Boston Blades season preview: Nowhere to go but up
New talent provides more depth, but can they replace Lacasse?
Last Season in Rewind
The 2015-2016 season for the Boston Blades was far from that of a defending league champion. However, with the cards first-year GM Krista Patronick was dealt, not much could have been expected out of the team. The exodus of almost every US-born player from their roster to the newly-formed NWHL killed the Blades. The Blades retained only four players, two who played limited time during the championship season.
The team managed to earn points in only one game, a shootout win against fourth place Toronto. The 18 goals scored and 122 allowed were the worst in the league by a wide margin. Only three players were able to score more than five points. The team was led by Megan Myers, Erin Kickham and Tara Watchorn. The heroic goalie Geneviève Lacasse stopped a record 1,023 shots.
Last Line of Defense Gone
In a devastating loss, Calgary cashed in on their deal that brought Watchorn to the Blades for a player to be named at a later date. Calgary claimed Lacasse, as the goalie moved to pursue a career opportunity back in her home country. A Canadian citizen, Lacasse was unable take a job unrelated to hockey because of visa restrictions.
With no veteran goalie, the Blades were sent searching for someone to take her place.
Rebuilding the Team
The Blades drafted twenty-five players in the CWHL. The main highlight was Boston University standout Kayla Tutino. As captain, she had two separate four-game point streaks and a total of 30 points. The Blades selected Shelley Payne of Colby and Lauren Dahm of Clarkson for their two roster spots. Casey Pickett left the NWHL’s Boston Pride practice squad to return to the Blades as well. The team, struggling with scoring, will welcome Pickett’s scoring touch and experience.
This Season’s Future
It may be wishful thinking to say that this season cannot be worse for the Blades. Lacasse barely kept the Blades afloat in last season’s games, and now the Blades are without her too. Still, there is hope if Watchorn can stay healthy and the new additions can provide scoring. Improved depth is this team’s saving grace- roughly half of the team is new. Ultimately, the Blades will need to depend on their new goaltenders to take charge and backstop the team to wins.
Team MVP: Tara Watchorn
Watchorn is one of the best defenders and is the clear talent on the Blades. As long as she stays healthy, the Blades will benefit from her production, even if she is forced to stay back and protect the blue line.
Rookie of the Year: Kayla Tutino
Tutino was a great producer for Boston University during her tenure there. With the Blades in need of scoring, Tutino should have plenty of room to shine.
Dark Horse Contributor: Maggie DiMasi
Like Watchorn, DiMasi’s production was limited by the need to provide protection for Lacasse. While she played for Northeastern, DiMasi proved to be a capable offensive force from the point. If the defense is able to step up in the zone this season, Boston could get some goals from their blue line.
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