The offensive juggernaut that is the Boston Pride continues to roll itself on into the 2020-21 NWHL season. Shortly after re-signing two of their top-5 scorers, Boston announced that they had re-upped a third. Word was released on Apr. 17 that McKenna Brand will be returning to the club for the league’s sixth season.
“I am so grateful to be signing with the Pride for my third season in the NWHL,” Brand said in the press release for her signing. “Last year was truly one of my favorite years of hockey, playing with some amazing people. The culture that the Pride organization created last season was a major part of our success and I cannot wait to be a part of that again. I am looking forward to playing in front of the best fans in the league and continue to grow the game in the Boston area.”
Brand finished third in balloting for the NWHL’s 2019-20 MVP award. For a player who went 19-17-36 for scoring in only 24 games, it is easy to see why. Many would consider Brand the Pride’s topmost offensive threat.
Scoring in Droves
With two NWHL seasons to her credit, Brand has yet to average less than a point per game. She scored six goals, 11 assists and 17 points in 16 games as a rookie during the 2018-19 season. Factoring in her totals from this past season, Brand is presently 25-28-53 through 40 career regular season games.
Her 19 goals in 2019-20 were second most in the entire league, and were the highest total among all Boston skaters. Of her 24 games played, there were only three instances in which Brand did not record a point. Her 36 total points trailed only team captain Jillian Dempsey (17-23-40) for top marks on the Pride.
Brand already knows that she will be returning to the Pride alongside potent forwards Christina Putigna (8-21-29) and Lexie Laing (12-15-27), whose signings were announced just prior to hers. She recognizes the value of continuing to be within good, talented company.
“Lexie and Christina are such strong players that already have proved that they can produce at this level,” Brand explained to THW. “Knowing that we have already signed them gives me a great deal of confidence heading into next season. I know personally I felt more confident last year heading into my second season and was able to produce more. I’m expecting that they will be able to do the same or even more!”
Talking the Talk, and Walking the Walk
The tear that the Pride went on in 2019-20 was unbelievable at times. The team lost only once during the regular season. Additionally, nine times they were able to limit their opponents to a goal or less.
While Boston certainly possessed elite goaltending and defense, a lot of their victories had to do with their superb puck possession. It was tremendously difficult for any team to try to fight fire with fire against them, as seemingly no one could match their offense.
The Pride led the NWHL with 120 goals during the regular season – a full 14 goals more than the next highest club (Minnesota), while the three other squads did not even break 100. Boston scored at least five goals in a game on 14 different occasions during the regular season.
With talented shooters like Brand, Laing, Dempsey and Putigna, the team developed a true confidence that never turned braggadocios.
“I think we just had a group of really good hockey players with even better character off the ice,” Brand said. “I think right away at the beginning of the season our staff and captains did a great job of setting the standards and getting everyone to buy into showing up and working hard every day. We also did a great job of keeping things light and fun in the locker room, but then dialing it in once we hit the ice.”
The Pride will look to do that at least one more time for the 2019-20 season. The Isobel Cup Final has been postponed indefinitely amid the COVID-19 pandemic. When it does take place, Brand and the Pride will square off against the only team to hand them a defeat during the season, the Minnesota Whitecaps.
Looking beyond that though, having Brand under contract for a third straight season may end up being Boston’s most critical signing for 2020-21.