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NWHL 2017-18 Season Recap: Boston Pride

The Pride stumbled out of the gate, but ended up just one goal away from the Isobel Cup Final.

Brittany Ott closing the door on Maddie Elia with an unreal paddle save.
Pat McCarthy

Season Synopsis

Record: 4-8-4

Playoffs: Knocked out in semifinal by Beauts in a 3-2 OT loss.

This year the Pride were a vastly different team from the club that competed in 2016 and 2017. They had a new head coach, a new captain, and were missing half a dozen core players from seasons one and two. The Pride bolstered their roster by plucking talent from the NWHL’s other teams in free agency, but it was hard to predict what and who they were back in October.

Boston stumbled out of the gate with an 0-3-1 start and were dealt a big blow when star forward Haley Skarupa left to join Team USA. Head coach Thomas Poeck added NWHL veteran Kaleigh Fratkin and 2017 draft pick Mallory Souliotis to the team during the season, but Boston lacked the depth to compete with the Riveters and Beauts. The Pride had much more success against the Whale. Boston managed a 3-1-2 record against Connecticut this year, including two consecutive victories in the final three weeks of the season.

Kaleigh Fratkin joined the Pride midseason to bolster the team’s blue line and aid in the transition game.
Al Saniuk

The momentum that Boston built up late in the season was snuffed out by the Beauts in the playoffs. In a rematch of the 2017 Isobel Cup Final, Buffalo defeated Boston in overtime. It was the first time in three years that the Pride failed to make it to the Isobel Cup Final.

What Went Wrong

Everyone knew that Boston was going to miss the elite offense that had defined the team in its first two seasons, but that may not have been the team’s greatest weakness. The Pride played too much hockey in their own zone this year, yielding 28.75 shots against, per game, while managing 25.44 shots for per game.

The Pride had huge holes to fill on the blue line due to the departures of Blake Bolden, Gigi Marvin, and Kacey Bellamy over the offseason. All-Star goaltender Brittany Ott had something of an up-and-down year behind the new group of defenders playing in front of her. Ott finished the year with a .910 save percentage, down from .922 last season and .925 in 2015-16.

The Pride had an abundance of two-way forwards and shutdown defenders this year, but the team struggled to get production outside of its first forward line. Boston averaged just over two goals a game this year and lost six games by a margin of one goal.

Special Teams: Boston finished the season with the third-worst power play in the league (11.8 percent) and the second-best penalty kill in the league (87.3 percent).

Game of the Year

The Pride’s best game might have been their losing effort to the Beauts in the Isobel Cup Playoff semifinal. Boston had a 2-1 lead over Buffalo until 5:42 into the third period, when the Beauts tied it up on the power play. Buffalo ended the game — and Boston’s season — on another power play in overtime.

When the Pride’s forwards were clicking this year, they were truly a sight to behold.
Mike Murphy

In the regular season, Boston’s most dominant performance was a 5-1 road win against the Connecticut Whale on Dec. 10, 2017. Dana Trivigno, who missed a few games this season because of coaching responsibilities, had three primary points and registered 10 shots in that game. Other standouts were Jillian Dempsey and Emily Field, who both had four-point nights.

Team MVP Jillian Dempsey

The Pride’s captain was consistent and superb in all three zones all season long. Dempsey led Boston in goals, assists, and points this year while serving as the team’s shutdown center. The 27-year-old Dempsey made her biggest impact on the Pride’s offense at even strength, where she scored six of her seven goals.

Jillian Dempsey battling with Riveters’ center Alexa Gruschow after a faceoff.
Al Saniuk

To give you an idea of how much the Pride relied on Dempsey this year one needs only look at her faceoff numbers. Dempsey averaged 21.2 faceoffs per game, second only to NWHL MVP Alexa Gruschow. It’s also worth mentioning that she had primary points on 36.36 percent of Boston’s goals in the regular season and was tremendous in the playoffs.

Third-year Pride defender Alyssa Gagliardi also deserves special recognition for her play this year. While playing grueling top-pair minutes, the North Carolina native finished the season third on Boston in points and first on the team in power play production. Like Dempsey, Gagliardi truly did it all for the Boston Pride this year.

Standout Rookie Sydney Daniels

Daniels’ NWHL rookie season was limited to just seven games as a result of an injury, but she found a way to make a lasting impression. When the Harvard Crimson alumna returned to Boston’s lineup in February, she injected strength and skill into the team’s depleted forward corps.

Sydney Daniels scored four goals in seven games for the Pride in her rookie season.
Al Saniuk

Daniels averaged 3.75 shots per game in the last four weeks of the regular season and had points in three of the Pride’s last four games. Her impact on Boston’s offense cannot be understated; Daniels was one of three Pride forwards to score four or more goals this season. If not for her injury, Daniels could have been a real contender for the NWHL Rookie of the Year.

Boston struggled to find its identity in the aftermath of a wave of changes, but the team very nearly realized its potential when it mattered most — in the playoffs. It’s hard to predict what the 2018-19 Pride are going to look like, but if enough of the team’s core re-signs this offseason Boston should have all the leadership it needs to rebound next year.