There is never an uneventful offseason in professional women’s hockey. This year has been no different, as the landscape has made some major changes.
What Happened Last Year
Last year the Pride who were already the inaugural NWHL Champions became the first ever two time NWHL champion. What we have since learned is that they will also be the last ever NWHL champion as the league has rebranded as the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF).
The ‘season’ initially was supposed to be a bubble in Lake Placid. Here the heavily favored Pride struggled mightily. Boston opened with a loss to Minnesota before getting their lone pool win against Buffalo. They would then lose consecutive games to Toronto and Connecticut.
At this point things got crazy with COVID starting to rampage through the ‘Bubble.’ The Metropolitan Riveters withdrew before their matchup with Boston. Boston would then be slotted into a best 2 of three withBuffalo that initially was a play in game for 4th place, but Connecticut eventually pulled out as the third game started. The Pride lost game one due the the heroics of Carly Jackson before blowing out the Beauts in the last two games. The League then put a pause on all games before rescheduling the semifinals to Boston in late March.
The month off and home cooking seemed to change fortunes for Boston as the ran over top seeded Toronto on the way to a classic final against Minnesota in which the Pride edged the Whitecaps.
Vanisova decided to make the move back to Europe joining the Swedish SDHL. After not quite finding her groove in a shortened and disjointed season last year fans were looking forward to getting a full season of the Czech National, it was just not meant to be.
An already stacked goalie tandem has become probably the best goalie trio in league history. Burt previously played for the Pride in 2018-19 winning 10 games, before moving to the PWHPA. Since her chances with the US National team seem to have evaporated she has come back to the NWHL/PHF.
What to expect this year
Just like the last two years the Pride have to be considered heavy favorites. They have the best backstop group in the league headlined by Lovisa Selander, they have the best defender in Kaleigh Fratkin, and they have the all time leading scorer in Jillian Dempsey. Boston oozes depth of talent. They will hopefully heed the slow start last year and take every game seriously and hit the ice swinging.