What a difference a year makes.
After a season of scoring woes last year, The Boston Blades put up nine goals in an exhibition game to start their 2016/17 season.
On Oct 1, the Blades played the New England Eagles, a team of former military veterans who were also professional or college hockey players, to help raise awareness for veteran suicide. The Eagles came out strong early, matching the Blades with three goals apiece in the first period, but Boston was able to turn it on after that, outscoring the Eagles 6-1 in the second and third periods.
"We moved the puck well. We created a lot of offense, and I thought we got stronger each period," said Blades Head Coach Brian McCloskey after the game.
The new-look Blades featured a roster that, though not exact, was close to their recently announced final roster, including new goaltenders Lauren Dahm and Shelley Payne. Dahm, who hasn't played competitively since her senior year at Clarkson in 2011, faced the brunt of the Eagles' assault, letting three. One, the first goal of the game, was on a breakaway, but Dahm looked like she was shaking the rust off in the other two. Still, she and Payne looked solid in net. Witch some more time under their belt, and better defensive-zone cohesion in general, the pair look to be pretty solid for the Blades.
Though exhibition games of this nature can be difficult to use a baseline to judge offensive play, the Blades showed much improvement in that area over last year. The team looked stronger on the puck and more sure of their play. Despite this being the first game for many of these players, they gelled nicely, setting up line mates and creating a number of scoring chances.
"We have, pretty much, three fresh lines out there who've never played together before," said last year's captain, Tara Watchorn. "It was really exciting to see how every period got better and better."
One of the bright points all of last season for Boston was the team's chemistry. Despite their one-win season, the team remained positive due to a strong foundation off the ice. Though the team refreshed their roster in the off-season, they look to have a similar bond this year.
"Last season we had a really good team chemistry, and that's starting to come through with this team as well," said returning forward Kristina Brown. "With a little bit more skill and the same team atmosphere I think it's going to be a really exciting and fun season."
The Blades open their season on the road in Toronto on Oct 15.