Around the Rink in the PHF: Week 5 - It’s Tricky (Tricky)

This week hear from Mintuu Tuominen, Mallory Souliotis, and others as we go around the rink!

Lots of tricks, and treats this week, it’s time to go around the rink!

And here, we, go!

Point Shots

1* Like Thanos collecting Infinity Stones, I have now collected appearances/trips to each of the home rinks that the Connecticut Whale has played in over the course of their existence after visiting their new home in Simsbury over the weekend (I think they’re up to six or seven rinks now). While the International Skating Center is definitely under construction, it was a great atmosphere for the game I was at on Saturday between the Whale and Minnesota Whitecaps.

Plenty of Whale signage in and around the rink, including their logo at center ice, a healthy-sized crowd - maybe the biggest I’ve seen at a Whale game in years, an organized staff, plenty of work areas for media, an appearance by Pucky, the Hartford Whalers mascot, and oh yeah - it was a great game, too.

I know the rink is a little far away for some of Connecticut’s players, but I was told that their owner Tobin Kelly was putting players up in a nearby hotel (with a 2:00 pm game after a game at 7:00 pm the night before), as well as reimbursing players who had to drive at least an hour to get to Simsbury. Love that move, which is the right move.

1.1* For most of the game Saturday I was able to watch in one of the corners with two of my favorite people that I have met through hockey, Mr. and Mrs. Dosdall aka Kiira Dosdall-Arena’s mom and dad. Obviously, I’ve gotten to know them over the years while Dosdall-Arena played for the Metropolitan Riveters, they barely miss a game, and with everything that has happened over the last two years in our world, it had been a long time since we crossed paths. It was one of those moments where you feel like things are getting back to normal. More on KDA in a bit.

1.2* During the second intermission I was able to meet and talk with the PHF Commissioner, Reagan Carey, and we chatted about the game, rinks, and a bunch of other topics that will stay between us (thanks to PHF Communications Director Paul Krotz for the intro). She has a good idea of what is working and what needs work on and I’m excited to see what the league can do, and where they can go, under her guidance.

2* Now to the games. On Friday night the Whale debuted their new home ice and made it a memorable one, blanking the Whitecaps 2-0 behind big games from Abbie Ives (24-save shutout) and Kennedy Marchment (game-winning power-play goal & an assist). Maybe for the first time all season, they looked like the Pod Squad that rolled the rest of the PHF last season and finished atop the standings for the first time ever.

On Saturday, things appeared to be on the same course and after a goalless second period, Connecticut carried a 2-1 lead into the third. But that all changed when Denisa Křížová evened the game 26 seconds into the final frame. That changed the tone in the rink and on the ice and Minnesota took their first lead of the weekend behind Olivia Knowles’ (clutch) first pro goal (on the power play) with about eight minutes left. Natalie Snodgrass added an insurance goal that turned out to be the winning goal when the Whale pulled their goalie and scored with 25 seconds left in regulation.

2.1* A big moment in the game on Saturday was when Minnesota’s captain Sydney Brodt was whistled for boarding and had to sit for five minutes. The Whale, and their oft-potent power play, could have turned the game into a laugher early on but only scored once during the five-minute advantage and the Whitecaps were able to stabilize themselves before clawing back into things later on. Amanda Leveille made about four or five big saves to keep the deficit at only one goal, and the penalty killers in front of her did a nice job as well.

2.2* On Tuesday the PHF announced that Brodt was suspended for one game after reviewing her boarding penalty. She will miss the Whitecaps game on Saturday vs. the Montreal Force. That puts Minnesota in a bit of a bind, forward-wise. With Meaghan Pezon already on LTIR (broken wrist) they will be a bit shorthanded for that game and might look into adding someone on a PTO.

They’ll also likely have to add another player - a goaltender - on a PTO as well. Jenna Brenneman got food poisoning before Minnesota’s games in Connecticut and the team had to burn two PTOs over the weekend. We’re all hoping that Brenneman will be feeling better and back in uniform soon.

3* “I didn’t like that we gave away another game. We had a lead again, we let them hang around and didn’t put them away. It just wasn’t a good enough effort today,” lamented Head Coach Colton Orr after his team’s 4-3 loss that dropped their record to 2-2-1. “We could sit here and try to make excuses (about rust) but we played last weekend and yesterday. We have to be better and sharper mentally to find ways to close those games out.”

Despite Ives getting the shutout on Friday night, Orr turned to Meeri Räisänen on Saturday to split the workload in the middle of six games over three weekends. “Sometimes with the back-to-backs and an early game, you look at different things (when making those decisions). I thought Meeri played two good periods, after that maybe a couple of those (goals) she’d want back.”

3.1* Prior to the weekend’s games the Whale signed Dosdall-Arena to a PTO and she played in both, sliding in for Hannah Bates (coach’s decision) on Friday and Shannon Turner (prior commitment) on Saturday. KDA became the fifth player, joining Jillian Dempsey, Kaleigh Fratkin, Madison Packer, and Turner, to skate in at least one game in each of the eight seasons that the league has existed.

“I think we have a really solid group of D and Kiira did a great job of stepping up, stepping in, and playing this weekend,” Connecticut defender Mallory Souliotis told ATR after Saturday’s game. “I thought she was a great shutdown defender today, and she’s a great asset to have in practices.

Strangely (to me anyway) Emma Vlasic was a healthy scratch on Saturday. With one extra forward, and a plethora of talented players, each game for the Whale has seen a different forward sit. Janine Weber, Amanda Conway, Tori Sullivan, and Janka Hlinka have also sat out one game each as Connecticut tries to find the best possible line combinations in the early part of the season. To say I was surprised to see Vlasic in a hallway during one of the intermissions, would be a massive understatement, and I’ll leave it at that.

4* Shifting gears, the Toronto Six hosted the Riveters this weekend and after the series was over (Rivs won in a shootout Saturday, Six won Sunday) the two teams bid each other adieu for a while. The two teams finished their season series (each team won twice) and won’t play again until either the playoffs or next season.

Saturday’s game featured the Riveters’ debut of goaltender Katie Burt after she signed with the team two days earlier. She picked up the win behind 30 saves in regulation and overtime, and three more in the shootout. Burt was signed to fill the void left by goaltender Rachel McQuigge, who’s expected to be sidelined for a while with an injury.

The lone goal in the shootout for either team was scored by defender Minttu Tuominen, who I spoke with last Thursday morning after practice. “I was a center until 2014, or a forward I guess. After Sochi (Olympics) they switched me to D,” the Finnish Olympian told ATR. “I liked working on my shot when I was younger.” Clearly, Tuominen has been working on her shot this season as well as she now has 23 shots on goal this season, which is fourth on the team and tied for 13th in the PHF. Seems like she is adjusting well to the new league, yah?

“Of course, it takes a little time, we have so many new players on the team and you haven’t played with most of them ever. So you start to get to know them a little bit and I think it shows on the ice every time,” added Tuominen. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the season (to see what we can do).”

I’ll have much more from my chats with Tuominen and Evelina Mäkinen sometime next week on The Ice Garden, so stay tuned for that! Really enjoyed getting to chat with them for a few minutes.

5* Can Brittany Howard challenge Allie Thunstrom’s league record of 24 goals (Season 5) in a season? That’s what I’ve asked myself at least ten times since Howard capped off her first pro hat trick late on Sunday afternoon. The former RMU alternate captain has been on fire this season and already has 11 goals in just eight games with the Six. 20 goals are certainly on the table, why not 24, right? Or 25!?!

Howard’s first goal on Sunday, as seen below in the neat video the T6 put together, was a display of speed, talent, and smarts - and it really set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone in wondering how Toronto would replace the production of Mikyla Grant-Mentis this season, and I feel pretty confident in saying that is not an issue they need to worry about. Howard is worth the price of admission, so make sure you go out and see her when she comes to your town.

6* Saturday night we finally saw the (regular season) debut of one of the Buffalo Beauts’ prized off-season acquisitions, netminder Kassidy Sauvé. She was as advertised, and made 37 saves against the two-time defending champs and ended up saddled with a loss because her teammates were unable to solve Corinne Schroeder at the other end. Remarkably, Schroeder now has four shutouts this season (already a PHF record), and each of them has been against a different opponent.

Both goalies started again the next day, on short rest, and it showed. Sauvé had to leave the game after 43 minutes with an injury, and Schroeder was lit up for five goals in what was maybe the wildest game of the season. I don’t think we’ll see Sauvé on the ice again before 2023 begins. Boston was cruising with leads of 4-1 and 5-2 before Buffalo roared back to tie the game 5-5 with half of the third period remaining; a total of six goals, three by each side, were scored in the final frame.

6.1* Captain Jillian Dempsey scored the eventual winner and completed her first pro hat trick with 3:53 left in regulation, capping off Boston’s sweep of the weekend, and a game for the ages.

The official scoring has been changed a few times, but the top line of Dempsey, Loren Gabel and Élizabeth Giguére was on fire from start to finish on Sunday and perhaps that is a combination we see more of. One of the Pride players had told me that each weekend the lines have been different, but I’d be shocked if we don’t see this trio again going forward.

7* Hopefully Buffalo’s comeback in the third period on Sunday sparks something for them. Either way, they will need more production, and goals, from their forward group. granted, it’s been only four games, but the Beauts have 12 goals, and more than half of them, seven, have come from the blue line. In a league filled with scoring stars, they need theirs to find the back of the net much more often if they want to climb the standings.

Also worth noting, Antonia Matzka has been outstanding for Buffalo, and not just because of the goals. I’ve been impressed with her play, and she seems unfazed transitioning to the pro game, which oftentimes can prove to be a bit fast for newcomers. She’s been a presence at both ends of the ice and has proven to be a nice find for the Beauts.

7.1* The perfect time for those forwards to break out will be the Beauts (now annual) outdoor game at Riverworks on Friday night. Maybe seeing her old teammates will unlock some goals from MGM’s stick? Buffalo is 1-1 in outdoor games - losing to the Riveters 7-4 (Dec. 28, 2019), and beating the Six 3-0 (Feb. 21, 2022). With Sauvé likely out of action maybe we see Tera Hofmann in goal for the Beauts? She stopped 16 of 17 shots for Toronto against Buffalo back in February when they played outdoors.

8* Late last week the PHF got back to me regarding PTOs. At the start of the season, they had said that each team would have ten available PTOs for the season. If that holds true, Boston has used all of theirs already (Lexie Laing x2, Taylor Accursi x2, Taylor Turnquist x6). Either the league will change the parameters of the rule, or perhaps the Pride will just sign Turnquist to their active roster retroactively. Either way, I don’t expect Boston to be out of PTOs for the season, but we’ll see.

Other teams that have used PTOs this season are: Connecticut (Dosdall-Arena x2), Minnesota (Hannah Insuik x2), and Buffalo (Hofmann x2).

8.1* Last week I went out for dinner and drinks with Rebecca Morse, who had played in each of the prior six seasons with the Riveters (five) and Whale (one). While she is disappointed to not be playing currently, she hasn’t retired. In fact, she’s been on the ice daily as a director/coaching youth hockey locally here in New Jersey, and if an opportunity presented itself to play, Morse would definitely be interested. A lot can happen over the course of a hockey season, so something to keep an eye on as we get deeper into the schedule.

9* Early Wednesday morning the PHF announced that its salary cap will increase for Season 9, doubling the amount each team can spend - from $750,000 to $1.5 million. This will be the third consecutive off-season that the cap has grown, and wild to think that just last season the ceiling for teams to spend was only $150,000.

The league has seen an influx of talented players over the past few years, and they are the ones driving this. As well as the players who have been a part of things since the early days. The product on the ice is fantastic, and finally, they are starting to reap the rewards of all that hard work. From OGs like Jillian Dempsey and Shannon Turner to Amanda Leveille and Mikyla Grant-Mentis, and now players like Minttu Tuominen and Brittany Howard - everyone has had a hand in building this up brick by brick, and should feel very proud of the work to this point. And we all know there is more work to be done, this is just the start!

It PHFeels Like the PHFirst Time

Welcome to the Federation! I know this is my former editor’s favorite part! Hopefully, everyone was able to get some kind of puck or plaque for their achievements, stick taps to you all - hopefully they are the first of many.

PHFirst goals: Reagan Rust (MET), Justine Reyes (CTW), Olivia Knowles (MIN), Taylor House (BOS), Aneta Terjalová (BOS), Summer-Rae Dobson (BUF), Emma Nuutinen (BUF)

PHFirst points: Reagan Rust (MET), Justin Reyes (CTW), Lenka Serdar (CTW), Olivia Knowles (MIN), Emma Nuutinen (BUF), Jess Healey (BUF)

PHFirst shutout: Abbie Ives (CTW)

PHFirst hat trick: Jillian Dempsey (BOS), Brittany Howard (T6)

Cobra Kai Award of the Week

Awarded to a team or player who shows no mercy

Boston’s line of Dempsey-Gabel-Giguére combined for 7 goals/17 points/27 SoG in two games against Buffalo.

As I mentioned above, Boston has been tinkering with their lines each weekend, but they may have found gold with the trio of Gabel-Dempsey-Giguére. A trio putting up 17 points in one weekend is just ridiculous. It feels like each weekend for the Pride there is a different trio that dominates but not to this level. Truly remarkable performances by all three players.

Notable Quotable

“I remember playing against Packer in college. It was a long time ago, I just remember her being really gritty and someone you don’t like to play against.” — Riveters defender Minttu Tuominen on what it was like playing against now teammate Madison Packer years ago.

Notable Quotable II

“Colton has been building a really good program here and the staff is really dedicated to getting everything organized and getting things done. I’ve liked what I’ve seen here in Connecticut the last couple of seasons, I’ve liked what he’s built, and I’m excited to be a part of it, to be coached by him. We have everything in place, this is a great facility and it’s a pretty awesome setup; I’m just happy to be here and hopefully bring the Cup to Connecticut.” — Whale defender Mallory Souliotis on her move from Boston this summer.

Notable Quotable III

“You have to realize that we have the gear, the players who are doing it voluntarily without the gear…that’s always my answer (grins), they are the dumb ones. Why goalie? I dunno, they just have so much impact on the game. If you play shitty, it’s going to be a shitty result. If you play good, it’s usually going to be a good result. And you’re always on the ice unless you’re not playing haha.” — Riveters goalie Evelina Mäkinen’s reply when we asked why she became a goalie.

My 3-Stars of the Week

* Jillian Dempsey (BOS): 6 points (4g-2a), PPG, GWG, 8 SoG, 27-18 on face-offs

Boston’s captain added a few more accolades to her mantle on Sunday, netting her first hat trick. Her five-point performance was one for the ages, something truly remarkable and memorable that fans will remember for a long, long time. Loren Gabel deserves a ton of respect here too, but I gave this spot to Dempsey because she had the hatty & the GWG.

** Brittany Howard (T6): 5 points (4g-1a), GWG, 2 PPG, 9 SoG, 3 blocked shots

I know it’s early, but Howard is the favorite for Newcomer of the Year in my mind already. With 11 goals and 13 points in her first eight games, I think Toronto has done well to find a superstar to replace the one that bolted for Buffalo this off-season. On Saturday her goal tied the game and eventually earned her team a point, and on Sunday her early goal (3:35 in) set the tone for a game that the Six controlled.

*** Abbie Ives (CTW): 24 saves, shutout, win

Ives picked up her first career pro shutout in style on Friday night in Connecticut’s home opener at their new rink. The Whale were shorthanded five times, and we all know how talented each team is on the power play in this league. All of Minnesota’s top players had at least three shots to score on her, and Ives denied them all. When Ives is playing like that, she, and her team, will be tough to beat.

Did You Know?

On Saturday, the Riveters became the first visiting team to win a game in Toronto. The Six have yet to lose a game in regulation on home ice.

Brittany Howard’s hat trick was the first in franchise history for Toronto.

The Riveters' win was their 50th all-time regular season victory, while Toronto’s was their 25th in the regular season.