NWHL's Buffalo Beauts land two from gold-medal winning Team USA
When the Minnesota Whitecaps, co-coached by Team USA's Robb Stauber, were announced as the newest team in the National Women's Hockey League, it was expected that players from the national team would flock to the league.
So far, the number of players signing with the NWHL stands at three. U.S. star Amanda Kessel recently signed a one-year deal to return to the Metropolitan Riveters, and the Buffalo Beauts this week added two U.S. national team players.
Wednesday, the Beauts announced the signing of Team USA goalie Nicole Hensley. The signing came a day after the Beauts had signed national team forward Dani Cameranesi.
The trio are the only players from the U.S. national team to sign with the NWHL since winning the gold medal at February's Olympics in South Korea.
"We're thrilled to be able to add such an accomplished, young player to the team," Beauts general manager Nik Fattey said of Cameranesi. "Dani brings a winning pedigree and offensive skills that we believe will pay dividends for our team this season."
Cameranesi had three goals and two assists for five points, tied for the Team USA points lead with Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, and was fourth in goals among all players in the PyeongChang Games.
The Minnesota native chose to sign in Buffalo, where the Pegula Sports and Entertainment Group recently became the first NHL ownership group to own an NWHL franchise. The New Jersey Riveters partnered with the Riveters last season on a three-year basis, but the Beauts purchase in March was of a different vein.
"I could not be more excited to announce my decision to sign my first pro contract with Buffalo," Cameranesi said. "I ultimately desired to be a part of an organization experienced in running a professional sports business. With their ownership in the NFL, NHL and other sports enterprises, the Pegula family is genuinely committed to bringing success to the city of Buffalo. Their passion for growing the game of women's hockey can be seen in the strong foundation they created for women through the Buffalo Beauts organization. I'm excited to be a part of the organization and can't wait to begin my professional career in Buffalo."
Hensley earned a shutout against the Olympic Athletes of Russia in the Pyeongchang, and won gold in 2016 and 2017 at IIHF tournaments.
"I am very excited to join the Buffalo Beauts organization," Hensley said. "During my visit to Buffalo, I saw nothing but great things from the team, the fans and the city. I am looking forward to my first professional season."
The Colorado native starred for Lindenwood in her collegiate career.
"The addition of Nicole to our roster brings yet another proven winner to our team and somebody that we think can excel at this level," Fattey said. "Internationally and collegiately, Nicole has distinguished herself among her peers and we're excited to bring her outstanding ability to Buffalo."
Neither Hensley nor Cameranesi have played professional hockey to date. Of the 125 roster spots available heading into next season with five teams, just seven players have signed contracts, three of them from Team USA.
Kessel, after expressing an interest in returning to the league, signed early last week when free agency opened. She played for the Riveters in the 2016-2017 season.