Over the past seven days, we saw nine more signings as NWHL teams continue to gear up for Season 7. We still have yet to see any players officially sign with the Boston Pride and the Minnesota Whitecaps, but, that could change in short order as the Pride’s Head Coach Paul Mara hinted at on Twitter last Thursday. We also saw the league announce when Season 7 will start, Nov. 6 (details below) and they also announced the first five games on the schedule. Unfortunately, we also saw the retirement of another fan favorite and longtime NWHLer.
The NWHL announced that the puck will officially drop on Season 7 on Nov. 6 with a triple-header of games involving all six franchises. The first game of the day will be the Connecticut Whale visiting the Metropolitan Riveters at 1:45 pm. We still don’t know where the Rivs home rink will be but are guessing it’s a return to Newark.
Next up the Boston Pride will raise their 2021 Isobel Cup championship banner at 6:30 pm when they host the Minnesota Whitecaps, the team they beat to clinch their second Cup. The final game of the day will see the Buffalo Beauts hosting the Toronto Six at 7:00 pm. The rest of the full schedule has yet to be released, but the league did reveal that the Rivs and Whale (1:45 pm) and the Pride and Whitecaps (2:30 pm) will also square off on Nov. 7 in New Jersey and Boston, respectively.
On July 29 goaltender Kelsey Neumann retired from the NWHL after five seasons with the Buffalo Beauts. The 30-year-old became an instant fan-favorite as a rookie when she and fellow rookie Amanda Leveille started taking pictures in their goalie gear off the ice in random places. On the ice, she finishes her career with a 3-3-1 record and picked up her first win as a pro on Nov. 17, 2019 – making 41 saves in a 3-1 victory in Connecticut.
Off the ice, Neumann is a rockstar in the Western New York community as a mental health advocate through Lift The Mask, and as a teacher in Buffalo. She was one of the recipients of the NWHL Foundation Award in 2017 and has her name on the Isobel Cup after winning it with the Beauts in the league’s second season. On a personal note, Neumann is one of the kindest people that I have ever met in the hockey world and I look forward to seeing her at the rink the next time I make the trek to Buffalo.
On July 28 the Toronto Six announced that they had re-signed goaltender Samantha Ridgewell for her second season with the team/league. Last season Ridgewell started one regular-season game (20 saves, 6-5 shootout loss against Minnesota), and had one relief appearance during the playoffs (15:58).
“I’m glad I re-signed. When the season was over, I felt like we didn’t get to truly experience what this league has to offer, so that was a huge reason why I wanted to re-sign right away,” said Ridgewell in the press release announcing the signing. “We didn’t get to experience it to the full extent that we can. It’s just really cool, I’m really excited to see what’s in store for Season 7.”
Ridgewell is the eleventh player signed by the Six for the upcoming season. She joins forwards Shiann Darkangelo, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Emma Woods, Maegan Beres, and Leah Marino, defenders Emma Greco, Taylor Woods, Lindsay Eastwood, and Saroya Tinker, and goaltender Elaine Chuli.
Rivs Add Depth with Wolejko, Barbara, Frade, MacLaine
On July 28 the Metropolitan Riveters announced that they have signed defender Kristen Barbara and forward Haley Frade. Barbara played last season with the Toronto Six, appearing in five games (one playoff) after playing three seasons in the CWHL where she won a Clarkson Cup with Markham (2018).
Barbara is currently coaching the NJ Colonials 16U Major team. Frade re-joins the Rivs after appearing in three regular-season games and one playoff game at the tail end of Season 5. She picked up one assist (Feb. 29, 2020) in her second NWHL game and attended the Riveters Free Agent Camp this past June.
On July 29 the Riveters announced that they had signed goaltender Brooke Wolejko and forward Nora MacLaine. Wolejko joins the Rivs after two seasons with the Whale where she went 2-9-1 in the regular season and 1-1 in playoff games. Her first career win came in New Jersey against the Riveters when she stopped 37 of 40 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. She will be reunited with Sonjia Shelly, who was her goaltending partner in Connecticut during Season 5.
MacLaine, like Frade, was at the Riveters Free Agent Camp in June and joins the franchise after playing last season in the AWIHL (Australia). Before that, she played four seasons at the University of Connecticut (where she was teammates with Theresa Knutson), posting 14 points (5g-9a). If/when she makes her NWHL debut she will be the first player to do so with AIWHL games on her resume.
With the additions of Barbara, Frade, Wolejko, and MacLaine, the Riveters now have 12 players signed for the upcoming season. They join forwards Kendall Cornine, Madison Packer, Mallory Rushton, Theresa Knutson, and Emily Janiga, defenders Leila Kilduff and Allie Olnowich, and goaltender Sonjia Shelly.
Beauts Sign Another Draft Pick, Add Klienbach
On July 28 the Buffalo Beauts announced that they had signed their fourth-round pick (19th overall) from the 2021 NWHL Draft, defender Allison Attea from Holy Cross. Attea is the fifth member (of the seven) of Beauts’ 2021 Draft Class to sign with Buffalo for Season 7. She played in 112 games at the NCAA level, recording 20 points (8g-12a) in addition to being a shot-blocking goblin; the last two seasons Attea blocked a total of 94 shots.
On August 2 the Beauts announced the signing of forward Grace Kleinbach, who joins the franchise after playing three seasons with the Whale. She put up 10 points (2g-8a) over 41 regular-season games and one goal in three playoff games in Connecticut. Klienbach was the Whale’s 2021 NWHL Foundation Award recipient and participated in the league’s All-Star weekend in 2020.
“I am very excited to be playing hockey for the Buffalo Beauts in my hometown this season,” Attea said in the press release announcing her signing. “Buffalo has been home to me for my entire life, and it is a dream come true that I can continue playing hockey here. I am honored and grateful for this opportunity to continue playing hockey in our city. I play a steady defensive game, but I’m not afraid to join the offensive rush. Fans can expect to see a lot of energy and physicality from me, especially in front of our net.”
The Beauts’ Season 7 roster is nearly complete now and with the addition of Klienbach, they are looking like quite the formidable bunch that has been assembled by GM Nate Oliver.
“It’ll be wonderful to have Grace playing for us instead of against us for a change,” said Oliver in the press release announcing the signing. “She is the kind of player that you wish you had six or seven of on your roster. Just never stops driving, never stops battling, never stops competing on every play, but is always a sounding board and phenomenal teammate for her club. We were lucky to acquire Grace.”
With the signing of Attea and Klienbach, the Beauts are up to 22 players under contract for Season 7. They join forwards Taylor Accursi, Amy Budde, Autumn MacDougall, Kennedy Ganser, Cassidy MacPherson, Erin Gehen, Anjelica Diffendal, Brittany Colton, Taylor Wasylk, Missy Segall, and Cassidy Vinkle, defenders Marie-Jo Pelletier, Lisa Chesson, Dominique Kremer, Emilie Harley, Samantha Fieseler, and Emma Keenan, and goalies Carly Jackson, Caty Flagg, and Lovisa Berndtsson.
Whale Sign Weber, Crawley
On August 2 the Connecticut Whale announced that they have re-signed forward Janine Weber. This will be the Austrian star’s third season with the Whale after one season with Boston and two with the Riveters. She has 42 career points (16g-26a) in 60 regular-season games and two points (1g-1a) over six postseason games.
“Janine is one of our veteran leaders who plays a huge role on our team both on and off the ice. She is a strong, smart player who makes her presence felt every shift,” said Connecticut assistant GM/assistant coach Laura Brennan in the press release announcing the signing. “Her ability to be vocal and lead by example is a great value to our team and younger players. She is truly a role model for everyone around her and we could not be happier to have her back this year!”
On August 3 the Whale announced the signing of forward Catherine Crawley. She joins the Pod after four seasons at the University of Connecticut where she put up 83 points (35g-48a) over 143 games; she was an alternate captain her senior season (2019-20). She also went to the same nursing program as Cailey Hutchison, who also recently signed with the Whale.
“I’m grateful to be a part of the Whale organization and so excited to be playing back in Connecticut again,” Crawley said in the press release announcing her signing. “I’m looking forward to learning from returning players, building on the team’s season from last year, and helping to continue growing the game.”
Weber and Crawley are the 12th and 13th players under contract with the Whale for the upcoming season. They join forwards Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Kennedy Marchment, Emma Vlasic, Cailey Hutchison, Emma Polaski, and Taylor Girard, defenders Allie Munroe, Hanna Beattie, and Tori Howran, and goaltenders Abbie Ives and Mariah Fujimagari.
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.