Park Rapids graduate McKenna Brand made history by being named the first National Women’s Hockey League Player of the Month.
Brand received the honor for October after leading the league with seven goals, including three game-winning goals, and sharing the top spot with teammate Jillian Dempsey in points with 13 in helping the Boston Pride skate to first place in the league standings with a 7-0 record. Brand also leads the league with 53 shots.
“It’s a huge honor to be named Player of the Month, especially since there were so many players that had great starts to their seasons and would deserve this as well,” Brand told Mike Murphy of NWHL Media. “(I’m) more comfortable and confident with my role on the team. We have a close-knit group this year that works extremely hard at every practice and game. We are definitely making each other better every time we step on the ice and we’re having fun doing it.”
In the season opener, Brand scored an empty-net goal to secure Boston’s 4-2 win over the Metropolitan Riveters on Oct. 5. The Boston forward tallied an assist on the game-winning goal in a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Beauts on Oct. 12 and followed with a hat trick and an assist in an 8-1 victory over the Beauts on Oct. 13. Brand scored all three of her goals in the first period (including the game winner) and was named the 1st Star of the Game. Brand also scored the game winner in a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Whitecaps on Oct. 19 and had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win over Minnesota on Oct. 20. Brand concluded the month by scoring the game-winning goal and assisting on two other goals in a 7-2 victory over Metropolitan on Oct. 26 and tallying an assist in a 5-3 win over Metropolitan on Oct. 27.
To highlight the highly skilled and dedicated players in the NWHL, the league decided to honor a Player of the Month this season for the first time in the four-year history of the professional hockey league. Brand (a 2014 Park Rapids graduate who played college hockey at Northeastern University) earned the first-ever honor based on her play during the first month of the 24-game regular season, which concludes on Feb. 23.
Boston has compiled 14 points so far with Minnesota (3-3 record, 7 points), Buffalo (3-2, 6 points), Metropolitan (1-4, 2 points) and the Connecticut Whale (0-5, 1 point) rounding out the standings.
“I am having a blast with my teammates,” said Brand, who was second on the team with 17 points (six goals and 11 assists) in 16 games as a rookie last season. “My second season in the NWHL has been incredible so far.”