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Around the Rink in the PHF: Is it October Yet?

The dog days of summer are here. Hear from Emma Vlasic & Jonna Curtis plus lots of signings announced and yet to come!

PHF / Connecticut Whale

Welcome back to Around the Rink!

Folks, we’re now at over 100 players signed up for Season 8 and more are coming. Who’s been the biggest surprise for you? Or which signing made you say wow or gasp?

We’ve reached that point of the off-season where the days drag a bit longer, anticipating the return of high-level hockey. I’m itching to get to a rink, watch some games or practice, and talk with players and coaches. Hopefully, I find my way to a day of someone’s training camp or preseason game. Thanks to all of our readers who follow us at The Ice Garden, and thanks as always to my teammates, and the players and coaches.

And here, we, go!

Point Shots

1* After more than a month of inactivity (do whales hibernate?) the Connecticut Whale continued their strong off-season when they announced the re-signing of Janine Weber, the signing of Emma Keenan, and the signings of Meeri Räisänen and Kateřina Mrázová - who both played with The Pod way back in Season 4. Not yet announced - the re-signings of Shannon Turner and Melissa Samoskevich.

Last season Connecticut played (and lost) in the Isobel Cup Final…and it’s obvious the Whale are in ‘Cup or Bust’ mode and will be formidable again in Season 8 and likely Season 9 as well.

“It’s been exciting as more and more of the team has been announced,” Emma Vlasic told ATR via text this past week. “We have a good mix of returning players and some exciting new additions. I’m looking forward to getting out on the ice with everyone and getting things going.”

1.1* Congrats to our friend Hanna Beattie as she steps away from playing for the Whale and transitions to a new role as the Director of Youth Hockey and Game Day Operations; the New Jersey native played in each of the past five seasons for Connecticut. Hopefully, I’ll still see mama and papa Beattie watching next to the glass when I make the trip to see the Whale host PHF opponents.

1.2* With the Whale having signed two goaltenders that means there wasn’t any spot left for Mariah Fujimagari and we can tell you that she will be taking her talents overseas to play in Sweden. Fuji is one of my favorite people on the planet, so while I am sad I won’t see her around the rink this season I know she will crush it in Sweden - with a smile on her face.

2* Farewell to the living legend Winny Brodt Brown, who the Minnesota Whitecaps announced was retiring this past week (even though we figured it out when they gave away her no. 5 last month). If you want to know the full impact she had on women’s hockey, specifically in Minnesota - all you have to do is look at the post by the Whitecaps on Twitter and Facebook and read through the comments, or quote tweets.

Perhaps my favorite was seeing her sister Chelsey’s post on Facebook where she said: “Proud of you sis! You can’t go to a rink without being stopped by every single person to talk or say hello. That’s why I don’t carpool with you anymore! You take the time because you care. Keep growing the game. Class act.”

As someone who didn’t follow women’s hockey ten years ago as I do now, I feel fortunate I got to see her play live multiple times.

2.2* Elsewhere in Whitecaps world - expect them to announce the re-signings of defender Maddie Rowe, forward Meaghan Pezon, and goaltender Jenna Brenneman. Also, Jonna Curtis will now be know as Jonna Albers after her wedding earlier this summer. “I debated this (name change) a lot,” Albers told ATR, “haha, but I am going to change it on my jersey.” So if you have a Curtis-3 jersey or shirsey, it’s now a collector item.

2.3* ATR recently learned (early on Aug. 20) that there will be a reunion between Minnesota and defender Amanda Boulier, who just won a Cup with Boston. Apparently negotiations between the Pride and Boulier broke down somewhere along the way and now one of the best defenders in the PHF will return to the State of Hockey for Season 8.

3* Since I last wrote this column the Metropolitan Riveters have been filling out their roster with experienced players, adding defender and Swiss Olympian Sarah Forster, and forwards Leah Marino (T6) and Catherine Crawley (CTW). As my colleague, Mike Murphy said on our last PHFuture Considerations podcast - half of their team is the United Nations of Hockey and the other half have been plucked from other PHF teams. But I kind of like the additions and am intrigued and curious, as I’m sure everyone is, to see how they all blend together. The Rivs have only three returning players (captain Madison Packer, Kendall Cornine, Kelly Babstock) and I don’t expect there to be many others.

3.1* Best wishes to former Riveters forward Nora Maclaine, who joins former Rivs player and assistant coach Kelly Nash’s staff for Long Island University.

4* ATR has learned that defender Meg Delay and forwards Amy Budde and Iveta Klimášová will be practice players for the Buffalo Beauts to start the upcoming season. Could they end up signing a standard player contract? Yup. But as of right now, that’s where things stand.

4.1* I heard through the grapevine the Beauts may be making a trip to the Tri-State Area to play a preseason game or two, but that is not confirmed as of now. I do believe the Whitecaps will play at least one exhibition against the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers squad prior to the start of Season 8.

5* Last time I wrote something in this space the new team in Montreal had just been announced, and as of today (August 19) they have 16 players signed for their inaugural season. As we’ve been hinting at here a few times, Brooke Stacey and Montreal were going to be united and we’re so stoked to see that Stacey was a part of their last group of signings. One of the more intriguing storylines this season will be how quickly can that group of players gel and get on the same page.

6* The Toronto Six have been busy filling out their roster with former Connecticut defender Kati Tabin, former PWHPA defender Alexis Woloschuk, and the sister of former Buffalo Beaut Sarah Edney - Nadine Edney.

Two other signings that we expect to see T6 announce - Tereza Vanišová (Boston Pride) and Dominika Lásková (Leksands IF).

7* Last, but certainly not least - the Boston Pride have entered the chat. Since the last version of this column they’ve re-signed defenders Kali Flanagan (two years) and Lauren Kelly and forwards Taylor Wenczkowski and Sammy Davis. The Pride also added two of the top NCAA players - goaltender Corinne Schroeder (BU) and forward Élizabeth Giguère (Clarkson) as well as defender and Czech Olympian Aneta Tejralová.

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

We expect they will soon announce the re-signings of captain Jillian Dempsey, alternate captain Kaleigh Fratkin, and Jenna Rheault and the signing of Taylor House (Quinnipiac). We also expect that all roads to the Isobel Cup run through Boston - to be the champ you gotta beat the champs.

8* Here’s my All-Unsigned All-Star Team as we get closer to September.

Goalie: Katie Burt, Mariah Fujimagari

Defense: Mallory Souliotis, Stephanie Sucharda

Forward: Taylor Accursi, Audra Morrison, Emily Fluke

Extras: Tori Sullivan, Rebecca Morse, Kayla Friesen, Cassidy Vinkle.

It’s almost like, I could make a whole 9th team..looks at the camera. Something catchy like the Kalamazoo Cobras!

Notable Quotable:

“It’s pretty exciting. Obviously, props to (GM) Nate (Oliver) and (Head Coach) Rhea (Coad) for putting this roster together. I’m super excited to get to the rink and meet everyone. We obviously have some really talented and skilled players. When I go to the rink I want to be pushed, and challenged more, and I think just by looking at the roster that these players are going to do just that for me.” — Buffalo Beauts forward Autumn MacDougall on the PHFuture Considerations podcast.