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2018-19 NWHL Season Recap: Boston Pride

The Pride came roaring back this season, but they still have more to prove

Record

The Pride finished their regular season at 11-5-0. Three of their five losses came against the Buffalo Beauts, one against the Minnesota Whitecaps, and one against the Metropolitan Riveters. They were only shut out twice this season, both times by the Buffalo Beauts - once during the regular season, a 5-0 loss on January 5th, and then again 4-0 in the Isobel Cup Semifinal on March 9.

Stats Leaders

Haley Skarupa led the 2018-2019 Pride in points with 18 (6G, 12A). Rookie McKenna Brand finished one point behind her with 17 and they were tied in goals and primary assists with six and seven respectively. Another rookie, Denisa Křižova of the Czech Republic, finished her season with 14 points (6G, 8A) Gigi Marvin and Jillian Dempsey were tied for the team lead in goals with 10.

Essentially what this means is that two players did a lot of the goal-scoring and two or three players did a lot of the assisting:

Stats taken from even-strength.com

That’s not to say that the rest of the team didn’t pull their weight. In fact, the scoring on the Pride is well spread out, and the team’s ability to get scoring from more than just their top line was a large part of those 11 wins.

Veteran defender Alyssa Gagliardi led the team in blocked shots with seven, and rookies Toni Ann Miano and Mallory Souliotis were tied for second with five. Gagliardi also led the team in powerplay assists with four. Captain Jillian Dempsey led the team in faceoff wins, winning 56% of the draws that she took.

Storylines

Returning Olympians made a big impact for the Pride this season. Gigi Marvin and Haley Skarupa in particular provided a lot of the Pride’s offense, together totaling about 26% of the team’s goals this season. Marvin, who played defense for the Pride before the 2018 Olympics, was a particularly pleasant surprise.

Jillian Dempsey broke the NWHL all-time scoring record this year with 29 goals in 65 regular season games over her four years in the league. Another strong season from the captain helped drive the Pride’s offense as her veteran presence anchored the bench and locker room.

Al Saniuk

Rookie goaltender Katie Burt was another highlight this season. She made 402 saves, more than any other goaltender in the league, and put up a .920 SV% in 16 games played.

The NWHL is known for its stellar goaltending, and Burt earned her place in the conversation by keeping the Pride in games they were lucky to have a chance at winning. Her flashy glove saves and signature aggressive style often challenged players at the edge of her crease while closing down angles that forced some of the best players in the world to take less-than-amazing shots.

Burt played in every one of the Pride’s games this season. She’s also only 22 years old and made her Team USA debut in February - she’s only going to get better, and the Pride struck gold when they drafted her first overall.

Boston’s talented crop of rookies - Burt, Brand, Kelly, Křižova, Souliotis, and Miano - suggest that this young team is going to continue challenging for a spot in the top three. Together they combined for about 32% of the team’s goals. Denisa Křižova and McKenna Brand in particular proved to be a great dynamic duo, which will surprise nobody who watched them play at Northeastern. Mallory Souliotis, who joined the team for the end of the season last year, had a fantastic first full season with the team. She and Toni Ann Miano were tied for the most goals scored by a defender on the team with three.

Report Card:

Offense: A-

This team scored more goals than anyone else in the regular season. They were second in 5v5 shots-for with 347 and spread their scoring out among forwards and defenders, and didn’t rely on their top line to get it all done. There were games where they were absolutely dominant - for example, their first trip to Minnesota, where they beat the Whitecaps 7-2 and 5-2 - and they were extremely dangerous in the slot.

The reason it’s an A- is because the offense disappeared in the last two games of the season. They struggled to finish their chances against Minnesota at home and couldn’t solve Szabados in the semifinal despite scoring three or more goals in all but one of their eleven wins.

Defense: B+

This team’s defenders are very good at offense. Collectively, Boston Pride defenders scored 18 goals and earned 26 assists. However, when it comes to actual defense, the Pride have some room to improve. The Pride blocked fewer shots than any other team, a measly 42. The PK only allowed one powerplay goal, but they allowed almost as many 5v5 shots as they took. Their lack of shot suppression and blocking led to Katie Burt seeing a lot more shots than she needed to, which might ultimately have cost them in close games.

Goaltending: A

I’m not sure you could ask for a rookie goaltender to play any better in her first professional season. It’s tough to compare Burt to veteran Olympians like Szabados and Räisänen, or even to Nicole Hensley, who, at 24, has an Olympic gold medal and two World Championship gold medals under her belt. When all is said and done, Burt faced an incredible number of shots and handled her workload with poise. She has areas that she can improve in, but putting her performance in context, she deserves the best grade that she can get.

Overall: A-

This Pride team had the looks of a serious contender right up until the end. While it was a tough pill to swallow, they really did have a great season, comparable to the Beauts, who made it to the final and only lost to the Whitecaps in overtime. The Pride’s up-and-coming rookies in all positions and depth scoring point to a bright future for the team, so long as they can shore up their defense and find a way to solve the especially tough goaltenders. There’s a lot to be proud of, and a lot to be excited for.

Al Saniuk

Stats for this article were taken from the NWHL website and Even Strength.