Two Gophers drafted to NWHL

Dani Cameranesi and Lee Stecklein are the second round of Gophers to be selected in the NWHL’s second draft.

Dani Camoranesi, left, and Lee Stecklein.

Holly Peterson and Juliet Farmer, Daily File Photos

Dani Camoranesi, left, and Lee Stecklein.

by Carissa Polo

Two more Gophers became a part of professional women’s hockey history Saturday as first-round picks in the National Women’s Hockey League’s second-ever draft.

Defenseman Lee Stecklein and forward Dani Cameranesi, both upcoming seniors for the Gophers, were picked back-to-back as the second and third overall selections in the draft by the Buffalo Beauts and the Connecticut Whale, respectively. 

“Being drafted into a professional women’s hockey league is fantastic,” said Minnesota head coach Brad Frost. “I think it speaks volumes about the talent on our team, especially in the [upcoming senior] class.”

Players who have completed their junior season of collegiate hockey are eligible to enter the NWHL draft and must play their senior seasons before signing a contract with the league. 

Minnesota is tied with the University of Wisconsin for most overall picks by school with six each. 

Stecklein is Minnesota’s second No. 2 pick in NWHL draft history. Former teammate and Gophers top scorer Hannah Brandt was also drafted second overall in the NWHL’s inaugural draft last summer.

Stecklein was Minnesota’s top-scoring defenseman last season with 30 points and led the team in blocked shots.

Stecklein came to the Gophers during the 2012-13 season but took a redshirt year as a sophomore to compete with Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. 

She earned a silver medal with Team USA and was the youngest player on the team at the time.

 “She’s arguably one of the best defensemen in the whole country,” Frost said. 

Cameranesi, the third overall pick, had a breakout season with the Gophers as a junior and led the team in shots, goals and points. She tied with just one male player for the most power-play goals at 13 by any Division I player all season. 

“I think it’s a very big honor,” Cameranesi said. It was a great compliment to be a part of the draft, and I’m really excited to see where it goes.” 

Despite being one of the most prolific players in the draft, Cameranesi said she was napping during the event.

“I woke up to my phone and I just had a bunch of tweets from people and the NWHL, and that’s basically how I found out,” Cameranesi said.

Cameranesi also joined Stecklein in an off-ice training camp for Team USA earlier this month and hopes to be a strong contender for the 2018 Olympic team when her time with the Gophers is over.

“She continues to make an impact every time she steps on the ice,” Frost said. “She’s someone who’s team-first.”