Beginning May 15, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2018-19 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 fifth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Minnesota Whitecaps look to defend their Isobel Cup championship.
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.
The Boston Pride have added their first rookie blueliner for the 2019-20 NWHL season. Word was released on the morning of May 28 that University of New Hampshire graduate Jenna Rheault had been signed to a $7,500 contract to play for the Pride this upcoming season.
What is perhaps most noteworthy about the signing is that Rheault becomes the first member of the 2018 NWHL Draft class to sign into the league. The Boston Pride selected her with the 25th overall pick back in Dec. 2018.
Rheault said the following in the press release on her signing:
“I want to thank the NWHL and the Boston Pride for giving me the opportunity to continue playing the sport I love so much and for giving me the platform to help advance women’s hockey for future generations. I am extremely honored and grateful.”
The Stay-At-Home Defender Boston Needs
The 5-foot-7 Rheault is a native of Deering, New Hampshire. While Boston’s first signing on defense (Kaleigh Fratkin) brings a bit of offensive skill to an overall hard-nosed game, Rheault’s style is more stay-at-home.
In 142 career NCAA games with the Wildcats, the rookie defender scored just six goals and 18 assists for 24 total points. In her four seasons with UNH, Rheault never tallied more than two goals during a single campaign. Her senior season saw her equal her career high in goals scored (2), and set personal highs in assists (8) and points (10). Rheault reached those numbers while played in 35 games that 2018-19.
But scoring totals do not even come close to depicting the entire story. Rheault is a tremendous shot-blocker and routinely finished among the upper end of Wildcats who turned aside vulcanized rubber.
In each of her four campaigns, she blocked no less than 51 shots in a season. Rheault’s career high came during her sophomore 2016-17 campaign when she put her body in front 60 shots within 35 games. From her freshman through senior seasons, she ranked third, third, fourth, and second respectively for UNH blocked-shot totals.
“Jenna is a very capable all-zone defender who I expect will be a fixture in our lineup for years to come,” said Pride head coach Paul Mara, in the same press release.
Accolades and Character
Echoing Mara’s sentiments is the fact that Rheault is a well-regarded athlete that will bring a strong sense of character to the Boston lineup. In 2018, she was into inducted into Chi Alpha Sigma, the National Collegiate Athletic Honor Society.
Rheault’s junior year saw her win UNH’s Sue Merz (7th Player) Award. Most recently during her senior season she was the recipient of the Colleen Coyne Best Defender Award, along with the Tina True Award from UNH Athletics for “dedication to strength and conditioning.” From 2009 through 2012, Rheault was a participant in the USA National Development Camp.
As respectable as those achievements may very well be, she also has high expectations for herself and for her upcoming rookie season with “The Pack”.
“I have high hopes that playing for the Boston Pride will help me continue to develop as a defender, a teammate, and a person,” said Rheault. “During this upcoming season, I want to be able to expand my role as a stay-at-home D and also work on enhancing the skills to help contribute offensively.”
What fans will enjoy most about Rheault as a player is her work ethic. She blends in nicely with what is becoming the look of the 2019-20 Pride. Thus far, all are new faces with the exception of Fratkin. Though this is just an inkling of what Mara’s roster will ultimately look like, it is appears to have the makings of a solid, defensive-minded approach.
“I want to thank my family,” Rheault went on to say, “my previous club coaches, Laura Stamm Power Skating, my coaches at St. Paul’s, my coaches at UNH, and my strength coaches at UNH for supporting me as a hockey player. Without you all, I wouldn’t have ever made it to this point. I cannot wait to get the 2019-2020 season rolling. Go Boston!”
Here is a look at how the Pride’s roster is currently shaping out as of May 28:
Defense: Kaleigh Fratkin, Jenna Rheault.
Forward: Tori Sullivan, Christina Putigna.