Beginning June 1, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2017-18 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 fourth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Metropolitan Riveters defend their Isobel Cup championship, and with the addition of a fifth team – the Minnesota Whitecaps – this will be the most competitive season yet.
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.
One would have to imagine that with the signings that the NWHL announced on Sept. 5, 2018 that the Boston Pride’s defense is set for the 2018-19 season and that their goaltending situation is almost set. NWHL newcomer but veteran defender Dru Burns becomes the team’s eighth blueliner to sign. The return of sophomore goaltender Madison Litchfield in addition to rookie netminder Katie Burt means that there is pretty much a guaranteed third signing in net to come.
— Boston Pride (@TheBostonPride) September 5, 2018
These two signings are particularly nice for “The Pack” for a variety of reasons. While Burns may soon be playing in her first season in the league, the former Boston Blade is a veteran of five CWHL seasons. She brings both depth and additional experience to the Pride defense corps. Litchfield is a goalie whom we wish we got to see more of during the 2017-18 season. It wasn’t her fault that the highly touted netminder only played one regular season game – Boston’s goal crease was stacked with talent between Litchfield, Brittany Ott and Brianna Laing. The hope is that she will have more of an opportunity to showcase her skills in the coming season.
There are 21 players currently under contract for the Pride. Up to four more can come, and we know one will be a goalie. The additions of Burns and Litchfield certainly narrow things down as to how this team will shape together. THW takes a closer look at what these two newest signings will mean for Boston.
Burns is a native of Burlington, Massachusetts and played her four years of NCAA hockey at Boston College. She fits with the vast majority of Pride players who played their college careers at one of the four Beanpot schools – Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University and Harvard University. Burns played for the BC Eagles from 2009 to 2013. In 146 career games she tallied four goals and 41 assists for 45 points. Additionally, she accumulated 90 penalty minutes.
— Boston Pride (@TheBostonPride) September 5, 2018
After wrapping up her senior year in 2013, Burns made the jump to the CWHL’s Boston Blades for the 2013-14 season. She had an immediate impact, getting into 22 games in her rookie season and scoring four goals and six assists in the process. Burns remained a Blade up through this most recent 2017-18 season. A number of her teammates from her time in the CWHL are now with her once more as members of the Pride – Jillian Dempsey namely, but also briefly Jordan Smelker, Kaleigh Fratkin and Alyssa Gagliardi from Burns’ abbreviated 2015-16 season with the team.
Totaling her five seasons with the Blades, Burns played in 86 regular season games. She scored seven goals and 19 assists in the process for 26 points. Burns was named a CWHL All-Star during the 2015-16 season. The 27-year-old defender turns 28 in February.
As alluded to earlier, we simply did not get enough of Madison Litchfield last season! Appearing only in a 6-2 loss to the Buffalo Beauts on Feb. 18, 2018, the rookie goalie never really had an opportunity to test her merit. In that lone appearance she stopped 16 of 19 shots in nearly 50 minutes of play. That amounted to an inflated 3.62 goals-against average and a .842 save percentage. Neither an accurate depiction of Litchfield’s true skill and ability.
Keep in mind that this is a goaltender who graduated from the University of Vermont as arguably the best goaltender in the program’s history. After her final NCAA season she held the school’s record for most career wins with 32. Additionally, Litchfield ranked in the top-five for all-time in nearly all major goaltending categories for UVM – fourth in games played (91), tied for second in career save percentage (.903) and fourth in career goals against (2.82) as some of her more noteworthy accomplishments. Litchfield also received a nod as a Hockey East Second Team All-Star during the 2016-17 season.
The talent is definitely there and in buckets full. What could very well decide the sort of action Litchfield gets to see this season is who the Pride sign as a third goalie. Take the Beauts for an example – of the three goalies on their team, only Julia DiTondo is returning from last season. With Shannon Szabados and Nicole Hensley signed to the team, it is very unlikely DiTondo will receive any time in Buffalo’s net. In Boston however, Litchfield should see her minutes increase in 2018-19. How much they will increase remains to be seen. If she and Burt are the main netminders, the season could end up being split almost equally between the two. However, if Brittany Ott returns or another elite goaltender is brought on board, Litchfield could see herself in a tertiary role once more. Let’s hope that is not how Boston’s goaltending materializes. More Litchfield this year would behoove Boston.
With the signings of Burns and Litchfield, here is how the Boston Pride look as of Sept. 5:
Goalie: Katie Burt, Madison Litchfield.
Defense: Alyssa Gagliardi, Toni Ann Miano, Lauren Kelly, Lexi Bender, Kaleigh Fratkin, Mallory Souliotis, Kaliya Johnson, Dru Burns.
Forward: Emily Field, Dana Trivigno, Denisa Křížová, Haley Skarupa, Jillian Dempsey, McKenna Brand, Amanda Pelkey, Taylor Wasylk, Gigi Marvin, Mary Parker, Jordan Smelker.