How do you repeat as a champion in pro sports? The Boston Pride showed us how to reload their lineup on the fly and yet still stay atop the PHF mountain, despite losing some key players. Of course, it helps that they did keep the core intact and now 16 players can say they have won back-to-back Isobel Cups.
All summer long each team announced new pieces, some that were big names and players. Boston waited, sat back, and in a stroke of genius (or laziness) they announced their full roster all at once. Basically saying: OKAY, I’M RELOADED! They added a few more names throughout the season, mostly familiar faces and at the end of the day, you can’t argue with the results.
Who they added:
Amanda Boulier, Evelina Raselli, Katelynn Russ, Kayla Friesen, Katie Burt.
Tereza Vanisova (mid-season), Mary Parker (mid-season), Meg Rickard (PTO for 2 games). Delaney Belinskas (mid-season), Kali Flanagan (mid-season).
Collen Coyne (President), Danielle Larouco (GM).
Who they lost:
Lexie Laing, Taylor Turnquist, Carlee Turner, Brianna Mastel, (GM) Karilyn Pilch, (President) Hayley Moore.
Captain Jillian Dempsey becomes the first player to ever capture the Cup three times (2017, 2021, 2022). Six players won their first Isobel Cup this season, and defender Amanda Boulier (who was with Minnesota last season) hoisted her second Cup (2019).
“The first practice I was at in Boston back at the end of September, the first thing (Head Coach) Paul (Mara) said was - nothing that we did last year matters. We’re winning the Cup again,” Boulier said after the Isobel Cup Final. “It was repeatedly talked about all season long, and even when we went through that tough stretch for a few weeks everyone was still confident going into the playoffs.”
“Just being a part of a group that was clearly so confident and excited about a common goal has been really special. It’s an awesome group to be a part of and I’m fortunate, and grateful, to be a part of the Pride this season.”
It’s not very often that a team wins back-to-back championships with two different starting netminders, but that is exactly what Boston did. After riding with Lovisa Selander as their no. 1 goalie in each of the last two years, this time it was Katie Burt who took the reigns in the postseason and backstopped Boston to the Isobel Cup. As Mara noted after the triumph, he didn’t make it easy for Burt and she earned every start that she made for the Pride.
“When we signed her, I’ll be honest with you guys, she started off as our third goalie. The conversation I had with her back in June was that I am extremely loyal to my goalies. I said - you have to earn whatever you’re going to get,” Mara said of his conversation with Burt, “and she did. It’s one of those things where Lovisa and Vic (Hanson) are awesome goalies, and Katie just played that much better to earn that spot. That’s a testament to her character and the way she is, her battle level was awesome. I’m really, really proud of her.”
Sometimes having three goaltenders on one team can become a problem. In practice there are only two nets, right? While the regular season didn’t go necessarily the way the Pride wanted it to, their goaltending was not an issue, and neither were any of the three players. We didn’t hear any complaints from anyone in that room, and with the culture that they’ve built that shouldn’t be surprising.
Not only did the Pride add Boulier - one of the top-scoring defenders in league history - to their blueline, but they also added gold medalist (2018) Kali Flanagan in December, which gave Boston arguably the best collection of defenders that we have ever seen in these parts. The team’s offense (and power-play) struggled at times during the regular season but when everything was on the line, and the games turned into elimination games, Boston’s big guns showed up and were unable to be contained by not one, not two, but three different teams.
Boulier scores the OT winner against her former team! pic.twitter.com/Ubcrp7nu8q— PHF (@PHF) November 21, 2021
“I think we all started to gel these last few weeks and it’s a really supportive group of seven (defenders),” Boulier said in her championship bucket hat. “I’ve seen teams where you have some really great, talented players and there is just too much internal competition. We really didn’t have that (here). We were supportive of one another and I think it was important down the stretch to be so cohesive as a unit.”
The Pride were somehow able to get better after parting ways with defenders Brianna Mastel and Taylor Turnquist. The defense was different yes, maybe more dynamic offensively overall, but again when everything was on the line in Florida in the playoffs - Boston gave up just three goals in three games. The attention to detail in the final period of the championship game was off the charts.
Losing Lexie Laing to Minnesota was a big blow, but once Mara was able to find the line combinations that gave his team a perfect balance - it was curtains for the rest of the PHF. Adding Swiss Olympian Evelina Raselli was huge and in the playoffs, her line with Dempsey and Mary Parker (who was re-signed 2/3 of the way into the season) was a big difference-maker. In three playoff games, Raselli was 30-7 in the face-off dots - that’s bonkers!
Great steal and a great goal for Raselli pic.twitter.com/ABCxBQhMvc— Sam Fryman (@sfryman20) March 29, 2022
“They were awesome,” Mara said. “I think we joked that their combined age is like 90 between the three of them. They’ve been in every situation possible in hockey. Isobel Cup Final, Olympics - they’ve been everywhere. You find a better third line in women’s hockey and bring them to us. We’ll put them up against us and see what happens. They’re a first-line on any other team.”
That trio accepted a different role than maybe they were used to for the good of the team. Kayla Friesen complemented McKenna Brand and Christina Putigna’s skills perfectly. Like Parker, Tereza Vanisova didn’t rejoin the Pride until late in the season but when she arrived she was a perfect fit between Sammy Davis and Taylor ‘ice water in her veins’ Wenczkowski.
“She is all heart. She wears her heart on her sleeve each and every day. She works so hard, both in practice and in the games. We’ve seen this coming for, two years now,” Mara said like a proud papa of Wenczkowski, who has scored the Cup-winning goal two years in a row. “We see it every day in practice, obviously a lot of people don’t, but every day we’re like - she is right on that cusp of breaking out to be one of the elite players; in our league, in this country. She’s an awesome kid, an awesome player, competitor and I’m really proud of what she’s done for us.”
Katelynn Russ also joined Boston in the off-season (coming from Connecticut like Friesen) and chipped in some key shifts, as did Meghara McManus, throughout the season when others were unavailable or needed a breather. Delaney Belinskas also joined Boston for the final six regular-season games.