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PWHL International players among pioneers in new women’s league

Hockey: PWHL-Boston at Montreal
Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

The PWHL launched on Jan. 1 and features top female skaters worldwide, playing in some of the best hockey markets in North America, including Boston, New York, Minnesota (Saint Paul), Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

Thus far, 148 women have played a game in the league, which breaks down to 137 skaters and nine goalies. Even though this is just the inaugural season, there is so much excitement and buzz surrounding the PWHL, that already expansion rumors are heating up.

When that moment occurs, the PWHL will require more players, especially from outside of North America, which currently make up 89.7 percent of the rosters. There are 12 skaters who hail from outside of North America, representing Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Hungary, Sweden,and Czechia.

As the trailblazers from their respective countries, here’s a look at the international stars in the PWHL, inspiring girls from all corners of the globe that, besides IIHF tournaments and the Olympics, they have a future as professional hockey players in North America.

Related: PWHL All-Star Ella Shelton has cheeky take on face coverage rule

Statistics through games of Feb. 19. Data and statistics obtained from EliteProspects.com

PWHL – Boston

Theresa Schafzahl (Weiz, Austria)

Theresa Schafzahl came to North America from Austria in 2018 to skate at the University of Vermont, where she played four seasons, earning NCAA First Team All-American honors in 2002. As PWHL Boston’s youngest skater at 23, she’s played for her home country at the World Junior Championships and Olympic qualifying games. She has four points (two goals, two assists) in 10 games.

Susanna Tapani (Turku, Finland)

Susanna Tapani is a veteran with years of international hockey experience, representing Finland at the U16 and U18 levels and the Olympic games. Additionally, she played one season at the University of North Dakota and three seasons in the women’s league in Russia and Sweden. While skating for her home country, Tapani has won three World Championship Bronze Medals, a U18 Bronze Medal, and an Olympic Bronze Medal. Tapani began the season with PWHL Minnesota before being traded to Boston. She has five points (two goals, three assists) in 12 games combined.

Emma Söderberg (Örksköldsvik, Sweden)

Emma Söderberg is a 26-year-old goalie from Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, and is one of just two players from the Scandinavian country playing in the PWHL. On the international stage, she’s played for her home country at the World Championships and Olympics. Besides wearing the Tre Kronor jersey, Söderberg starred at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where she won the NCAA Goaltender of the Year awards in 2021 and 2023. In four games this season, she’s 2-2-0 with a 3.55 goals-against average and .855 save percentage, playing behind Aerin Frankel.

PWHL – Minnesota

Denisa Křížová (Horní Cerekev, Czechia)

Denisa Křížová is no stranger to playing hockey in North America, dressing for the National Sports Academy from 2011 to 2014, moving on to Northeastern University from 2014 to 2018, and making a brief appearance with the Boston Pride in 2018-19. While representing Czechia, she’s won several World Championships in the lower divisions while earning Top 3 Player on Team awards and skating at the Olympics. The 29-year-old has two assists in 12 games.

PWHL – Montreal

Hockey: PWHL-Boston at Montreal
Jan 13, 2024; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Montreal forward Tereza Vanisova (21) skates during warm-up before a PWHL ice hockey game at Verdun Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

Tereza Vanišová (Strakonice, Czechia)

Tereza Vanišová came to Canada for the 2015-16 season so she could play with the HTI Stars. Within a season, she was in the NCAA skating at the University of Maine. Eventually, she joined the Boston Pride and Toronto Six and then played in Sweden in 2021-22. Internationally, she’s represented her home country at the Olympics and World Championships and is a three-time Czechia champion. Vanisova is third on Montreal with seven points and second with six assists.

Dominika Lásková (Prague, Czechia)

Dominika Lásková is another skater with plenty of North American hockey experience, playing at Merrimack College for four seasons and serving as an alternate captain for one. Last year, she skated with the Toronto Six, winning the Isobel Cup, while participating in her second World Championship. Additionally, she represented Czechia at the 2022 Winter Olympics. The 27-year-old is scoreless with eight penalty minutes in seven games this season.

Related: PWHL star Marie-Philip Poulin ‘legend’ on, off ice for new women’s league

PWHL – New York

Johanna Fällman (Lulea, Sweden)

Johanna Fällman has seemingly done it all, skating at the World Championships and Olympic Games and winning seven Swedish league championships. At 33, she is the oldest skater on PWHL New York and another player with NCAA experience, playing with the University of North Dakota from 2012 to 2015. She is scoreless in 10 games this season.

Chloe Aurard (Saint-Martin-d’Hères, France)

Chloe Aurard is the only player from France in the PWHL. Although she’s been representing her home country in international events, she’s been in North America since 2015, when she debuted at Vermont Academy. After returning home for a season, Aurard came back in 2017 to begin a six-year stint at Northeastern University that concluded before she joined PWHL New York in 2023. The 24-year-old has four assists in 10 games.

PWHL – Ottawa

Akane Shiga (Obihiro/Hokkaido, Japan)

Akane Shiga is from Hokkaido, Japan, and is making her North American debut this year with PWHL Ottawa. At 22, she’s the youngest skater in the lineup but has much experience representing her home country at the U18, World Championship and Olympic levels. Besides a pointless U18 tournament in 2016-17, Shiga has at least one point in every international event she’s participated in. She is scoreless in 10 games this season.

Fanni Garát-Gasparics (Budapest, Hungary)

Fanni Garát-Gasparics is the only skater in the PWHL from Hungary, returning to North America after skating with the Metropolitan Riveters last season, beginning the 2023-24 season in Sweden. She’s spent her career playing in Hungary and Russia, winning a championship in each league. As one of Hungary’s most decorated female hockey players, Garát-Gasparics has won several World Championship medals (lower divisions) and a handful of Top 3 Player on Team awards. The 29-year-old has played 10 games and is seeking her first point this season.

Aenta Tejralová (Prague, Czechia)

Aenta Tejralová is a Czechia native who debuted in North America with the Boston Pride last year. She opted to pursue professional hockey opportunities in Russia and Sweden from 2014 to 2022 before playing for the Pride and joining PWHL Ottawa this season. As one of the veteran skaters from her home country, Tejralová has played at the World Championships and Olympics. She has three points (one goal, two assists) in nine games this season.

Sandra Abstreiter (Freising, Germany)

Sandra Abstreiter is one of two international goalies in the league, along with Söderberg, but just like so many players, she’s been in North America for years, joining Providence College in 2017. During her six seasons, she played 104 games and was an alternate captain last season. Internationally, Abstreiter has represented Germany at several competitions, including the previous two World Championships. The 25-year-old has appeared in one game this season and allowed two goals on 12 shots in 18 minutes against Boston on Jan. 24.

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