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Blake Bolden lifts the Isobel Cup, beaming. NWHL Buffalo Beauts vs Boston Pride, Isobel Cup Finals, March 11-12, 2016, Newark, New Jersey. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini
Womens Hockey

NWHL Season Preview: The Boston Pride

Kaitlin S. Cimini/Today's Slapshot

With the start of the NWHL and CWHL seasons creeping ever-closer, we’ve started a series of season previews for both leagues. We will encompass everything new fans need to know about last season, what could happen this season, who to keep an eye on, and what changed in the offseason.

Today we look at the defending Isobel Cup Champion Boston Pride.

Recap of last season

The Boston Pride were so good on paper last summer that there were concerns about parity in the NWHL even before the puck dropped. They lived up to the hype.

The Pride had a huge edge in chemistry and talent over the rest of the league. Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker led a roster featuring talent from the U.S. National Team and the 2014-15 Boston Blades. The Pride steamrolled through the regular season with a record of 14-3-1. They went 9-0-1 in the final ten games of the season before sweeping the playoffs and claiming the Isobel Cup.

Key additions

It doesn’t seem fair that the Pride added Alex Carpenter and Meghan Duggan to the fold, but they did.

The Pride acquired Carpenter’s rights from the Riveters and signed her for $19,000. She is going to be worth every penny.

Carpenter is an offensive force of nature. She had 162 points in her last two seasons at Boston College and scored four goals in five games at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Carpenter finished first in the nation last season in assists, points, and power play points.

Duggan brings leadership, skill, and center depth to an already  stacked Pride roster. “Captain America” is now reunited with several national team teammates after spending last season with the Buffalo Beauts. Duggan scored 16 points in 13 games for Buffalo, and now she’s back to training full time this year with the 2018 Olympics on the horizon. That is scary news for opposing teams.

Key departures

The Pride had to make room on their roster for their two newest stars. Corrine Buie was one of the players that left the team, signing with the Buffalo Beauts this offseason.

Buie provided size and valuable forward depth to Boston’s roster last season, scoring seven points in 18 games. She was one of the Pride’s most physical players, noted for her hustle and work ethic away from the puck. Boston will miss Buie’s ability to win puck battles and create space for her linemates.

Player to watch

Rookie Lexi Bender will replace Marissa Gedman on the Pride’s blue line this season. How Bender gels with Boston’s tight-knight group of defenders will be worth keeping an eye on.

Bender is a great skater and earned a reputation for being a shutdown defender at Boston College. Bender brings size and strength to an already solid Pride defense. She was the Pride’s third pick (11th overall) in the 2015 NWHL Draft.

Biggest strength

The Pride’s group of forwards is second to none. Knight, Decker, Jillian Dempsey, Duggan, Carpenter, and Jordan Smelker are an amazing top six. Putting Boston on the power play will be a mistake that opposing teams will regret all season long.

Although the Pride took more penalties than they drew last season, they were the NWHL’s best possession team. The Pride have intelligent skaters that tilt the ice with their skating and puck movement. When they are on their game, they appear to always have the puck, coercing teams to take icings to stop the onslaught of dominating shifts in the offensive zone.

Biggest weakness

Do the Pride have a weakness? It doesn’t appear that they do.

Brittany Ott is the league’s reigning Best Goaltender and will start in the vast majority of the Pride’s games. Lauren Slebodnick has seen very little action recently which could be cause for concern. She had underwhelming numbers in four appearances last season but the club still chose to re-sign her over Kelsie Fralick.

The Pride did struggle on the penalty kill in the playoffs last year, but that was a small sample size of games. They had no issues killing penalties during the regular season. If they keep their discipline and continue to dominate in puck possession, they’re a nightmare matchup for any team.

Prediction

Despite some big moves made by their competitors the Pride remain the best team in the NWHL. General manager Hayley Moore found a way to add two huge stars while keeping the core of the roster intact. Boston is stocked with competitive, elite players that want to win.

For the Pride anything less than a second consecutive Isobel Cup would be a disappointment.

Player most likely to be confused for a turtle in her pads

Brittany Ott

NWHL Season Preview: The Boston Pride

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