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2018-19 NWHL Preview: Boston Pride

The Pride just might come roaring back this season.

Last Season

In 2017-2018 the Pride finished in third place (out of four), with only 12 points. The Beauts, directly above them in the standings, had 24. They struggled to win games and had four overtime losses, speaking to a lack of depth that came from the departure of the US Women’s National team for centralization and the Pyeongchang Olympics. The Pride lost more players to the Olympics than any of the other teams in the NWHL, and, unfortunately, it showed. However, after a busy offseason, they’re poised to make a comeback.

Offseason Moves

Over the summer, the Pride signed some seriously impressive rookies out of Hockey East. Two are Boston College graduates Katie Burt (G) and Toni Ann Miano (D). Burt, a Team USA U18 alum, holds the NCAA career wins record with 121. Miano, who holds the Eagles’ career high number of goals for a defenseman and Hockey East record for career points as a defenseman, scored the overtime winner in last year’s Beanpot final between BC and BU.

The other three are Northeastern graduates Lauren Kelly (D), Denisa Krizova (F) and McKenna Brand (F). Kelly was a WHEA Second-Team All-Star in 2017-2018 and did considerable damage on the powerplay, scoring 8 PPG over her final season with the Huskies. Krizova has international experience with the Czech Republic and finished her time at Northeastern as the sixth-highest scorer in the program’s history. Brand led Northeastern with 15 goals and 39 points in her final season with the team.

As if these additions weren’t impressive enough, the Pride also signed two players, both former Eagles, who have spent several seasons with the CWHL’s Worcester (previously Boston) Blades. Taylor Wasylk (F) played for the Blades in 2017-2018, and Dru Burns (D) spent five seasons on their blueline, finishing 2017-2018 as their highest-scoring defenseman.

The team also welcomed back three Olympic gold medalists and added a new head coach. Gigi Marvin (F/D), who scored 2 goals in Pyeongchang, including one during the gold-medal shootout, is joined by teammates Amanda Pelkey (F) and Haley Skarupa (F), who have all donned the black and gold in the past few seasons. Paul Mara, Team USA’s assistant coach in Pyeongchang, will be behind the bench for the Pride as their head coach this season.

Three Players to Watch

Jillian Dempsey captained the Pride last year through a season that was fraught with obstacles. Despite it all, she led the team in more than just her title, with the most goals (7) and points (15). With more depth and a solidified blueline behind her, she could easily repeat or exceed her production this year.

Emily Field had the second-most goals, assists, and points for the Pride last season. Like Dempsey, she stands to profit off of a deeper, more solid team. Add to that the number of her former BC teammates that she’ll be able to mesh with (Haley Skarupa, Taylor Wasylk and Dana Trivigno, of note) and her chemistry with Dempsey last season, and the physical forward is set to rack up some serious points this season.

Katie Burt makes a save against OSU in the 2018 NCAA Quarterfinal game.
Michelle Jay

Katie Burt has the chops to challenge veteran netminder Brittany Ott for the starting spot. Her overall save percentage in NCAA competition was an impressive .937, and she backstopped the Eagles to nine championships during her time at BC: four WHEA season titles, two WHEA tournaments, and three Beanpot tournaments. With her sights set on a break with Team USA, Burt appears ready to elevate her game to the pro level. If she can hold her own against star-studded forwards like Minnesota’s Kendall Coyne and Buffalo’s Dani Cameranesi, she might just get that shot, and pull the Pride up the rankings in the process.

Three Games to Watch

Oct. 13: Metropolitan Riveters vs. Boston Pride

Any game between the Riveters and the Pride is going to be physical and fun to watch. The rivalry began when the Riveters spoiled the Pride’s perfect season in 2016-2017. It will probably reignite this year with more evenly-matched rosters, so this matchup is one to look for.

Oct. 20: Connecticut Whale vs. Boston Pride

Last season, games between the Pride and the Whale were quite close. Notably, the Whale beat the Pride in the shootout last November after a high-scoring game. Although the Pride have a much stronger roster this season, the Whale have made some key additions and re-signings of their own, and we might see another close game between them.

Dec. 1: Boston Pride v. Minnesota Whitecaps

This will be the first showdown between the Pride and the NWHL’s newest team. Plenty of Pride players have faced goalie Amanda Levielle, of course, but so many of the Whitecaps’ players are new to the league that it’s impossible to predict what this matchup will look like, which makes it a good one to keep an eye on.

Predictions

This roster has a wealth of players, new and returning, who are poised to make a big impact offensively. For a team that struggled to score last season, that might turn into a serious comeback. Add to that a bolstered blueline with rookie and veteran additions like Kelly and Burns, an Olympic-caliber utility player like Gigi Marvin, and a new head coach with experience coaching women at the highest level, and the Pride certainly seem as if they could be a real threat. Between Ott and Burt, there might be some question as to who takes the starting spot, unless they split time--but either way, the Pride are sure to be strong in net, too.

Gigi Marvin and Team USA played in an exhibition series against Team NWHL before heading to South Korea.
Michelle Jay

Final Thoughts

This team is young, fast, physical and might surprise those who would write them off after the departure of Hilary Knight, Kacey Bellamy, and Brianna Decker for the CWHL. Impressive rookie signings, an experienced new coach, and returning talent all spell out a positive trend for this season.