It’s now just one day until the NWHL takes to the ice for the much anticipated Season 3. Plenty has changed since the 19th March when the Beauts defeated the Pride against all odds to claim their first Isobel Cup. Here is my very own Season Preview so you’re ready when the puck drops tomorrow:
Buffalo Beauts, Preseason 1-1:
Buffalo defied the odds last season as they defeated the Boston Pride in the Isobel Trophy Final, a feat they had failed to manage at all in the regular season beforehand. However, if they wish to successfully defend their title they will have to manage it without Brianne Mclaughlin who made 60 saves in last year’s final. She has now retired, bringing an end to the trio of Mclevman (on the ice at least, their shenanigans will surely continue outside of the rink). They’ve also lost their two main leaders in Emily Pflazer and Emily Janiga who have joined Team USA for centralization prior to the Olympics next year in Korea. Perhaps this leadership void will be filled by Jess Jones, who co-lead the CWHL in scoring last season. The team has also seen an injection of youth as plenty of graduating college players have signed, but we will have to wait and see if this tactic of recruiting young guns will pay. They were the only one of the four NWHL teams to win a preseason game, defeating Team China 4-2 (they dropped their second game to the Buffalo Jr Sabres, 9-4). However, I would take this victory with a pinch of salt as they didn’t have to face the seemingly invincible Team Russia. One thing is for certain, no matter how the regular season goes, Buffalo definitely has the ability to pull two games out of the bag and snag the Trophy.
Boston Pride, Preseason 0-2:
The Pride have lost 7 key players due to Olympic centralization and dropped both preseason games to Team Russia but don’t be fooled that Boston wont once again be a formidable team. Both losses to Russia were one goal games, they were the NWHL team that pushed Russia the furthest. Furthermore, their roster is stacked with players who have NWHL experience including Haley Skarupa and Janine Weber from the Whale and Rivs respectively. Along with this they have resigned Brittany Ott who won goalie of the year back in 2016 and has an NWHL career save percentage of 0.920. Backing her up is Denna Laing’s sister, Brianna Laing, who will be looking to leave her own legacy with the NWHL.
Oh, and they have a new logo and it looks amazing,
A NEW LOGO AND BRAND IDENTITY FOR THE PRIDE
— NWHL (@NWHL) September 19, 2017
Metropolitan Riveters, Preseason 0-2:
The New York Riveters are no more, the Metropolitan Riveters are just beginning. With the huge announcement, one that has massive positives for the whole of the league, that the Rivs have signed a 3 year partnership with the New Jersey Devils means that the Rivs have undergone a complete re-brand to mirror that of their NHL counterpart. The deal means that fans will be able to see their team play at the Prudential centre, as well as seeing the scorchingly hot Devils in a double header on the 28th October for just $40, a clear example of what this partnership can bring to the table for fans. The Rivs will also gain access to the vast resources that the Devils already enjoy. Despite not having an NWHL championship, now is a great time to be a Riveters fan.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 21, 2017
On the ice, the loss of Janine Weber to the Pride and Amanda Kessel off at the Olympics means that two of the team’s main superstars won’t be present. However, they did convince Harrison Browne to come out of retirement and play another season of hockey, with his impressive power kill abilities he will surely prove essential to the team’s success. Another piece that is essential is a rock solid goalie, and they have that in Katie Fitzgerald, who won goalie of the year last year. I’m sure #BrickWallFitzy will be back this season.
Connecticut Whale, Preseason 0-2:
The Whale ended the 2017/18 season on rather a damp squib, losing 8-2 to the Boston Pride in the semi-finals having finished last in the league finishing with a 5-12-1 record. Sadly they carried on where they left off, replicating a score line of 8-2, this time with a defeat to team Russia. They managed to reduce the deficit to a loss 5-2 in the rematch but the preseason didn’t offer much hope for Whale fans. Connecticut has always struggled with keeping the puck out of their own net, with the worst save percentage for a team last year at a meagre 0.857. However, they have signed three rookie goalies, Keira Goin, Laura Brennan and Sydney Rossman. With these signings comes the opportunity for any of these three, with a few good performances, to claim the number 1 spot. Offensively the Whale were solid, scoring 60 times on the year, but with the franchise scoring leader, Keli Stack, leaving for the CWHL and Haley Skarupa signing with Boston, there could be an offensive void. In fact, out of the top 5 all time scorers for the Whale, only Kelly Babstock is still on the team sheet.
The Whale have also moved to a new home for the third time in as many years, having been in Stamford at Chelsea Piers in season 1, Northford Ice Pavilion in season 2 and now they have returned to Stamford at Terrys Conners Ice Rink. NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan said on the move:
As our league continues to evolve, we are constantly evaluating what’s best for our fans, players and the league’s visibility, and the move to Stamford is unquestionably the right one for the Whale.
One thing is for sure, all of this moving is definitely doing the team no favours in building a solid fan base, and one can only hope that they will remain at this rink longer than just 1 year.
There it is, the season preview. Now all there is left to do is wait for that first puck to hit the ice.