The Boston Pride were the early favorite heading into the 2021 season, and many, including myself, were shocked to see just how much they struggled early on. By the conclusion of their fourth game, it looked like the Pride may not even make the playoffs, let alone win the Isobel Cup. Then, by not one but two strokes of fate, the Pride ended up securing a playoff spot regardless of the outcome of their play.
The tide turned in the final two games, as everything seemed to begin clicking for Boston and the idea of an Isobel Cup Championship didn’t seem like such a stretch anymore. Unfortunately, that quickly changed as the league made the decision to suspend play, and the Pride’s Isobel Cup dreams were once again put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yes, the Pride struggled with injuries to some of their top offensive producers throughout this season, but it’s very obvious that Boston’s offense was severely lacking at the beginning of the bubble. In four out of their first five games, the Pride could only muster one goal per game, and three of those came only when Boston had a skater-advantage. The one outlier early on was the Pride’s first matchup with the Beauts, where the offense exploded and notched five goals on their way to a decisive victory.
PRIDE GOAL— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) January 25, 2021
Rookie line strikes again. Taylor Wenczkowski gets her first NWHL goal, while Davis assists with her second point of the game. It's 5-1 Boston as we close out the second period. #BUFvsBOS pic.twitter.com/ceKEpH2XqQ
Based on their early performance the Boston offense likely deserved a D at best, but the last two games, against the Beauts, the Pride looked like a completely different team. The offense was all-around dominating, as we saw veterans and newcomers alike making an impact as Boston cruised to two easy victories. Now was that because of the opponent they were facing, or an effect of the dire elimination situation, or was it a true rekindling of the Pride’s offensive power? And would it have translated to the Pride’s semifinal matchup with the Whitecaps? Unfortunately, that’s something that we may never know.
Boston managed the loss of Lexi Bender better than expected this season, as the defense played strong and did their best to keep the team in games while the offense continued to struggle. Kaleigh Fratkin, last year’s NWHL Defender of the Year, led the charge and continued to prove that she is one of the best defenders in the league, if not the best. Fratkin’s defense partner, Mallory Souliotis, made her mark as well, notching three goals and finishing +4. The biggest problem perhaps came in the team relying too much on that first pairing of Fratkin and Souliotis. While the other pairs definitely played well, it’s pretty evident who was carrying most of the weight, both offensively and defensively, this season.
Looking past the blemish that was the third period of the Pride’s matchup with the Connecticut Whale, the Boston goaltenders were sturdy in net this season. Aside from that one game, the tandem of Lovisa Selander and Victoria Hanson never allowed more than two goals in a single game. Selander, who earned the NWHL Goaltender of the Year award last year, finished second in the league with a 1.47 GAA and a .947 save percentage, topped only by Sonjia Shelly of the Riveters. I think it’s safe to say the performance of the goaltenders and defense was the only reason Boston wasn’t obliterated by the rest of the league as they struggled offensively at the beginning of the season.
Boston comes out on top by a score of 6-0, with Lovisa Selander getting the 31-save shutout (and all the hugs she deserves). pic.twitter.com/OUoVCYXyhD— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) January 31, 2021
MVP: Kaleigh Fratkin
Fratkin surely made her case to earn Defender of the Year honors for the second time in as many years, leading the Pride’s offensive resurgence in the final two games in addition to anchoring the back end. The veteran blue liner led the Pride (and the NWHL) in assists with nine, which also put her in a tie for the league lead in points with Six forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis. Five of those points came in the Pride’s final two games against the Beauts, both of which were believed to be must-win situations for Boston, proving Fratkin is ready and able to step up to the plate when needed. In addition, Fratkin led the league with a +14 and led the Pride with 15 blocked shots. I would honestly be shocked if we don’t see her earn the Defender of the Year title once again.
Data courtesy of NWHL.zone