With the inaugural NWHL season safely behind us, Today’s Slapshot reached out to players to get their memories from the year they made history together. Here is their season, in their own words. Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.
What’s your favorite memory from the 2015-16 NWHL season?
Buffalo Beauts F Hailey Browne: “My favorite memory was the first game. It was packed – the whole HarborCenter was filled with people. There were young girls all lined up along the glass just to even watch the warm ups. The whole place was cheering for us so loud the whole game. I will never forget the sound of the crowd after the announcer said ‘And here come the Buffalo Beauts!’ It was very surreal and I was honored to be a part of it.”
Buffalo Beauts F Kourtney Kunichika: “I look back on how I felt before Game 3 against Connecticut. I woke up with more than a desire to win, I felt determined that we were going to win, period. That losing was not an option. That our season was not ending that day with a record of losing eight of nine games to the Whale. I think we all felt that way.
“That determination transitioned to how we played. On the bench it was electric, you can feel everyone’s will to win, we were all on the same page. We weren’t losing that game. I think the hardest and best part about hockey is the mental aspect. Especially during playoff hockey. It’s like being pumped up for a game but a lot stronger because losing means you’re done. You can be scared to lose or be pumped to win. Sometimes you feel like you’re going to win, and then you lose. But when you win, and see and feel the whole process within a team, it’s something special.”
Boston Pride D Alyssa Gagliardi: ” My favorite memory from this season was winning the Isobel Cup, and being able to FaceTime Denna (Laing) to show her it while we were on the ice celebrating. It was so special to win in the Finals and make history.
“We played that whole second half of the season for her each and every game and it was so amazing to be able to share that with her in some way. To know that our names will be the first ever names on the Isobel Cup is still surreal, and hopefully 10, 20 years down the line, it’ll really sink in what we were able to accomplish together.”
Boston Pride D Blake Bolden: “Denna surprising us on the ice and joining us in the cheer on Denna Day.”
Connecticut Whale F Jessica Koizumi: “I’ll always treasure the memory of Oct. 11, 2015 , as being the first puck drop in the NWHL along with a bonus of scoring the first goal, but my most favorite memory was in the locker room when we got our first paychecks because it represented such huge growth in women’s hockey. We were finally being treated as professionals.”
New York Riveters G Jenny Scrivens: “It’s so hard for me to choose one favorite memory from our 2015-16 season. There are so many that I’ll never forget: our home opener October 18, first win of the season, the entire trip to Japan. But I think the moment that sticks out to me the most is the first game of the season on October 11. We were away in Connecticut and I didn’t even dress for the game, but I remember being so overwhelmed with emotion watching my teammates pull on their Riveters jerseys for the first time. I ran around the locker room taking photos of their names on the back or the flag on the shoulder. We were a part of history participating in the first year of the NWHL, and I’ll never forget that.”
What moment epitomized your team?
Buffalo Beauts F Hailey Browne: “The moment that epitomized the Beauts was definitely winning the first series against the Connecticut Whale.
“They had swept us all season, all the games were so close, from overtimes to shootouts, the bounces never went our way. It was about time we started to have the hockey gods on our side for once. We overcame a lot of adversity and made it to the first-ever Isobel Cup Finals; no one would have ever though we would make it that far. It just proved a lot of people wrong and we really showed the league and its fans what Buffalo really was about.”
Buffalo Beauts F Kourtney Kunichika: “When we sent the semifinals series against Connecticut to Game 3. It gave us a sense that we could do it. We needed that ‘we’re winning this’ attitude and we brought that to Game 3.”
Boston Pride D Alyssa Gagliardi: “I think the moment that epitomized our team was during our Denna Day game, when Denna was able to come out onto the ice for our cheer around the net. Everyone on the team was grinning ear to ear, seeing her out there, knowing how unbelievably hard she worked to get to that point and that she was able to come out on the ice and do the cheer was something I’ll never forget. I think that epitomized how much we wanted to battle for her and win every game for her, and ultimately be able to bring her back the Isobel Cup.”
Boston Pride D Blake Bolden: “There was a pivotal moment in our season when we lost to Buffalo in overtime. After that game the floodgates opened and we completely connected as an entire team. Our lines were crisp and our expectations grew. There was an unspoken level of commitment that contagiously spread through our team. We knew there was no excuse not to be the best.”
Connecticut Whale F Jessica Koizumi: “I am not sure the moment I would use that epitomizes our team, but one of the most exciting moments to show our teams’ resilience was the Dec. 13 game versus the Riveters. I wasn’t even playing in the game since I was on the road coaching with Yale; I was watching the game online. We were trailing 3-0 going into the third period and I remember thinking this could be the end of our win streak.
“Somehow, the team dug deep and found a way to score a few goals and tie the game with a couple seconds left and win in the shootout. We didn’t lose one shootout this season. That win made us 10-0 keeping the win streak alive, if you count the exhibition games we won as well.”
New York Riveters G Jenny Scrivens: “The 2015-16 New York Riveters weren’t the best team on paper, but we were a gritty, hard-working team that stood up for each other and did anything to get the job done. I think our last game of the season, Game 2 against the Boston Pride, epitomized our team. We clawed back from a 4-goal deficit to give our team a chance to win. As the seconds counted down and the Pride went on to win, no one was angry or frustrated or pointing fingers; everyone was supportive of one another and sad that our season was over. I’ve never been on a team as cohesive as the Riveters.”