NWHL Roundup: Lewicki Retires, Top Pick Girard Signs with Whale

Business was booming this week as seven more players signed contracts for Season 7 in the NWHL. Unfortunately, we also saw the retirement of another fan favorite this week as well. On the management side we saw the Buffalo Beauts and Metropolitan Riveters add assets to their coaching staffs and the reigning Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride found their successor for GM Karilyn Pilch. 

This Sunday (July 25, 1:00 pm ET on Twitch) will be the NWHL’s first International Draft. Each team will make one selection in the following order: Buffalo, Connecticut, Boston, Toronto, Metropolitan, Minnesota.

Wheels Up (and West)

On July 15 Kristin Lewicki announced her retirement from the NWHL as she pursues a job opportunity in Arizona. The 26-year-old played four seasons in the league (three with the Buffalo Beauts and one with the Metropolitan Riveters), tallying 18 points (10g-8a) in 42 regular-season games and had two points/assists over five playoff games. During her rookie season, Lewicki was an All-Star in 2018 and won the Fastest Skater competition.

Kristin Lewicki
Kristin Lewicki at the 2018 NWHL All-Star Weekend. (Photo Credit: Matthew Raney)

Front Office Moves

On July 15 the Boston Pride announced that Danielle Larouco would be taking over as their team’s new GM, replacing Karilyn Pilch (who departed for a gig with the Chicago Blackhawks) who guided the franchise to back-to-back Isobel Cup Final appearances and a championship in 2021. Larouco will oversee staff and player personnel as well as team and community events, working closely with Team President Colleen Coyne, Head Coach Paul Mara, and his staff to expand and deepen community connections, while continuing the winning tradition of the Pride.

“I am very excited to be named the GM of the Boston Pride and join this great group of players and staff,” said Larouco in the press release announcing her hiring. “I look forward to continuing to propel the women’s game forward with the excellence the players bring to the ice every day as well as providing great game-day experiences to our fans.”

That same day the NWHL announced that they added Bill Flanagan as the Director of Scouting in the US and Ken Dufton as the Director of Scouting in Canada. They will both be responsible for scouting collegiate talent across the NCAA and U SPORTS and will provide reports on prospective players while also establishing rankings that will assist the league and teams in preparation for future NWHL Drafts and Free Agency.

Kelly Nash
Kelly Nash of the Metropolitan Riveters shoots the puck during an NWHL playoff game against the Connecticut Whale. (Photo Credit: Matthew Raney)

On July 16 the Metropolitan Riveters announced the hiring of Kelly Nash as Associate Head Coach and Head Scout. Nash appeared in 24 games over three seasons with the franchise, putting up 11 points (3g-8a) and helping them to the 2018 Isobel Cup. She has been an assistant coach with Princeton University and the University of Vermont, as well as the Head Coach for the NJ Colonials 16U girls team.

On July 20 the Buffalo Beauts announced the hiring of Shane Madolora as their new Goaltending Coach. Madolora is the owner and founder of Madolora Consulting and Development hockey clinic and is also currently the Goaltending Coach for RIT’s men’s hockey team. He played three seasons at RIT, setting numerous program records, followed by stints in the CHL, ECHL, SPHL, as well as in France, Italy, and England.

Two Picks Join the Pod

On July 15 the Connecticut Whale announced that they had signed the top overall pick from the 2021 NWHL Draft, forward Taylor Girard. She finished her collegiate career with a total of 69 points (32g-37a) in 105 games while at Lindenwood University (66 games, 35 points from 2016-18) and Quinnipiac University (39 games, 34 points from 2019-21). 

“We are thrilled to officially welcome the first overall draft pick, Taylor Girard, to the team. Our first in franchise history,” said assistant GM/assistant coach Laura Brennan in the press release announcing the signing. “She is a player who is coming off of a great career at Quinnipiac and we look forward to her continued growth and pro debut with us! She brings size, speed, and strength to our forward core and will complement our team’s style of play.”

On July 20 the Whale announced they had signed their second-round pick from the 2021 NWHL Draft, forward Emma Polaski. During her four seasons at Syracuse University the Morristown, New Jersey native played in 128 games and registered 62 points (31g-31a). Polaski was an alternate captain during her senior year.

Emma Polaski
Emma Polaski looks to make a play with the puck for the Syracuse Orange. (Photos by Michael J. Okoniewski-SU Athletic Communications)

“I can’t think of a better organization than the Whale to have the opportunity to continue my hockey career with. I’m so excited to get on the ice with the team and begin Season 7!” Polaski said in the press release announcing her signing.

Girard and Polaski are the ninth and tenth players signed by the Whale for Season 7. They join forwards Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Kennedy Marchment, and Emma Vlasic, defenders Allie Munroe, Hanna Beattie, and Tori Howran, and goaltenders Abbie Ives and Mariah Fujimagari.

Buffalo Adds 2 More

On July 14 the Buffalo Beauts announced that they had signed the first of their three, third-round picks in the 2021 NWHL Draft, forward Kennedy Ganser from the University of Alberta. Ganser, chosen 13th overall, is the second player from the Pandas drafted by the Beauts and now will rejoin her former linemate Autumn MacDougall in Buffalo.

The next day the Beauts announced that they have re-signed forward Taylor Wasylk for her second season with the franchise/fourth in the league. Over eight games with Buffalo and Boston, she has recorded four assists/points.

“It still feels pretty surreal to have been drafted by the Beauts. Growing up, I had always hoped that there would be a ‘women’s NHL’. Now that I have that opportunity, it is pretty exciting,” said Ganser in the press release announcing her signing. “Auttie and I always seem to know where each other are out on the ice,” she added. “We have different styles of play that seem to complement each other quite well.”

Ganser appeared in 112 games for the Pandas and finished her collegiate career with 85 points (34g-51a). The Beauts are banking on the dynamic duo recreating some on-ice magic this upcoming season as they attempt to distance themselves from the bottom of the league standings.

Richelle Skarbowski Buffalo Beauts
Beauts defender Richelle Skarbowski looks to make a pass behind Boston’s Taylor Wasylk (Photo credit: Mike Hetzel).

“I could not be more excited to re-sign with the Buffalo Beauts. I hold so much respect for the players, coaches, and management that make up this team and organization as a whole. I had an incredible first experience with the team in Lake Placid in January and I am looking forward to carrying that into Season 7,” Wasylk said in the press release announcing her signing.

Prior to joining the NWHL Wasylk played in the CWHL and at Boston College (96 points in 145 NCAA games). In addition to playing for the Beauts, she also serves as the Head Coach for Suffolk University’s women’s team.

“Taylor will be integral to our team’s success this season,” said GM Nate Oliver. “Not only is she a highly accomplished player with a great deal of talent, but her veteran presence will be invaluable for our younger players. Factor in her coaching career, and there really isn’t much that Taylor hasn’t experienced or done in hockey.”

Lisa Chesson, Brooke Stacey
Buffalo Beauts defender Lisa Chesson and Buffalo Beauts forward Brooke Stacey celebrate a goal in Lake Placid, NY on Jan 30, 2021. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

Following the signings of Ganser and Wasylk, the Beauts are now up to 18 players signed for Season 7. They join forwards Taylor Accursi, Amy Budde, Autumn MacDougall, Cassidy MacPherson, Erin Gehen, Emilie Harley, Anjelica Diffendal, Brittany Colton, and Cassidy Vinkle, defenders Marie-Jo Pelletier, Lisa Chesson, Dominique Kremer, Samantha Fieseler, and Emma Keenan, and goalies Carly Jackson and Caty Flagg.

Woods Back For More with Six

On July 14 the Toronto Six announced they have re-signed forward Emma Woods for her second season with the team/in the NWHL. Last season she had four assists/points and 22 shots on goal in four regular-season games. Woods was originally a draft pick of the Beauts (2016, 14th overall) and previously played in the CWHL and SDHL.

“I am thrilled to have a mother shot to win the Isobel Cup and bring it back to Toronto for the first time,” Woods said in the press release announcing her signing. “This past season definitely didn’t end the way we wanted it to, and I think that makes me even more excited to get back with the team and prove what we are capable of, and believe we can do!”

Woods played two seasons overseas in China in the CWHL under Toronto President Digit Murphy and played one season at Quinnipiac with her Six teammate and captain Shiann Darkangelo. 

“I think I can speak for our entire team when I say that playing in Toronto, for our family and friends is the reason we signed with the Six,” added Woods. “Getting to play at home for the first time in my professional career is really special, and I think it is going to bring our game and excitement to another level!”

Elaine Chuli
Toronto Six goaltender Elaine Chuli makes a split save in Lake Placid, NY on Jan 30, 2021. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

Woods is the ninth player signed for the Six’s second NWHL season, joining forwards Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Shiann Darkangelo, Leah Marino, and Maegan Beres, defenders Emma Greco, Taylor Woods, and Saroya Tinker, and goaltender Elaine Chuli.

Kilduff, Shelly Return to Rivs

On July 14 the Metropolitan Riveters announced that they re-signed defender Leila Kilduff for her third season in the league/with the team. In 25 career regular-season games she has picked up eight points (6g-2a) while blocking 35 shots and taking 27 shots on goal. 

Sonjia Shelly, Haley Mack
Metropolitan Riveters goaltender Sonjia Shelly makes a save as Minnesota Whitecaps forward Haley Mack looks for a rebound in Lake Placid, NY on Jan 26, 2021. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

The following day the team announced they had re-signed goaltender Sonjia Shelly for her second season with the team and third in the NWHL. Last season she picked up her first pro win, shutting out Toronto in the first game of the season. Shelly carries a 1-13-1 record into the upcoming season following two seasons with the Rivs and Whale.

Kilduff and Shelly are the third and fourth players signed by the Riveters for Season 7, joining forwards Madison Packer and Emily Janiga.