On May 8 the Boston Pride announced that they had re-signed three key members of their defensive corps. Yes, the Pride were offensive dynamos throughout their run through the NWHL to the tune of a 23-1-0 record, but they also gave up the fewest goals in the league (43).
Both Mallory Souliotis and Lauren Kelly will be entering their third full seasons with Boston, and Jenna Rheault will be entering her second full season. All three defenders played crucial roles in the well-oiled machine that was the 2019-20 Pride and combined they also chipped in on the offensive end with a total of 34 points between the three of them, including two game-winning goals.
Defense Never Rests
Boston has had some of the best success in the NWHL Draft and all three of the recently re-signed players were drafted by the Pride. Both Souliotis (eighth overall) and Kelly (16th overall) were selected in the 2017 Draft and Rheault was picked 25th overall in the 2018 Draft. The trio joins perennial All-Star Kaleigh Fratkin as defenders currently under contract for next season.
After a great career at Northeastern University, Kelly appeared in 23 games last season and finished with 12 points (2g-10a), 57 shots on goal, 23 blocked shots, and was a plus-17. In 38 career NWHL games, she has 15 points (3g-12a) and has one assist in one postseason game (2019-20).
“Lauren is a solid defender who consistently shuts down rushes, and eliminates scoring opportunities for our opponents,” said Boston GM Karilyn Pilch in the press release announcing the signings. Her toughness and vision make her pivotal to our defense. We are thrilled to have Lauren, Jenna, and Mallory back for the Pack.”
Rheault was one of the most impressive, under-the-radar rookies this past season after a four-year stint at the University of New Hampshire. She played in all 24 regular-season games and one playoff game for the Pride and finished with a total of seven points (1g-6a), 34 shots on goal, 17 blocked shots, and was a plus-13. Her lone goal was clutch – an overtime winner in Buffalo on Dec. 21.
“Jenna had a very impressive rookie NWHL season, with her best game coming in the Isobel Cup semifinal victory over Connecticut,” said Pilch. “She is a confident and steady blueliner who continues to develop because of her diligence and focus in every practice and workout.”
Souliotis joined Boston for two games immediately following the completion of her collegiate career at Yale University in 2018 and has been a constant on the blueline ever since. This past season she set career-highs across the board, finishing with 16 points (4g-12a) in 22 games, 54 shots on goal, 23 blocked shots, and was a plus-29.
In 38 career NWHL games she has 22 points (7g-15a), has one assist in two playoff games, and was a recipient of the 2019 NWHL Foundation Award. Her 16 points last season were second on the team among defenders, and she finished fourth in the league in plus-minus.
“Mallory brings grit and great poise to our defensive zone,” Pilch said in the press release. “We will rely on her to defend the den, while adding – do I dare say – a few toe-drags to the offensive side of her game.”
The Pack is Back
With the announcement of the trio’s signings, the Pride now have nine players signed already for next season and eight of them are players who are returning. Kelly, Rheault, and Souliotis join Fratkin, Christina Putigna, McKenna Brand, Lexie Laing, Jillian Dempsey, and Sammy Davis – who was just drafted first overall at the 2020 NWHL Draft.
The Pride mean business, and anyone who doesn’t agree with that statement just needs to go read some of the tweets from their head coach Paul Mara. They are a tight unit with a singular goal in mind: Isobel Cup or bust. As amazing as they were this past season just take a second to think about what they could look like in the upcoming season if they return mostly intact, as it appears they will.
The chemistry that they have developed, the leadership among the group, the addition of a talent like Davis, and the guidance from Mara and Pilch will likely make them a force to be reckoned with for next season and beyond.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.