Looking Back on a Dominant First Half for Boston, Foreshadows Success in Remainder of the Season

by PRIDE MEDIA

After a much-needed Christmas and New Year’s break, the PHF has finally resumed its second-half schedule, but not without a few hiccups. It was announced on Wednesday, January 5 that the scheduled games between Buffalo/Boston and Toronto/Minnesota on January 8 and 9, would be postponed due to the outbreak of coronavirus. The protocols have been set in place by the PHF to ensure the safety of the players, staff, and most importantly the fans. We need a healthy fanbase to cheer on our players, so we want to take a timeout to make sure everyone stays healthy!

In a more positive light, however, there has been significant progress made in the first half that goes beyond the ice. Multi-year partnerships with Upper Deck Trading Cards and Warrior hockey equipment have provided the league with the opportunity to grow exponentially and solidify a future for its players. The PHF Player’s Association appointed a new Executive Director in Alex Sinatra, along with naming two player representatives for each respective team. Additionally, the first half of the season saw more games played (10) than the entire “Bubble Season” last year in Lake Placid (6).

In a more focused spotlight, the Boston Pride have fought hard to stay dominant in the PHF with a solid 6-2 record. With Toronto and Connecticut just ahead in the standings, the uphill battle to regain first place begins January 22 and 23, on home ice at Warrior Arena against the Metropolitan Riveters.

The veteran presence has certainly not gone unnoticed with creating opportunities on offense led by captain Jillian Dempsey, who leads the team with four goals and seven points. In the first game of the season vs Minnesota, Dempsey reached two career milestones, as she recorded her 50th-career goal with the Pride and became the first player in the PHF/NWHL to skate in 100-career regular season games. If you want a player that leads by example, Jillian Dempsey is the perfect role model.

On top of her impressive regular-season resume thus far, Dempsey has been selected to represent the PHF along with Allie Thunstrom of the Minnesota Whitecaps, at the ECHL All-Star Classic in Jacksonville, Florida on January 17, 2022. She will also share the distinction of being team captain along with Shiann Darkangelo of the Toronto Six and Allie Thunstrom of Minnesota at the PHF All-Star Showcase in Toronto on January 29, 2022. Needless to say, Jillian Dempsey has a full schedule ahead of her.

In order to win games, you need to score more goals than your opponents. That’s just common knowledge. To drive home the point further, Christina Putigna and McKenna Brand have both served as the “anchor” of the Pride’s offense with game-winning goals in clutch situations in overtime and a shootout, respectively. Putigna proved to be a good luck charm for Boston on the road, recording three of her four goals in enemy territory in Minnesota and Connecticut. The most notable came in overtime against Minnesota on Nov. 21, to end the Pride’s two-game losing streak. McKenna Brand gave Boston the extra push in the shootout against an undefeated Toronto Six on December 4, with a wrist-shot that sent Toronto home with their first loss of the season. Boston’s sharpshooters certainly come in clutch when the opportunity presents itself, so it won’t be surprising to see a few more points added by the top lines in the near future.

Offense wins games but defense wins championships. The Boston Pride have made moves this season to make sure that method stays true to form. On December 2, the Pride announced the signing of Olympic Gold medalist defender Kali Flanagan, who’s decorated career proved to be an important asset to the Pride’s winning mentality. In her first appearance dawning the black and gold sweater, Flanagan mentioned her hometown roots greatly influenced her decision to join the Pride.

“I chose the Pride for two reasons,” said Flanagan. “The quality of the people that are a part of this organization – from the front office, to the coaches and my teammates – and Boston is my home; I grew up here, I played in college here at BC (go Eagles!) and now I have the opportunity to play professional hockey here, and I’m looking forward to bringing the same wholehearted effort, comradery and championship mindset that I’ve always played with to the Pride.”

Flanagan is definitely a significant addition to the Pride roster; however it gives Head Coach Paul Mara a difficult choice every game as he now has eight blueliners on the main roster to choose from. That is certainly a good problem to have. With two goals and 17 assists overall in the first half of the season, Boston’s defense core will establish their presence early and often in the remaining games this season.


A Quick Look at The Road Ahead

 

The remainder of the 2021-22 season will serve as a benchmark to see who’s hungry enough for a spot to contend for the coveted Isobel Cup championship. With just six teams in the PHF currently, there are only a limited number of opportunities for teams to get that playoff chance. The defending champion Boston Pride have a relatively advantageous schedule, as six of their remaining ten games will be played on home ice at Warrior Arena. Though the Pride have been undefeated at home this season, the competition level will certainly not be easy.

Boston will host the Metropolitan Riveters at Warrior Arena on Saturday, January 22nd and Sunday, January 23rd, the first meeting between the two this season. Both organizations were scheduled to face each other on December 18 and 19, but were postponed due to Covid-19 safety protocols. Rescheduled dates have not been announced, but stay tuned for an announcement very soon. The Riveters currently sit in fourth place in the PHF standing so the chances of a playoff spot are not out of the question.

The Riveters come into Boston with a 2-3-1 record, led by team captain Madison Packer and Rebecca Russo, each with nine points for MET. Metro holds an average team (+/-) of +1.16, while Boston’s team average is +3.2. The Pride have a goal differential of +7 which favors them over the Riveters’ differential of -1. In the long-term, if Boston can produce offensively and keep the scoring chances alive, they should have no problem beating Metro. The real question is, with such a long break since their last game, will the Pride be able to keep their momentum rolling into the playoff picture or will the rust be too much to shake off before it’s too late in the season?

Boston was scheduled to face the Buffalo Beauts this weekend, January 8 and 9, however the PHF postponed all games in compliance with coronavirus safety protocol. The Pride have yet to face the Beauts this season, who currently sit in sixth place, with a 1-4-0 record. In all fairness, they haven’t had many games scheduled/played so the make-up games should help improve their record in the standings. The next scheduled game between Boston and the Beauts will (hopefully) take place at Warrior ice Arena on February 26 and 27, 2022.


The Stars Align for Boston 


For the first time in PHF history the 2022 PHF All-Star Showcase will be played on Saturday, January 29 at 2:00 p.m. ET at York Canlan Sports, home of the Toronto Six. This year’s events will feature a new format where athletes will compete among three teams in a round-robin series. Unfortunately, the skills competition will not be included in the festivities this season.

The three respective team captains were selected by voting conducted among current PHF players – the results were announced on December 17, 2021. Allie Thunstrom of the Minnesota Whitecaps, Shiann Darkangelo of the Toronto Six, and Jillian Dempsey of the Pride will serve as this year’s team captains in Toronto for All-Star Weekend.

Jillian Dempsey is no stranger to the All-Star spotlight, as she prepares to participate in her fourth All-Star game, her second game serving as team captain.

“I am both humbled and honored to be named a captain of an All-Star team, and it is truly special knowing that the honor was given by the players in the league,” Dempsey said. “I look forward to competing in Toronto!”

The second round of player selection for the All-Star Game identified 30 participants among all six PHF teams – conducted by nominations from each PHF head coach. Boston leads the player with eight participants, with Kaleigh Fratkin and Amanda Boulier preparing for their fourth All-Star appearance.

For the first time in their PHF careers, Meghara McManus, Sammy Davis, and Kali Flanagan will represent the Pride in Toronto along with their fellow veteran teammates. With the dominating performances put on so far this season, these three All-Stars are more than deserving of their spots on the roster.

Boston Pride All-Star Selections: McKenna Brand (1x), Katie Burt (1x), Sammy Davis, Jillian Dempsey (c) (4x), Kali Flanagan, Kaleigh Fratkin (4x), Christina Putigna (1x), Meghara McManus