2022-23 PHF Season Preview: Boston Pride
Boston remains the team to beat
The reigning Isobel Cup Champions are the team to beat until someone else knocks them from their throne. Right now, the lions of Boston look like they have their claws dug in. Once again, the Pride found a way to build a deep, dangerous squad despite losing some big names over the offseason — chief among them Katie Burt who had a historically brilliant 2021-22 campaign.
When I think of last year’s Pride, I think of a team that played up to its potential in the playoffs after a frustrating regular season that was best defined by one number: 6.92. Through 20 games of regular season hockey, the Pride shot just 6.92%. That was the worst shooting percentage in the league by a wide margin and it was dragged down in a big, bad way by an abysmal 5.6% success rate on the power play. There were simply too many nights where we saw Burt’s brilliance squandered by missed chances and an anemic power play.
Were the Pride unlucky in the regular season? Absolutely, but there had to be more than just bad luck going on for a team with that much talent to lose so many games by one-goal margins. Watching it unfold last season was truly hard to believe. Without better public data, it’s hard to say what the issue was but it is hard to win games if you can’t depend on your PP to at least build momentum and create scoring chances. At the end of the day, Boston won the Cup but it’s clear from some of the moves made over the offseason that they don’t want bad shooting luck to threaten their chances of returning to the Cup Final.
Loren Gabel, Allie Thunstrom, Élizabeth Giguère
Last year, the Pride had a hard time scoring goals. A quick look at all of the firepower that Boston added over the offseason makes it pretty clear that head coach Paul Mara and the front office didn’t want to have that problem again.
Enter Allie Thunstrom and Loren Gabel on two-year contracts and Élizabeth Giguère on a one-year deal. Let’s face it, if you follow the women’s game you know that all three of these players are first-line talents — oh, and Boston still has its top three forwards from last year in McKenna Brand, Christina Putigna, and team captain Jillian Dempsey. In preseason action, Giguère and Gabel look fantastic and could be the new top dynamic duo in the league. Watch out Kennedy Marchment and Taylor Girard.
Élizabeth Giguère to Loren Gabel from today's preseason game. We are going to be seeing a lot of this in the regular season. pic.twitter.com/90WhLN42xH— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) October 24, 2022
Katie Burt, Mallory Souliotis, Amanda Boulier
The Pride’s decision to part ways with Burt, Boulier, and Souliotis — as well as Tori Sullivan — before the season definitely raised some eyebrows. One has to wonder if all the cap space tied-up in Kali Flanagan prevented the team from bringing back Burt. Perhaps Corinne Schroeder was willing to take less money to play for Boston. Perhaps there is more to the story here that we just don’t know but Burt had absolutely unreal numbers last season and I’m not sure Boston would have won the Cup without her in Tampa.
Last season, Boulier left Minnesota to join the Pride where she led all Boston blueliners in scoring. I wondered if there was room for Boulier, Fratkin, and Flanagan on the blue line given that they are all most impactful when they are making decisions with the puck. It looks like Boston opted to keep Fratkin and Flanagan and part ways with Boulier, who is back with the Whitecaps. She and the perpetually underrated Mal Souliotis are both going to be missed even with the additions of Olivia Zafuto and Aneta Tejralová. Boston’s loss will be Minnesota and Connecticut’s gain.
#PHF news - a source told me that one of the players Boston hasn’t re-signed is defender Mallory Souliotis. At this point it’s unsure if we see the 2x Cup champion this season.— Dan Rice (@DRiceHockey) July 21, 2022
F: McKenna Brand, Taylor House, Kayla Friesen, Loren Gabel, Sammy Davis, Taylor Wenczkowski, Élizabeth Giguère, Christina Putigna, Allie Thunstrom, Meghara McManus, Jillian Dempsey (unofficial)
D: Olivia Zafuto, Jenna Rheault, Kaleigh Fratkin, Aneta Tejralová, Lauren Kelly, Kali Flanagan
G: Corrine Schroeder, Lovisa Selander
- Known cap spent: $382,500 (Kaleigh Fratkin, Taylor House, Kali Flanagan)
- Roster: 19/25 (unofficial)
- Coaches: Paul Mara
- GM: Maddie Rigsby/
On paper, this offense looks absolutely ridiculous. In my opinion, Boston and Connecticut’s offenses are a tier above the rest of the league until proven otherwise.
Every line that Boston puts on the ice this year will be able to generate scoring chances at even strength on a consistent basis. Every forward here is either a proven producer at the pro level or all but guaranteed to get their name into the box score on most nights. All of this takes some pressure to produce off of Dempsey who, if Mara desires, can put her energy toward being the best shutdown center in the league. All of this forward depth gives Boston options and will give opposing coaches nightmares.
The Boston Pride strike first! It's Christina Putigna. 1-0. pic.twitter.com/gi7Laidb34— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) March 27, 2022
If there is any weakness here, it has to be the Pride not building enough insurance into their roster construction, especially on defense. The injury to Lauren Kelly in the preseason has left Boston with just five defenders on opening day. That is far from ideal, even if every defender left standing can be trusted to log a lot of minutes.
The good news for the Pride is that they have a lot of connections with local players who can help fill in any gaps in the lineup by signing a PTO. I think this is something Boston likely took into consideration when they put this roster together. By giving out fewer standard player contracts, they could afford to give the players they signed more. You can chalk this up to one of the underappreciated advantages of playing in a major hockey market.
A lot would have to go horribly, horribly wrong for Boston to finish outside of the top-three teams in the regular season standings. After a lot of deliberation, I have them finishing as a close second behind the Whale because of the loss of Burt and the potential growing pains that come with so many new faces in the mix. With all of that said, the Pride will be playing in the 2023 Isobel Cup Final. Even with the loss of Becca Gilmore just before the season, this offense is truly a force to be reckoned with.