Photo courtesy of Woo Hockey.
The glory days are now a distant memory for the Worcester Blades, with the likes of Hilary Knight, Kacey Bellamy and Anne Schleper having moved on. After three consecutive Clarkson Cup final appearances, including two victories in 2013 and 2015, the Blades were once a force to be reckoned with in the CWHL.
They have since followed this up with three straight last-place finishes. This was largely due to significant roster turnover with the establishment of the NWHL, which featured a team in Boston and paid its players. Not surprisingly, many of the Blades’ top players decided to join the Boston Pride and other NWHL teams.
Dating back to the 2015-16 season, the Blades have been unable to dig themselves out of a deep hole. Most recently, the team made its trip to China to face off against the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. It didn’t go too well for Worcester, losing by a combined score of 20-2 over the course of three games.
While it’s been far from an ideal start for the Blades, this has likely matched the organization’s internal expectations. In their first season since moving from Boston to Worcester, the Blades currently hold a record of 0-9 and haven’t shown any signs of righting the ship in the near future.
Based on the team’s roster construction, the lack of success this season isn’t all that shocking. Most notably, the Blades lead the league with 11 rookies, including six at forward, three on defence and two between the pipes. This is clearly a young team learning the ropes of professional hockey.
Casey Stathopoulos currently leads the team with two goals, while Meghan Grieves has one goal and one assist. The two forwards are the only players with more than one point, not to mention the team has only combined for four goals this season. As for their blueline, Erin Kickham has the team’s lone power play goal.
Goaltenders Mariah Fujimagari, Lauren Dahm and Jessica Convery have yielded a 0.871 save percentage, allowing 48 goals in the process. In their defence, the Blades are averaging 41 shots against per game, which isn’t providing the goaltenders with much help in keeping pucks out of the net.
However, the method to their madness is short-term disappointment in exchange for long-term gain. It might be difficult to see right now, but there’s hope for a better future in Worcester. The rookie-laden Blades will only improve with more experience from the 2018-19 season and beyond.
General manager Derek Alfama and head coach Paul Kennedy appear to have a plan, which requires another season in the league’s basement. The hope is that this trend will not only eventually come to an end, but that the Blades will develop and transition into a new era filled with glory.