up, my next goal after college hockey was to make the National Team and represent my country at the Olympics. This league formed a couple years ago and I knew right away it was a league that I wanted to be able to play in to continue developing as a hockey player," said Brand, who is a 2014 Park Rapids graduate. "Making the National Team and representing my country in the 2022 Olympics would be the ultimate goal and playing in the NWHL will give me the opportunity to continue developing as a player after college and working towards reaching that goal."