With only seven members of the 2018-19 roster returning to the team, the Boston Pride were counting on the rookies they signed out of college to shine for them during 2019-20.
One of those rookies was Tori Sullivan. After posted three 50+ point seasons during her collegiate career at Northeastern and Boston College, the Pride were hopeful she would adjust easily to the pace of the professional game, due in part to the familiar faces around her on the roster.
Growing up in Michigan, Sullivan played for one of the state’s premier youth girls’ hockey teams: the HoneyBaked Hockey Club. She rose through the ranks, from U14 to U19, and soon earned herself an invitation to play for the United States at the 2014 U18 Women’s World Championship in Budapest, Hungary. Throughout the tournament, she would only post one goal — in a preliminary 7-0 blowout against Sweden — but recalls the five game tournament with fondness.
“Putting on the USA jersey will always be such an honor,” said Sullivan about the experience, adding that playing alongside such talented players in the tournament was a humbling experience and one she’s very grateful to have been selected for. She was joined on that 2014 U18 roster by quite a few familiar names: World Champions like Megan Keller and Melissa Samoskevich, but also by future teammate Lexie Laing.
When Laing joined the Pride in June, just two weeks after Sullivan’s own contract was announced, Sullivan was pretty excited. “I knew she was a great person and player I’m very grateful to finally be on the same side again,” she says, referencing the fact that during their collegiate careers, the only times they would meet during the regular season would be at the Beanpot Tournament — when each was gunning for the other’s net.
When she started her career at Boston College in 2014, Sullivan didn’t know she would be sharing the ice with many of her future teammates — and future opponents, like the Riveters’ Kate Leary, who was a senior when Sullivan was a freshman. “It’s definitely a lot of fun to play against people I used to play with,” says Sullivan. “Kate and I were actually line mates … so seeing her do her thing out there, some things never change!”
Considering her transfer to Northeastern from BC in 2017, it’s not surprising that Sullivan knows how to handle the transition of viewing old enemies as new teammates in the transition to the NWHL. College foes, like Laing and former Friar Christina Putigna, would become teammates when they signed on with the Pride alongside Sullivan.
“It pretty funny the details we remember when we’d play against each other,” she recalls, adding that the conversations they have now about playing against each other often turn into conversations about how thankful they are now to be playing alongside each other instead of squaring off at the face-off dot.
When Sullivan signed with the Pride for her rookie season, Karilyn Pilch and Paul Mara weren’t wrong to put their faith in her; she rose to the challenge and quickly earned a spot on the team’s second line after an explosive start to the season. As humble as ever, Sullivan attributes much of her success this season to her teammates.
“I think any sort of individual success stems from those surrounding me,” she says, referring both to her linemates Carlee Toews and Laing, both of whom had remarkable success as rookies starring alongside their right winger, and the team at large. “We all exhibit and have amazing core values from the coaches, players, and rest of the Boston Pride staff. Hockey is a team sport and any sort of individual success I could not do alone.”
Sullivan even rose to the challenge off the ice, becoming somewhat of a viral sensation on the app TikTok. She claims she and her teammate Putigna were “thrown into” the role, but “was super excited to help out” nonetheless. And let’s be honest — anyone who’s watched the duo play knows they were born for the spotlight, both on and off the ice.
Now, with the season over and her first shot at the Isobel Cup squandered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sullivan is looking forward to next season. She recently signed her new contract with the Pride, and is gearing up for an even bigger sophomore campaign. It’ll be tough to top her 25 points and .177 shooting percentage, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Tori Sullivan, it’s that she’s no stranger to surprises.