NWHL hands out hardware, Boston Pride sweep awards

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Just over a week after handing out the first Isobel Cup, the NWHL gave out their regular season awards.

The NWHL, with limited monetary resources, opted to present their first awards via social media. Here is a rundown of the winners, the nominees, who voted for what, and my ballot.

Regular Season Champions – Boston Pride

The Connecticut Whale led the NWHL nearly the entire season. Their stumble towards the end of the regular season coincided with the Pride’s seven game win streak. Boston finished the season 14-3-1 with a plus-36 goal differential.

Regular Season Leading Scorer – Hilary Knight, Boston Pride

Knight is a big reason the NWHL exists, so it’s fitting she’d take home the scoring prize. The forward led the league in goals (15), assists (18), and overall points (33) in 17 games played.

NWHL Foundation Award  & NWHL Perseverance Award – Denna Laing, Boston Pride

In the worst moment, Denna Laing became the face of the NWHL as she was stretchered off the ice in the Women’s Outdoor Classic. News of her significant spine injury united the sports community. The Pride rallied around Denna as they went on to win the Isobel Cup, and celebrated with her through Facetime on the ice.

Laing has been a beacon of hope and positivity throughout her rehabilitation. Earlier in the week, she tweeted pictures of two huge moments: meeting Jake Gyllenhaal and STANDING!

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The NWHL Foundation Award is “Awarded to the player most actively applying the core values of hockey to her community as well as growing and improving hockey culture.” Also nominated: Tatiana Rafter, Buffalo Beauts, Anya Battaglino, Connecticut Whale, and Jenny Scrivens, New York Riveters. The ballot was determined by the NWHL Players Association (NWHLPA), and fans were given the vote for the winner.

The NWHL Perseverance Award is “Awarded to the player who most exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to her sport.” The award was a write-in vote by the NWHL Writers Group. The voters were contacted by the league and given the opportunity to vote. Finalists included: Meghan Duggan, Buffalo Beauts; Anya Battaglino, Connecticut Whale; and Kelley Steadman, Buffalo Beauts.

I had a feeling Laing would get the Foundation Award, so I voted for Brianne McLaughlin of the Buffalo Beauts. Her coaches told her that she needed to turn her play around in December or she wouldn’t be starting another game. She rose to the challenge. Plus, the woman drives three hours from Pittsburgh to practice and play with the team on the weekends. 

NWHL Best Defenseman – Gigi Marvin, Boston Pride

This award was likely influenced by the playoffs. Marvin was the highest scoring defenseman on the Pride with 7 points in 4 games.

Also nominated: Emily Pfalzer, Buffalo Beauts; Kacey Bellamy, Boston Pride; Kaleigh Fratkin, Connecticut Whale; Kira Dosdall, New York Riveters; and Megan Bozek, Buffalo Beauts. The winner was voted on by the NWHL Writers Group.

My vote went to Kacey Bellamy. In the regular season, she created more offense for her team, and had the best numbers Corsi-wise. Marvin is right there with her, but Bellamy is just slightly better.

NWHL Best Goaltender – Brittany Ott, Boston Pride

Also nominated: Brianne McLaughlin, Buffalo Beauts; Jaimie Leonoff, Connecticut Whale; Jenny Scrivens, New York Riveters; Nicole Stock, Connecticut Whale; and Nana Fujimoto, New York Riveters. The winner was determined by the NWHL Writers Group.

My vote went for Ott, too.

Simply put, she was the most consistent goaltender and had the best team in front of her. When she was tested, which wasn’t often when compared to her opponents, she stood up. She ended the regular season with a 13-1-0 record, 1.94 GAA and .925 SV%.

Put Ott behind another team with less skilled defensemen and we may have a different story.

Most Valuable Player – Brianna Decker, Boston Pride

The NWHL defines its MVP as “… the player considered most valuable to her team.” Pretty simple. Voting for the award took place via write-in ballot from the NWHLPA. Runners up for the award were: Kelley Steadman, Buffalo Beauts; Emily Pfalzer, Buffalo Beauts; and Hilary Knight, Boston Pride.

While this is a regular season award, the playoffs may have had something to do with the win. During the regular season Decker was second to her co-captain Knight in the main scoring categories. Decker won the playoff MVP after posting 9 points in four games, which included a hat trick.

If I had a vote for MVP, it would have gone to Steadman. She is a practice squad (i.e. non-salaried) player for the Beauts due to her commitment as Director of Hockey Operations at Robert Morris University. The team gets a visible life whenever she is in the lineup. Despite playing in seven LESS games than the league-leading Knight, she stayed in the top five scoring in the league with 20 points in 10 games.

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