The NWHL announced that the 2021 season will begin on Jan. 23 in Lake Placid, NY. The Isobel Cup will be held on Feb 4-5. NBCSN will air the games live, making it the first time women’s professional hockey games are airing on a major national cable network. Let’s take a look at the six teams competing for the Cup.
2019-2020 Record: 23-1
Players to Watch: Sammy Davis, Kaleigh Fratkin, Lovisa Selander
Heading into This Season: The Boston Pride will be looking to take care of some unfinished business this season. They were near undefeated when their previous season was cut short in March and they were unable to compete for the Isobel Cup, thanks to COVID-19. They definitely haven’t gotten any weaker after taking in Sammy Davis at No. 1 overall in the 2020 draft. It would be wise not to bet against the Pride, who are the favourites to win the 2021 Isobel Cup.
2019-2020 Record: 8-15
Players to Watch: Taylor Accursi, Jordan Juron, Kayla Meneghin
Heading into This Season: With the Isobel Cup taking place in their home state, the Buffalo Beauts will be fighting hard for every goal. Last season, they lost a lot of big names and didn’t qualify for the final, but since the 2020 Isobel Cup was cancelled due to the pandemic, the Beauts have technically played in every championship. Among their new signings this year are Kayla Meneghin, Plattsburg State’s women’s hockey standout player, and Taylor Accursi’s younger sister, Hunter. Don’t underestimate this team as they have a very strong defence and will be working hard to redeem themselves from that fourth-place finish in the league last season.
2019-2020 Record: 2-20
Players to Watch: Hanna Beattie, Brooke Wolejko, Shannon Doyle
Heading into This Season: One of the “Original Four,” of the NWHL, Connecticut Whale is the only team of the four that hasn’t won an Isobel Cup, or even been in the final. They finished last in the 2019-2020 season and are training hard to catch up to the top teams. Though they don’t score many goals, they have someone that’s definitely an unforgettable player and that’s goalkeeper Brooke Wolejko. The 24-year old is consistent and has a lot of grit, making at least 45 saves five times last season.
2019-2020 Record: 10-11
Players to Watch: Rebecca Russo, Madison Packer, Mallory Rushton
Heading into This Season: The Metropolitan Riveters welcome a number of new additions to the team, including fourth overall pick Saroya Tinker and Sammy Kolowrat of the Czech Republic national team. Madison Packer will again lead the team to the Isobel Cup as captain. She has been on the team for the longest time with 42 goals and 43 assists in her professional career. The Riveters finished third in the regular 2019-2020 season. Their only and most recent Cup championship was won in 2018. They aren’t top contenders this year, but finishing third could is a strong possibility.
2019-2020 Record: 17-5
Players to Watch: Allie Thunstrom, Corinne Buie, Amanda Leveille
Heading into This Season: Finishing second behind the Boston Pride in the regular 2019-2020 season, the Minnesota Whitecaps are expecting to face them again in the Isobel Cup. Before the Cup was cancelled due to the pandemic, they were the only team who won against the Boston Pride. Goaltender Amanda Leveille is the NWHL’s winningest goaltender in league history and made 677 saves in the 2019-2020 regular season. The Whitecaps are a confident team, especially after being crowned champions in their inaugural season just two years ago.
2019-2020 Record: N/A
Players to Watch: Emily Fluke, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Shiann Darkangelo
Heading into This Season: The Toronto Six is the first expansion team to join the NWHL since the end of the CWHL in 2019. This will be their first appearance as a team, but that doesn’t mean we should doubt their abilities. They have a number of strong signings including Emily Fluke, Emma Greco, Shiann Darkangelo and Mikyla Grant-Mentis, who have previous experience in the NWHL. Other players are CWHL veterans, including Julie Allen and Megan Quinn of the Toronto Furies. The fresh team is a balanced mix of new and old talent.
Featured photo: After a near-undefeated season in 2019-20, the Boston Pride are projected to be a top contender in 2021. (Courtesy of Sporting News)