The National Women’s Hockey League’s second season was dominated by its champion from the year before. The Boston Pride cruised through their first 16 games of the year and appeared poised to make even more history in the young league’s formative years.
However, their hopes for an undefeated season were dashed at the finish line.
In the last game of the season, the New York Riveters stunned Boston by handing the Pride a 3-2 loss on Sunday. This came despite Boston outshooting New York 46-20, but Riveters rookie goalie Katie Fitzgerald had other ideas. Forty-four saves set a new career-high for Fitzgerald as she stole what would have been the first undefeated season in NWHL history away from the Pride.
Finishing with a 16-1-0 record, Boston still owns the top seed heading into the postseason as it looks to repeat as Isobel Cup Champions. The NWHL’s playoff bracket looks like this:
Unlike last year, the NWHL has foregone the best of three series and the playoff format is now single-elimination. The second Isobel Cup Champions will be crowned on Sunday.
Here are some other notes from the NWHL’s second season:
DEFEATED, BUT STILL DOMINANT
The Boston Pride may not have been able to finish the season unblemished, but you can still see their dominance of their peers by looking at more than just their 16-1-0 record.
The Pride had a plus-44 goal differential through 17 games. In fact, the other three clubs in the NWHL all finished with negative goal differentials because they were consistently made punching bags by the Pride’s perfect balance of offense and defense.
Boston boats the league leaders in just about every individual statistical category, too. Pride players top the charts in goals (Brianna Decker, 14), assists (Alex Carpenter, 20), points (Decker, 31), shots on goal (Decker, 104), shorthanded goals (Carpenter, 3), wins (Brittany Ott, 10), save percentage (Lauren Slebodnick, .942), goals against average (1.22) and shutouts (Ott, 3). Brianna Decker has returned to the form that had her win NWHL MVP in the league’s inaugural season while the offseason additions of Alex Carpenter and Meghan Duggan proved to be huge while superstar Hilary Knight missed nearly half of the team’s games.
KESSEL COMPLETES SEASON-LONG POINT STREAK
Those who followed Amanda Kessel’s scoring supremacy throughout her collegiate hockey career weren’t surprised that her skills translated to the NWHL. But the consistency with which she demonstrated her craft likely stunned even the biggest fans she has.
With an assist in the New York Riveters’ upset of Boston in the last game of the season, Kessel secured a point in every single one of her games during her rookie campaign, including two exhibition games against the Russian national team during its tour of North America. Kessel may have only played 10 games for the Riveters due to other commitments with the Unites States national team, she led the team with 14 assists and earned 20 points overall.
SHIN PAVES WAY FOR KOREAN HOCKEY
One of Kessel’s teammates on the Riveters was goalie Sojung Shin. Shin made history four years ago when she became the first Korean, male or female, to play collegiate hockey in North America. This season was another historic one, as she became the first Korean to play in the NWHL and just the third player from South Korea to reach the top pro league available to them (Richard Park and Jim Paek).
According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, South Korea only has 259 registered female ice hockey players. For perspective, that’s over 87,000 fewer than Canada, over 72,500 fewer than the United States, and even 2,327 fewer than Japan. Those figures make Shin’s ascension to the NWHL all the more fascinating.
In her first season of pro hockey, Shin posted an .898 save percentage and 3.20 goals against average, both cemented as the fourth-best totals in the league. Furthermore, Shin was named NWHL Player of the Week on Dec. 22 after earning her first shutout for her first win.