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Around the Rink in the PHF: No Lies in July

This month we got a new PHF team, plus some signings revealed here that haven't been announced yet.

NWHL Isobel Cup Playoffs - Semifinals Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Welcome back to Around the Rink!

We are now up to 80 players signed for Season 8 and…we have a seventh team (finally) announced. Even though it may seem quiet at times there is a lot going on and I will try to recap everything that’s happened since our last edition. There is a lot to get to, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the support from all of our readers who click the link and follow along with The Ice Garden. Thanks as always to my teammates, and the players, as well as their families.

And here, we, go!

Point Shots

1* So I guess we’ll start north of the border today. On July 12 - approximately ten weeks after the six existing PHF teams began signing players for Season 8, the league announced its seventh franchise will be based in Montreal and start play in the fall. The yet-to-be-named team will have a home rink, but they won’t. The team will train at Centre 21.02 in Verdun at a state-of-the-art facility, but won’t play any home games there. Instead, they’ll play their home games across the province of Quebec in various rinks. That’s certainly something and a choice that I haven’t been able to wrap my head around yet, and adds to the intrigue around the ‘why now’ question that keeps popping into my head.

Add in the fact that so many players (72 confirmed/announced) have signed with the other six franchises already and Montreal is starting from zero and it becomes even more mind-bottling. Do I think there will be enough interest from players to fill the roster for the traveling Quebecois? Of course. One hundred percent. I’ve passed along contact information for the PHF’s seventh team to at least seven players since the announcement. But it just feels like this should have been announced a while ago, despite the transition of power in the front office. This was teased going back to March of 2016 (if you know, you know).

As you all are, I’m curious to see how the Montreal Marauders, or whatever they will be named, fill out their roster. Keep an eye on names like Tera Hofmann, Brooke Stacey, Mallory Rushton, and Taylor Accursi. And I’m sure you are all thinking of names that I haven’t thought of yet with connection to the area.

2* Elsewhere north of the border the Toronto Six re-signed three players we’re all familiar with. Forward Breanne Wilson-Bennett is returning for a third season, as is defender Lindsay Eastwood; and defender Emma Greco is back for her second season with the club after serving as an alternate captain in their inaugural season and sitting out last season.

As I’ve said here before, and on the podcast, I expect the Six roster in Season 8 to look a lot like last season’s roster. They’ve sprinkled in some new additions like Brittany Howard, Lexi Templeman, and Carly Jackson, but the core of that team will likely get a chance to avenge the two previous iterations of the Six - who fell flat on their faces in the postseason twice against Boston.

3* Speaking of Boston…hey they finally made some signings official before the month of September! That, my friends, is cause for celebration. We won’t get into the failed delivery on their promise of a signing a day at noon (or did we just get into it?), but I for one am glad they decided to be somewhat normal - and here’s why.

Just like my colleague Mike Murphy said on our last podcast, (paraphrasing) every day that you announce a signing you are promoting your brand, and people are talking about your brand, and possibly discovering it for the first time. It’s a no-brainer, slam dunk win. Over the past week, the Pride announced the re-signings of forwards McKenna Brand, Meghara McManus, and Christina Putigna, and the signing of Harvard grad Becca Gilmore, as well as the addition of Allie Thunstrom - who’s played with the Minnesota Whitecaps since she graduated from Boston College.

As we previously reported in this space the deal is for two seasons. Thunstrom had an emotional day when the news was officially revealed, posting a heartfelt message thanking her support system as well as the Brodt family, the state of Minnesota, and all of her (now) former teammates. And then she had to reply to all of the replies to her post. But now she can look forward to a new beginning, and I’m happy that Boston didn’t make her wait until September to do all of that.

4* A few days ago on Twitter I reported that defender and two-time Isobel Cup winner Mallory Souliotis is one of the players that has not re-signed with Boston as of now. Does that mean that she could eventually re-sign there? Yes, but as I type this my gut says that is unlikely to happen. A source close to the situation told ATR that she hasn’t even received an offer from the team and that she has reached out to other teams looking for a landing spot.

It’s a curious decision for sure, but I wonder if the rumor of defender Kali Flanagan signing a mega-deal with the Pride left not a lot of money for other constants on the roster. Please don’t interpret this as me slamming Flanagan or anything like that (someone always does). She is supremely talented and her skill set is among the best, if not the best in the PHF, so don’t try to twist this the wrong way. It’s a business, always has been and she deserves every cent she’s getting - if not more.

5* Speaking of business, the Buffalo Beauts are almost done with their off-season business following their last three signings. I loved the move of them re-signing Grace Klienbach to possibly slot in as their third-line center behind Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Cassidy MacPherson. The Beauts also dipped into the NCAA prospect pool to add Michaela Boyle (BC) and Summer-Rae Dobson (UConn) to give them a total of 18 players announced. They’ll likely top out at 20-21 and as of now, I don’t believe they’ll be adding a third netminder.

The Beauts have had a really good off-season, adding an MVP candidate (despite Toronto not nominating her after the season) in MGM and a bonafide no. 1 netminder in Kassidy Sauvé. Maybe fans should hold their tongues until they see the product on the ice. Just a thought.

6* One player who won’t be back in Buffalo for a second season, actually…two players who won’t be back in Beauts blue next season are forward Kennedy Ganser and defender Emilie Harley. The two 2021 draft picks of Buffalo have both signed with the Metropolitan Riveters for Season 8. I really like these moves for the Rivs as I thought 77 and 22 (respectively) were very good players on a Buffalo team that was often not very good in Season 7.

The Riveters also officially signed forward Kaycie Anderson (CTW) as we told you in the last edition of ATR, and added their second goaltender in Princeton grad Rachel McQuigge (something we hinted could happen). They also added another Finnish Olympian to their collection when they signed defender Anna Kilponen.

6.1* I haven’t been able to confirm this yet, but I do believe the Rivs have also signed Czech defender Sammy Kolowrat - who played in the three games in Lake Placid for the franchise back in Season 6. Something I can confirm for y’all though is that - the Riveters have signed forward Leah Marino, who made her pro debut last season with T6.

7* The Minnesota Whitecaps will not be re-signing Audra Morrison unless something dramatically changes, something that I broke on our most recent PHFuture Considerations Podcast (available wherever you listen to your favorite pods; just search for The Ice Garden). After a series of low offers, Morrison made the difficult decision to step away from the game she loves so much. With 47 points (28g-19a) in 64 career games with the Rivs and Whitecaps, Morrison sits 17th all-time in points and tied for eighth in goals.

Minnesota Whitecaps forward Audra Morrison before a PHF game on Nov. 7, 2021 in Boston.
Michelle Jay

The Whitecaps are so broken up over this decision that they immediately pivoted and gave away Morrison’s no. 21 to new forward Liz Schepers, who joined the team after five seasons and a National Title with Ohio State University. Obviously, the first part of that sentence was sarcasm (some need explanation), and Schepers is a phenomenal player. It’s just a weird, awkward situation for a lot of folks out there.

Minnesota also signed defender Olivia Knowles, giving them a trio of Golden Gophers on defense (Patti Marshall, Sydney Baldwin) and they officially announced the signing of UConn star forward Natalie Snodgrass. Also, Baldwin might end up being the new captain of the Whitecaps when the season starts.

8* Last, but certainly not least, what’s up with the Connecticut Whale? Little summer vacation? They haven’t announced any signings in over a month - June 21 was the last time the team made a splash in free agency. I do think they have other players signed, but haven’t yet been able to determine just who else they have. As of now they still need another goaltender (perhaps Mariah Fujimagari returns to complement Abbie Ives), a few more forwards, and three-five more defenders.

Could one of those defenders be the lifelong member of The Pod and longtime captain Shannon Turner? We think so. But, nothing is confirmed at this time. When we reached out to the NWHL OG to see if she was returning for one last, last dance her reply was - farewell tour does sound nice + thinking emoji. So interpret that however, you want!

Myself and everyone here at The Ice Garden would like to send our deepest, heartfelt condolences to the Whale, their fans, and the family of Wayne Heinze, who worked on the Cetacean Nation website. OG fans don’t grow on trees, and you will be missed, Wayne. May your memory be a blessing to all who cared for you.

Notable Quotable

“She was just such a crafty player, just a player who always wanted to get better. She was at every extra skills session, she just loves the game, and loved being around her teammates. Tori just had the biggest smile on her face every day and was that kid who looked forward to coming to practice and she was awesome to be around. I’m glad she’s still in the game and we still keep in touch.” - Northeastern assistant coach Lindsay Berman on her former player and current Boston Pride forward Tori Sullivan.