Women’s Hockey Top 6: Nana says ‘no no’ to Pride again; CWHL lifts paywall on Saturday

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[Top 6: Storylines from the past weekend in women’s hockey.]

NWHL

  1 2 3 Total  
New York Riveters (2-3-0) @ 3 0 0 3  
Boston Pride (3-2-0) 1 1 0 2  
           
  1 2 3 Total  
Connecticut Whale (5-0-0) @ 5 1 0 7 S/O
Buffalo Beauts (0-4-1) 1 5 0 6  

1) Pure insanity in the Connecticut Whale and Buffalo Beauts game. In total, there were 13 goals scored. 7 of those goals came on the power play. And to top it all off, the game had a bunch of “firsts” for the league, including an ejection (Megan Bozek for slashing in the first) and everyone’s favorite – a shootout!

After the first period, the Whale appeared to have a stranglehold on the Beauts establishing a 5-1 lead. Buffalo took out netminder Brianne Mclaughlin after allowing 4 of 5 goals while her team was on the penalty kill. She was replaced by Amanda Makela, making her pro hockey debut. At the same time, Connecticut decided to give goaltender Jaimie Leonoff the rest of the night off and put in Nicole Stock to hold on to the four-goal lead. Given the events of the second period, the coach’s decision to remove the starter appeared to be a questionable one.

Beauts captain Emily Pfalzer assisted on the team’s short-handed goal in the first frame. Someone flipped on Pfalzer’s Beast Mode switch after Connecticut added a sixth goal in the second. The captain led her team to FIVE (5!) straight goals with Pfalzer assisting on all but one in the period; 3 of 5 Beauts goals came on the power play. (@NWHLGifs has clips of all the goals.)

The teams stayed tied at 6-6 through the third and into overtime. In the shoot-out, Kelly Babstock of Connecticut was the only skater to score, diverting near disaster for the perfect-on-the-season Whale.

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2) Coming into the season, the odds-on favorite to win the Isobel Cup was the Boston Pride. The roster is full of many players who were on the (CWHL) Clarkson Cup-winning Boston Blades and decided to defect to the new league. Even Hilary Knight went as far to say she was certain she and her Pride teammates were going to win.

The New York Riveters handed the Pride their first loss of the season a weekend prior, thanks in big part to Nana Fujimoto standing on her head. Was this just an anomaly considering the Riveters had yet to win a game to that point? Apparently not.

For the second straight week, the Riveters beat the Pride, and once again, it was on the back of a dazzling performance by Fujimoto. The goaltender faced a barrage of shots for a second straight week, making 41 saves on 43 shots.

The Riveters have stayed with Fujimoto despite the team’s rough start. Coming from Japan, the goaltender has had to adjust to NHL-sized ice. Kate Cimini of Today’s Slapshot details the work Fujimoto has put in with goaltending coach Jonathan de Castro and now it’s paying off.

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3) Criticisms from those who have never seen a women’s hockey game usually say something to the effect of “the women’s game is not physical enough.” To them, I offer these examples:

Exhibit A:

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Exhibit B: 

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Those are two examples from just one game. Don’t knock the sport until you watch it.

CWHL 

Saturday        
  1 2 3 Total
Boston Blades @ 1 0 0 1
Brampton Thunder 3 3 3 9
         
  1 2 3 Total
Calgary Inferno @ 0 2 1 3
Toronto Furies 0 0 0 0
         
Sunday        
  1 2 3 Total
Boston Blades (1-9-0) @ 0 0 0 0
Brampton Thunder (6-2-0) 1 1 1 3
         
  1 2 3 Total
Calgary Inferno (7-1-0) @ 2 0 1 3
Toronto Furies (1-6-1) 1 0 1 2

4) One of the major criticisms of the CWHL thus far is the video of their product being behind a paywall. This weekend is an opportunity for all fans to watch what they’ve been missing. Sasky Stewart, the amazing Director of Marketing and Communications for the CWHL, tweeted out the following:

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Les Canadiennes are the perfect team to show when exposing the league to new eyes. The team features two of the most dynamic players in the league, Marie-Philip Poulin (11 points in 4 games) and Caroline Ouellette (10 points in 6 games). Montreal backstopped by Charline Lebonte who holds a 4-1-0 record and a tiny 1.60 goals-against. 

5) On Thanksgiving, or as they call it in Canada, “Thursday,” CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress will be on the panel with heavy hitters like Jamie McLennan, John Shannon and Elliotte Friedman for Puck Talks Live in Toronto. (Find more details here.)

Her participation in the public event is an important step for Commissioner Andress. Her counterpart in the NWHL, Dani Rylan, has been EVERYWHERE talking up her league with the media. Andress is slightly shyer and prefers to have the spotlight on her players instead of herself. She’s made a concerted effort in the past few months to be more available to not only the media but the fans, too. 

Part of running a successful venture is winning hearts and minds. The CWHL has lacked when compared to their competition. I think Andress is recognizing this and is now embracing the role as saleswoman that goes along with running the league.

If you’re a fan of the CWHL and/or women’s hockey, in general, go to the event out and ask your questions.

6) It’s hard not to feel somewhat sorry for the Boston Blades. Rarely in the history of sports has a team played a roster with few returning players the season after winning a championship (salary cap implications notwithstanding), on top of bringing in a new coach and new general manager.

Zoë Hayden of The Victory Press wrote an excellent piece on the origins and growing pains of the new roster and explained why you shouldn’t feel sorry for them. The group has rallied around captain Tara Watchorn and the stability of goaltender in Genevieve Lacasse.

Boston gets their first by-week of the season this coming weekend. A much-needed break, especially for Lacasse, who has played in every single game for the Blades and made 435 saves in total over 10 starts. 

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