On August 4 the NWHL’s reigning Isobel Cup champions, the Boston Pride, finally announced some player signings. In fact, they announced 18 of them. All at once. 14 of those 18 players will be returning in an attempt to become the league’s first-ever back-to-back champions. The league max for rosters is set at 25 this season, so the Pride will likely add a few more players between today and the start of the season, but we now know the core of what their team will look like on opening night (Nov. 6).
Only one of the four new faces will be making her NWHL debut, another will be returning to the league (and the Pride) after two years with the PWHPA, and the remaining two players will be making the jump from Connecticut to Boston for the upcoming season. We reported a while ago that Lexie Laing, Mary Parker, Tereza Vanišová, and Carlee Turner wouldn’t be returning to help defend the Isobel Cup, but the Pride did a fantastic job replenishing their roster with the four new additions.
The Pride have signed nine forwards for Season 7. Returning to the team will be captain Jillian Dempsey, alternate captain McKenna Brand, Christina Putigna, Meghara McManus, Taylor Wenczkowski, Tori Sullivan, and Sammy Davis. Joining that group will be former Whale players Katelynn Russ and Kayla Friesen.
Dempsey is one season removed from a season for the ages and the captain followed that up with a performance worthy of the 2021 Playoff MVP. Her line with Putigna and Brand aka the Golden Girls should be a force to be reckoned with again, and the possibility of a Frieden-Davis-Wenczkowski line is out there looming as well. Their depth will be tested, but their current staff’s track record speaks for itself. Slide into my DMs for more suggestions Coach Mara!
For Friesen, it wasn’t an easy decision to leave Connecticut for Boston. But she took her time, weighed her options, and in the end made the best choice for herself on and off the ice by signing with the Pride.
“When I got home to Winnipeg is when I got the call from (Head Coach) Paul (Mara) with this opportunity. We had a couple of conversations discussing this upcoming season, as did I with Connecticut – and both opportunities were exciting. I went back and forth numerous times talking to (Whale Head Coach) Colton (Orr) and Paul,” Friesen told us via text.
“In terms of the growth Connecticut had this past season, and the moves they were making this off-season with signing some strong players it was tough to turn down. My head was all over the place on which move would be best for me and my future. I absolutely adored my time in Connecticut with that team, and having Colton as my coach,” she added. “He’s hands down one of the best coaches I’ve had in my career this far, and he’s an even better person outside of the game. But when I discussed the opportunity I had been given with Boston it was too hard to pass up. In Boston, they have a great team culture, a great staff at hand, amazing fans, and it allows me to grow even more as a player and person.”
As luck would have it for Friesen, the stars of her day job also aligned in Boston where the second overall pick from the 2020 NWHL Draft will now be calling home alongside Davis, who was selected first in that same draft.
“The company I work for just expanded to Boston, and that was something I needed to consider because I could continue helping grow the female side of hockey as a skill & development coach at Elev802 there,” Friesen said. “It’s one thing to be able to play professional hockey and show the younger girls where they can play one day, but for me, it’s even more important to be able to help show them how to get there one day. So when I looked at the Boston Pride as an organization and my career outside of hockey it was a no-brainer for me to sign with them.”
“I’m excited to move down there in the next month to get things going and meet all the girls while working to help Boston to another strong season in any way I can.”
Boston has signed six defenders for the upcoming season’s title defense. Returning to defend the crown are alternate captain Kaleigh Fratkin, Mallory Souliotis, Lauren Kelly, Jenna Rheault, and Paige Capistran. Joining them will be Canadian defender Abby Cook, who played for years at Boston University (147 games, 99 points, 24 goals) before playing one season in Sweden (SDHL).
For the veterans, they know the rest of the league will be gunning for them after all of the games (and the championship) that they won over the past two years. But the defense corps is filled with players who have been through the grind, and are anchored by Fratkin – a two-time reigning Defender of the Year. They’ve all dealt with heartbreak before finally climbing the proverbial mountain last season
“Winning was such an amazing experience, but we’re all aware that now more than ever we will have a target on our backs,” said Kelly via text. “We’re gearing up for the challenge of keeping Isobel where she belongs (in Boston, of course), and we’re hoping our fans are getting excited for what will be an amazing season!”
“I’m very excited to be back for Season 7! I’m even more excited about the team that coach and the staff have put together,” Kelly added. “I think the newcomers will have an impact right away, and I know the returners are hungrier than ever to keep Isobel in Boston!”
The Pride signed not one, not two, but three goaltenders for Season 7. Both Lovisa Selander and Victoria Hanson will each return for their third seasons in the league/with the team, and joining them will be Katie Burt – who was the no. 1 overall pick by the Pride in the 2017 NWHL Draft. Selander was the winning netminder in the 2021 Isobel Cup Final and is one season removed from an epic 17-1-0 season where she was voted Goaltender of the Year.
Burt finished her lone NWHL season (Season 4) with a regular-season record of 10-5-0, a 2.14 GAA, and a save percentage of .923. Her last start with the team was a 4-0 playoff loss (at Buffalo) where she stopped 35 of the 39 shots she faced. Perhaps she was signed as insurance in case Selander has to leave the team to participate in international tournaments (Olympics)?
No matter how it all plays out we do know this – the Pride are stacked in goal, stacked on defense, and stacked at forward – and if one of the other five teams can rip the Cup from their paws, it will definitely not be an easy task.
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.