Beginning June 1, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2017-18 roster and their draft picks. Additionally, for those players who have completed their college eligibility and want to continue their hockey careers, NWHL Free Agency provides the best opportunity to continue playing at the highest level of professional women’s hockey. The fourth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Metropolitan Riveters defend their Isobel Cup championship, and with the addition of a fifth team – the Minnesota Whitecaps – this will be the most competitive season yet.
My colleague Dan Rice will keep THW readers up-to-date on Metropolitan and Connecticut’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Buffalo and Boston. Together we will be keeping readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.
Just hours after the announcement came out that the Boston Pride added a high-scoring rookie, they made an even bigger signing just by bringing back a familiar face. A Team USA gold medalist from the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and a 2016 Isobel Cup champion, Amanda Pelkey is back in Beantown. Having been an original member of the Pride during the inaugural 2015-16 NWHL season, Pelkey played two straight years for the team before missing the 2017-18 season when she joined the USA’s women’s national team. Now she is back and Boston immediately retains the services of one of their best players.
New player unlocked 🔓
PEL-🔑 IS BACK! And this time, she's got a gold medal…
— Boston Pride (@TheBostonPride) August 17, 2018
“Amanda is simply an amazing player in every aspect of the game,” Boston head coach Paul Mara – and an assistant coach of Team USA – said in the press release about her signing. “She is strong in all zones and has an immense love for the game. She’s one of the most liked and respected athletes I’ve had the pleasure to be around.”
Mara’s words are quite complimentary, but even they may be an understatement. Pelkey may just be the most responsible and most reliable player in the entire NWHL. THW takes a closer look at her signing, and how it means that Boston is majorly ramping up to stake ownership over the Isobel Cup.
Performance in PyeongChang
Pelkey played in all five tournament games for Team USA at the PyeongChang Olympics. She played primarily on the fourth-line in more of a checking-line role. In the process she picked up two assists and fired four shots on goal. Pelkey’s first helper came on a Gigi Marvin tally in a 5-0 win over the Olympic Athletes from Russia, which was the USA’s second game of the preliminary round. Her second assist came in the 5-0 semi-final win against Finland on another goal by Marvin.
These were Pelkey’s first Olympics and they ended up in gold. She had previously represented the United States at three straight Women’s U18 World Championships from 2009 through 2011. Two of those championships (2009, 2011) ended up in gold medals, while one was a silver (2010). Pelkey also earned a gold medal at the Women’s World Championships in 2017.
Now the Pride have two Olympians on their roster, and there is potential for more to come on board before the 2018-19 NWHL season gets underway. In addition to Pelkey, USA Olympic teammate Haley Skarupa has also signed with Boston. There are still a considerable number of American, Canadian and European players from the national teams of the PyeongChang Games that could end up on NWHL rosters.
If there is anything to be said for momentum and riding the wave of success, it would stand to reason that Pelkey and Skarupa can carry over those winning ways into the upcoming NWHL season. Victory is contagious, and when it is achieved by such skillful athletes – especially one as well-respected as Pelkey – it can seemingly become emblazoned upon an entire team just from one or two players that spark it.
Previous Successes With the Pride
Pelkey played the first two seasons of the NWHL’s existence as a member of the Pride. She was a member of their 2016 Isobel Cup-winning squad, as well as their team that made a return trip to the Final against the Buffalo Beauts for 2017’s championship. Pelkey’s has 33 regular season games to her NWHL credit thus far. Across those two seasons she has scored nine goals and eight assists for 17 points.
Her finest NWHL season offensively was the inaugural year of 2015-16. Pelkey played in 16 of the club’s 18 regular season games that year. She scored seven goals and three assists for 10 points total. That made Pelkey one of seven Pride players to record double digits in points that first season. She was even better in the playoffs that year, scoring a goal and three assists in four games to be a point-per-game player. In turn, she now has her name inscribed on the Isobel Cup for all of time.
Her grandfather made it known that he approves. pic.twitter.com/9lRJ6rLfpY
— Jack Korte (@JackMyNBC5) August 10, 2018
Including Pelkey, there are presently four players on Boston’s roster who were members of that original 2015-16 Cup-winning team. She, like all of them, want to see Lady Isobel back in Boston’s confines. As each signing comes, it is becoming more apparent that the Pride at least have the capability of making that happen.
“I’m excited to get back to skating with this group of girls again with the Pride,” Pelkey went on to say in the press release. “We have a great group this year that I believe will build towards a successful season in the NWHL. Boston has been my second home for a few years and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to play here again this year.”
With Pelkey making a return to the team, here is how the Pride look as of Aug. 17:
Goalie: Katie Burt.
Defense: Alyssa Gagliardi, Toni Ann Miano, Lauren Kelly, Lexi Bender, Kaleigh Fratkin, Mallory Souliotis.
Forward: Emily Field, Dana Trivigno, Denisa Křížová, Haley Skarupa, Jillian Dempsey, McKenna Brand, Amanda Pelkey.