With only six games remaining in the short NWHL season, Sunday afternoon's game against the Riveters was a must-win. The Pride got that memo and delivered in convincing fashion, winning 8-1 in front of the home crowd at Bright Hockey Center in Boston. The tally is the most a single team has scored in a game all season, and the offensive outburst came at just the right time.
Following last week's unexpected defeat at the hands of the Beauts, combined with the news about teammate Denna Laing's injury, it was crucial for Boston to get the win, both mentally and strategically. Four of those final six games of the season will be played against the Connecticut Whale, who won two close games in a back-to-back this weekend. Boston also has only two home games remaining, meaning that travel fatigue may become a factor in the final stretch.
But none of that was on their minds today. Despite the fact that the Pride had only four shots on goal in the first period, their new season low, they capitalized on the few chances they had. Jillian Dempsey knocked home a rebound, assisted by linemates Amanda Pelkey and Zoe Hickel, to break the 0-0 tie halfway through the period. After going down the line for high fives, she tapped her stick against a fan-made sign honoring Denna Laing pressed up against the glass.
"Dempsey was fired up when she got that first goal and that set the tone for the rest of the team," Hilary Knight said after the game, speaking on behalf of her team to media in the hallway. Unlike most weekends, the Pride locker room was not open for media availability out of respect for the players' privacy as they reacted to Laing's injury.
Dempsey, who scored a hat trick on the weekend during the Pride's back-to-back at the beginning of December, notched two goals on the afternoon. She assisted Pelkey on goal number six and then scored the seventh with the help of Knight.
"Dempsey is one of the hardest working players on the team," Knight continued. "She's not scared to go in there and pull the puck out and grind, win the 50/50 battles...as a teammate that's what you look forward to, going into battle with someone that's got your back in that way."
Although they looked slightly disorganized in the first period and were not firing on all cylinders offensively, the Pride had Brittany Ott standing tall in net — and sometimes lying down while making saves — to back them up until the pucks started to fall their way in the second period. Boston scored four goals in the middle frame, chasing Jenny Scrivens from the net and forcing Nana Fujimoto, who started Saturday night against the Whale, to enter the game. Captains Knight and Brianna Decker each had three points as well, assisting each other's goals. After Dempsey scored lucky number seven, Jordan Smelker made it 8-0 just thirty seconds later with help from Decker and Blake Bolden.
The lone goal for the Riveters was scored by Bray Ketchum, her fourth of the season. Jenny Scrivens, who spoke both for the Riveters and on behalf of the league, said that New York must make the most of its scoring opportunities in order to improve going forward.
"Rebound control would be a big part of what I can work on for next week," she said of her own performance. She also touched upon what the Pride and the league will do in terms of fundraising for Laing and her family.
"We started with the 24 on our helmets, just thinking of Denna, and that's just the beginning," she said. "We're all gonna brainstorm and get input from the players. I know we'll be brainstorming and come up with good ways to support her and keep her in our thoughts."
During Sunday's game, the Pride supported Do It For Daron, a movement started to raise awareness for youth mental health. The partnership was organized by Alyssa Gagliardi, who, according to Knight, is very passionate about the cause.
"We're lucky that we have this platform to highlight our causes and shed light on different things," Knight said.
Going forward, the team and the league will undoubtedly find the best way to bring attention and support to the Laing family's cause. When asked, Scrivens was uncertain when Laing would make a statement of her own.