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Boston Pride weekend camp has some familiar faces, casual atmosphere

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The two-day Boston Pride camp at Ristuccia was more a fan event and player introduction than an indication of future commitments, but if the skill on the ice was any indication, this could be pretty good

Team meeting: Boston Pride camp attendants cluster around coaches this weekend at center ice at Ristuccia
Team meeting: Boston Pride camp attendants cluster around coaches this weekend at center ice at Ristuccia
Zoë Hayden

As expected, some key players from the Boston Blades roster were on the ice at the Boston Pride camp this weekend at Ristuccia in Wilmington, MA.  Here is a complete roster with names, positions, birthdates, hometowns, and former college teams:

TEAM BLACK

6 Tara Akstull - F - 3/27/88 - Clifton Park, NY - St. Lawrence University
7 Celeste Brown - F - 5/29/92 - Great Falls, MO - RIT
8 Kelly Cooke - F - 10/29/90 - Andover, MA - Princeton
9 Jenna Dancewicz - F - 4/2/89 - Lake Forest, IL - Brown
10 Chelsea Furlani - F - 5/18/88 - Colchester, VT - University of Vermont
11 Bray Ketchum - F - 3/18/89 - Greenwich, CT - Yale
12 Denna Laing - F - 5/12/91 - Marbelhead, MA - Princeton
14 Emily Field - F - 4/6/93 - Littleton, MA - Boston College
15 Jordan Smelker - F - 6/19/92 - Anchorage, AK - RPI
2 Alyssa Gagliardi - D - 4/2/92 - Raleigh, NC - Cornell
3 Becky Allis - D - 10/9/92 - West Olive, MI - Ohio State
4 Kierstin Visser - D - 2/14/1991 - Carpaud, PEI - UPEI, Bemidji State
5 Cherie Hendrickson - D - 1/23/86 - Boxford, MA - Providence
1 Brittany Ott - G - 6/12/90 - St. Clair Shores, MI - University of Maine
30 Lauren Slebodnick - G - 1/23/92 - Manchester, NH - Cornell

TEAM WHITE

9 Katelyn Landry - F - 8/30/88 - Belmont, MA - Brown
10 Rachel Llanes -  F - 4/29/91 - San Jose, CA - Northeastern
11 Casey Pickett - F - 12/14/90 - Wilmington, MA - Northeastern
12 Emma Rambo - F - 1/19/91 - Joliet, IL - Union
14 Kelli Stack - F - 1/13/88 - Brooklyn Heights, OH - Boston College
15 Taylor Wasylk - F - 2/21/92 - Port Huron, MI - Boston College
16 Jillian Dempsey - F - 1/19/91 - Winthrop, MA - Harvard
17 Amanda Pelkey - F - 5/29/93 - Montpelier, VT - Vermont
18 Brittany Skudder - F - 10/29/90 - Plainview, NY - University of New Hampshire
4 Blake Bolden - D - 3/10/91 - Cleveland, OH - Boston College
5 Marissa Gedman - D - 3/12/92 - Framingham, MA - Harvard
6 Brooke Fernandez - D - 4/7/91 - Bloomfield, CT - St. Lawrence
7 Kacey Bellamy - D - 4/22/87 - Westfield, MA - University of New Hampshire
8 Katie Maroney - D - 8/14/84 - La Porte, IN - Ohio State
1 Alicia Miksic - G - 3/30/89 - Chestwick, PA - RPI

The most prominent names on this roster (Kacey Bellamy and Kelli Stack) did not skate this weekend, though Bellamy was in the stands to observe Saturday's camp.  However, many other players who suited up for the Blades last season were present on the ice.  A few (Dempsey, Smelker, Gagliardi) only skated in the scrimmage practice on day 2 of camp.

According to Pride general manager Hayley Moore, the camp was not a formal indication of who and who would not be on the ice for the team at the start of the regular season.  "We are by no means limited to the players that were on the ice today," she said after practice on Saturday.  "We expect to have a very tight-knit team.  There will be 18 roster spots offered.  We will also have practice players who will be here  day in and day out and. . .if for some reason one player is injured or cannot make a game, we will have the opportunity to draft from that pool, but we still expect to keep a pretty tight-knit team versus a bigger roster.  Free agency ends August 17, so there's not a set number that will be coming out of today's training camp.  It will be a longer term process."  She also revealed that the June 20th NWHL Draft, for players who will be eligible next season after graduating college, will be held in Boston, though it is not yet determined how many draft picks will be available to each team.

Amanda Pelkey, a recent University of Vermont graduate, was one of the standouts at camp, showing good skating ability and a knack for protecting the puck along the boards with her positioning and reach.  "I'm going to be down in Boston training, I moved here on [April 30th], so I'm just going to work out with my work schedule and my training schedule is perfect," she said of her intention to pursue her hockey career in Boston.  She had also been interested in pursuing a position on the Blades, but was "keeping her options open" by attending the Pride camp.  On Dani Rylan and the NWHL's recruiting efforts, she said, "They laid it out, they answered every question that you would ever think to ask about the league.  That was definitely the plus side to it."

Jillian Dempsey spoke after Sunday's Team Black versus Team White scrimmage.  In her previous CWHL season (prior to this year's championship year) she said she had been living at home and coaching on the side, so she had some flexibility with her schedule, but not a lot of income.  Currently, she is an elementary school teacher in Lawrence.  "I know a lot of the girls had to up and move to make [playing in Boston] a possibility and it wasn't as easy for them."  Her teammates also had different struggles with work: "It was a really interesting, the dynamics of the team the past two seasons, because people needed jobs outside of hockey, and with that meant the job came first most times."

Dempsey's view on the Pride is that they will be able to provide more stability, so that players won't have to pick between hours at work and hours on the ice.  "I think having a team who's going to be able to be at everything is going to help the team dynamic, it's really going to help us grow as a team and develop as individual players, and hopefully some stability there in lines, and knowing who you're going to have each weekend--'cause [the Blades] were a different team every weekend.  And we made it work, and it was still fun and we still enjoyed it, but it'll be nice to really have that team presence at everything."

The future of the Boston Blades as an organization is still unclear.  Two key Canadian players from the Blades roster, Genevieve Lacasse and Tara Watchorn, are still unaccounted for at any camps, and nearly every player on the Pride roster was American, with the exception of Kierstin Visser from Prince Edward Island.  Kaleigh Fratkin was at the Connecticut Whale camp, as was Janine Weber, who is Austrian. The implication at camp seemed to be that the Blades organization would not be an option in Boston for players, but again, nothing was clearly stated.  Jillian Dempsey in particular seemed to be speaking about the Blades in the past tense.

Notably, media presence was higher than I have ever experienced at a Boston Blades practice or game.  Media in attendance received an accurate lineup card (with one jersey number change) and GM Hayley Moore was made available for questions immediately after the first day of camp.  For my part, this was a positive experience and it was fun to watch.  Players seemed like they were having a good time as well.

Here are some tweets of fun moments from Sunday's scrimmage and subsequent shootout drills. . .

Odds and ends and a mini scouting report. . .

  • I've reached out via Twitter and email trying to get an official roster from the New York Riveters camp, which was also held this weekend, but I've yet to hear back from anyone.  If you were in attendance and have a roster, feel free to send it my way via Twitter so I can share it with everyone else.
  • Brittany Ott looked very sharp and and made a few sparkling saves, as usual.  Laura Slebodnick looked good as well and used her size to her advantage while still remaining mobile and quick.
  • Becky Allis (D) and Chelsea Furlani (F) were both defensive standouts to me, especially among the players I hadn't seen before.  They were tenacious in puck battles and in keeping front of the net clear for their goalies.
  • I've seen a lot of Rachel Llanes, obviously, but her speed and ability to work with the puck down low are among the best I've seen anywhere--she was easily the fastest skater at camp.
  • Watch This Hockey has some more notes about players in attendance which you should have a look at, and some video!
  • I do want to obtain more details about what the NWHL will be providing for its players as well as how travel and scheduling will work for away games, but those questions seem more appropriate for after the rosters have been finalized and schedules have been announced.  This event, all things told, was more a general interest event, and none of the players are formally committed to any NWHL team at this time.

Seriously though--if you have a Riveters camp roster, send it my way or post it on Twitter!  More information, as always, as it becomes available.