The Boston Pride have had an abundance of talented defenders in the NWHL’s first three seasons. Two members of Boston’s blue line last season are Pyeongchang-bound in February with the United States Women’s National Team and another is turning heads playing pro hockey in Switzerland. However, because of all of the Pride’s star forwards since the league’s inaugural season the spotlight has rarely lingered on the women playing defense for Boston.
This year Alyssa Gagliardi is breaking that trend. Through the first seven games of the season she’s arguably been the Pride’s most valuable player. She’s stood out in all three zones and despite being more aggressive in the offensive zone her puck management has been as good as ever.
Gagliardi is playing in her third season with the Pride and her fourth pro season in the city of Boston. A 2016 NWHL All-Star and former captain of Cornell Big Red, Gagliardi had modest offensive numbers before this season. Through her first two NWHL seasons the North Carolina native had 11 assists in the regular season, but no goals. This season things have gone differently. Gagliardi already has two goals this year and she’s just one point shy of the career high she set in the NWHL’s inaugural season.
With Kacey Bellamy, Gigi Marvin and Blake Bolden out of the picture this season, Gagliardi has stepped up in a big way. In addition to playing on the top pair with Lexi Bender at even strength and on the penalty kill, Gagliardi is also proving to be a dangerous and dynamic player on the Pride’s power play.
The number that likely best captures Gagliardi’s impact on the Pride this season is her shot total. Through seven games she’s put 21 shots on net, which is equal to her 17 game total in 2016-17. Dana Trivigno is the only active player on Boston who has put more pucks on net (Haley Skarupa had 30 shots in 4 GP before joining the USWNT). Gagliardi is just one of three NWHL defenders with more than 20 shots at the Holiday Break. The other two are Courtney Burke and Jenny Ryan of the undefeated Metropolitan Riveters.
This season it appears that Gagliardi is joining the rush more often. She’s frequently been seen prowling around the opposition’s net, especially on the Pride’s power play. In fact, Gagliardi found her first NWHL career goal by going hard to the net in a game against the Beauts on December 2nd. Later in that same game she scored her second career goal with a wrister from the high slot.
While her shots have been stellar, her passes have been even better. Hands down Gagliardi is the best puck-moving defender on Boston, and that isn’t just limited to the power play where she has primary assists on two of the Pride’s three power play goals this year. Almost all of the Pride’s best breakouts start on Gagliardi’s stick. She’s calm and composed with the puck, as evidenced by her zero turnovers thus far this season.
Gagliardi is currently tied for second on Boston in points and is the only full-time Pride defender with more than one point this season (Meagan Mangene has three points in seven games, but she takes shifts playing forward). To put her impact on Boston’s offense into context, Gagliardi has primary points on 27.78 percent of the Pride’s goals thus far this season.
It would be shocking if Gagliardi isn’t an All-Star this season, and it would be even more disappointing if she isn’t chosen to represent Team NWHL in January. This season Gagliardi has transformed into a star player for Boston. But she isn’t riding a hot streak or just getting lucky bounces: Gagliardi has always been this good. She just needed a chance to show what she’s capable of.