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2021-22 PHF Season Preview: Boston Pride

The Pride are on the hunt for their third dance with Isobel

The Boston Pride celebrate winning the 2021 Isobel Cup. Michelle Jay/NWHL

2021 Roster

Forward: Jillian Dempsey, McKenna Brand, Taylor Wenczkowski, Sammy Davis, Christina Putigna, Katelynn Russ, Kayla Friesen, Meghara McManus, Tori Sullivan
Defense: Amanda Boulier, Jenna Rheault, Kaleigh Fratkin, Paige Capistran, Lauren Kelly, Mallory Souliotis, Abby Cook
Goalie: Victoria Hanson, Lovisa Selander, Katie Burt

GM: Danielle Larouco (1st season)
Head Coach: Paul Mara
Assistant Coach: Johnny McInnis

Lake Placid

It’s almost hard to believe that the Pride struggled as much as they did in Lake Placid. They were a frustrated, taciturn group that got off to a slow start, going 1-4-0 in their first five games. Boston eventually left New York with a two-game winning streak after beating up on the Beauts but it was not lost on fans or the media that all of their wins came at the expense of Buffalo.

Lake Placid was a far cry from what we were expecting from the powerhouse Pride after their record-setting 2019-20 campaign. But, when all the chips were on the line and the postseason began in Boston, the Pride showed everyone their true colors.

Boston scored six goals — all at even-strength — against the Toronto Six in the semifinal. It was exactly what Boston needed to do to prove that they were the real deal after scoring 13 goals in their last two games in Lake Placid. Head coach Paul Mara’s club followed that performance with a hard-earned 4-3 victory in the Isobel Cup Final over the Minnesota Whitecaps. That victory, which felt all but inevitable before COVID derailed the 2019-20 season, was extra sweet for Boston. It re-established the Pride as the PHF’s top franchise. Heading into season seven, they are the only team to win two Isobel Cups.

New Faces

Amanda Boulier, Kayla Friesen, Katie Burt (was in the PWHPA last season), Evelina Raselli, Abby Cook, and Katelynn Russ are all established pros that are joining the Pride from within and outside of the PHF.

Russ and Friesen are both key additions that will help the Pride replace some of the depth that they lost in the offseason. The same is true for Raselli, who is one of the best Swiss players on the planet and has been for the last half-decade. Boulier and Burt are well-known to Pride fans and Cook will help bolster a blue line that looks like the best group in the league on paper.

Left for Other Places

Taylor Turnquist, Lexie Laing, Carlee Turner, Mary Parker, and Tereza Vanišová have all moved on — that is a lot of center depth gone. Mark my words, the Pride are going to miss Laing and Vanišová a ton. They both played a big role in the team’s success in Lake Placid and Laing was just as vital to Boston in 2019-20. I think Laing was one of the most underrated centers in the league playing in the shadow of Jillian Dempsey. She was a big weapon on the power play and was outstanding off the puck. The Pride are going to miss her.

Turnquist signed with the Whitecaps and I have heard rumblings that Laing could reunite with her there. Vanišová is in the SDHL with Leskand and Parker, who was underrated for so much of her playing career, will not be back with the Pride.

Spotlight Addition

It is no secret that I am a big fan of Amanda Boulier’s game. She’s an elite skater with fantastic vision who knows where she needs to be and when she needs to get there in all three zones. It’s hard to overstate just how huge the Boulier signing is here. If this was any other team’s blue line, we’d be breaking down how Boulier can completely change her new team’s fortunes. But this is the Pride we’re talking about. So Boulier is just the newest star in a Boston sky that is already filled with them.

Boulier enters this season second all-time in PHF history in primary points for a defender with 33 in 50 GP. First all-time is her new teammate, Kaleigh Fratkin, with 36 in 94 GP. The idea of Boulier and Fratkin both clocking around 25 minutes of ice time is terrifying news for the rest of the league. I like the idea of splitting them up and having Bou play on the second power-play unit unless Boston wants to roll with two defenders on the top unit. Really, you can’t go wrong here.

Rookie Radar

The Pride don’t have any true rookies — which I define as players playing their first season of post-collegiate hockey in the PHF — but they do have some young newcomers, including the hard-to-miss defender Abby Cook.

Cook is a 5-foot-10 RHD who is back in Boston after playing her college puck in BU and spending a year overseas in the SDHL with Djurgården. She was a standout at BU and gained a lot of attention for scoring 10 goals and piling up 20 assists in 36 games in her senior season in 2019-20.

Her big shot, smooth skating, and steady play in her own zone will help Cook fit right in and establish herself as another valuable cog in a team that has a truly formidable blue line. Keep an eye out for how Mara utilizes Cook’s shot and if she sees time on the PK right out of the gate.

How they win the Cup

Let’s be real here — the Pride are the favorites to win the 2022 Isobel Cup.

Boston has the best first line in pro women’s hockey — well, at least in North America — the best goalie trio in the world, and two superstar defenders that lead a deep, balanced blue line. That sounds a lot like a winning recipe to me. This team is going to score goals in bunches and will be damn hard to score against when they are on top of their game.

So how do the Pride win their third Isobel Cup? They do it by winning hockey games at even strength and not being too dependent on the Dempsey line to carry the team’s offense.

How they lose the Cup

The Pride’s biggest test this season could be living up to expectations — which is something to keep an eye on after their slow start in Lake Placid. They are an amazing hockey team but nothing is certain in hockey — which is why we all love this sport, right? Also, don’t overlook the center depth that Boston lost over the offseason and how that could impact the team’s depth scoring.

I love Boston’s forward group on paper but it will be up to Mara and the coaching staff to find the right line combinations below the Dempsey line. That will be the key to unlocking consistent production from newcomers like Kayla Friesen, Katelynn Russ, and Evelina Raselli as well as returning players like Tori Sullivan. For me, the story to watch here is Boston’s second line and how it stacks up to other second lines across the league. The Pride aren’t the only team with a ton of firepower this year.

Data courtesy of EliteProspects.com, USCHO.com, and the author’s site, TheirHockeyCounts.com.