With just over a month until the puck drops on the fifth NWHL season, the five teams are continuing to fill out their rosters and add important players as they try to capture the Isobel Cup. On August 29 the Metropolitan Riveters signed their first goaltender, the defending champion Minnesota Whitecaps re-signed a key depth player, and the Connecticut Whale added their second netminder.
Sam I Am
After dressing in five games (zero starts) for the Whale last season Sam Walther has signed with the Riveters, making them the last franchise to sign a goalie this offseason. Once she dresses for a game with them Walther will continue the trend of former Connecticut goaltenders joining the Rivs, following in the footsteps (skate paths?) of Chelsea Laden, Jaimie Leonoff (never saw action), and Maria Sorokina.
As the first goalie signed for the upcoming season, Walther will have a prime opportunity to take the reigns of the starter on the team with no returning netminders around to fight for the crease. “We really were impressed by Sam when we put her through a series of workouts this summer,” said Riveters GM Kate Whitman Annis in a press release announcing the signing.
“She has earned this opportunity through all of the hard work she puts in to get better every day at her craft. Her dedication, love of the game, and love of playing in the NWHL is felt by everyone on the ice with her.”
Before turning pro, Walther set the school-record for GAA (1.40), save percentage (.948), and shutouts (26) at Hamilton College. In addition to playing in the NWHL, she is an assistant coach at Nichols College, where last season she worked closely with Cassandra Goyette who signed with the Whale a few weeks ago.
Here’s how the Riveters roster looks as of August 29:
Goaltender: Sam Walther
Defense: Colleen Murphy, Mallory Rushton (D/F), Lexi Slattery (D/F)
Forward: Madison Packer, Cailey Hutchinson, Rebecca Morse (F/D), Kendall Cornine, Tatiana Shatalova, Nicole Arnold, Bulbul Kartanbay, Brooke Avery, Brooke Baker
Shelly Joins the Pod
After waiting a few weeks Goyette now has a partner in defending the Whale goal, as it was announced that the team had come to terms with Sonjia Shelly who played four years at St. Lawrence University and put up strong numbers. As a senior last year, the 22-year-old posted a 2.16 GAA and a .912 save percentage to go along with four shutouts.
“Sonjia had s strong college career at St. Lawrence, in a very completive conference where she faced tough opposition every game,” said Whale GM Bray Ketchum in a press release. “She is a great addition between the pipes for us.”
Shelly and Goyette will attempt to lift the Whale out of the NWHL basement for the first time since season one when they had the league’s second-best record.
Here’s how the Whale roster looks as of August 29:
Goaltender: Cassandra Goyette, Sonjia Shelly
Defense: Shannon Doyle, Taylor Marchin, Elena Orlando, Jordan Brickner
Forward: Kendra Broad, Jane Morrisette, Grace Klienbach, Emma Vlasic, Kayla Meneghin, Sarah Hughson, Kaycie Anderson
Meaghan & Minnesota a Perfect Match
The Whitecaps title defense got a little stronger when they re-signed veteran forward Meaghan Pezon who appeared in nine regular-season games (1g-1a) and one playoff game. The 31-year-old Pezon adds experience and depth to Minnesota, who will be favored to become the first repeat champion in league history.
She has been a part of the Whitecaps organization since before they joined the NWHL and played her collegiate career at St. Cloud State University (2006-2010); as a senior Pezon posted 38 points (12g-26a) in 37 games. “My goal for the season is to come out hard and defend the Isobel Cup,” she said in the press release announcing her signing.
“Hopefully we can continue to give our fans entertaining hockey and put together another championship season. I’m inspired to return to the NWHL by the people in the organization who have worked so hard to give us this opportunity,” she added.
“Most importantly, this is for all of the little girls who love the game and dream of playing for the Whitecaps.”
Here’s how the Whitecaps roster looks as of August 29:
Goaltender: Amanda Leveille, Allie Morse
Defense: Amanda Boulier, Lisa Martinson, Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, Winny Brodt Brown
Forward: Allie Thunstrom, Jonna Curtis, Nicole Schammel, Brooke White-Lancette, Haylea Schmid, Meghan Lorence, Audra Richards, Stephanie Anderson, Meaghan Pezon
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 Nathaniel Oliver will keep THW readers up-to-date on Buffalo and Boston’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Connecticut and the Riveters. Together we will be keeping readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.
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.