The first weekend of the Premier Hockey Federation already taught us a lot of things. First and foremost, the defending Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride are back. Second, Connecticut is not to be overlooked this season — again.
Every team but Toronto and Buffalo have already had two games. A lot of firsts have gotten out of the way, plenty of debuts and already some revenge-game action.
Some thoughts on each team:
Boston 2-0 (swept Minnesota)
- The three-goalie system is going to be interesting. Coach Paul Mara has committed to Lovisa Selander as the starter, which probably is the right call. Katie Burt shut out the Whitecaps in her return to the Pride after a few years in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association. Victoria Hanson, who has been the Pride backup for two seasons, hasn’t played. Splitting the duties will be a challenge, but it’s a good one to have with three of the game’s best.
- Evelina Raselli becoming the first Swiss player in the NWHL/PHF was really cool to see. The Pride are already stacked, but it looks like she’ll be a solid addition.
- It was nice the Pride opened against Minnesota to raise their Isobel Cup banner. Former Pride players now with the Whitecaps, Lexie Laing and Taylor Turnquist, were able to be a part of it. Also nice to see former Pride GM Karilyn Pilch, now a Blackhawks scout, got to be involved.
Buffalo 0-1 (loss to Toronto)
- When the Beauts struggled at times in Lake Placid, New York, a lot could be pointed back to the absence of Taylor Accursi. She’s back, but the Beauts showed scoring prowess across the lineup, which is a positive sign. Cassidy Vinkle is a rookie for PHF purposes, but she has played a lot of hockey, and the PHF pace seemed to suit her.
- Speaking of Accursi, she made some history this week. In her first game since the end of 2019-20, she scored to add the 43rd point of her career in 53 games. That gave her the all-time lead in franchise history, previously shared by Kourtney Kunichika and Corinne Buie.
- Speaking of Buie, the former Beauts forward signed with Minnesota last season but didn’t play. She moved to Boston in the offseason and was at one of the Pride games vs. the Whitecaps last week, but she’s not going to sign with the Pride. We’ll see if she’s back in the league where she might end up.
Connecticut 1-1 (split with Metropolitan)
- The Whale feel like they’re on a revenge tour after finishing in the basement nearly every NWHL season, and then after leaving Lake Placid early before ultimately getting a playoff spot in Boston.
- Emily Fluke was suspended for the second Whale game after she threw a punch at Riveters forward Kelly Babstock following a questionable hit. After the game Fluke said she was disappointed in herself. But if the league isn’t going to crack down on dangerous play, it’s hard to blame players for taking matters into their own hands; especially against a player such as Babstock, who has a reputation for playing with an edge.
Metropolitan 1-1 (split with Connecticut)
- The Riveters offense seems as sharp as ever. Rebecca Russo was the second star of the week for the PHF with a goal and four assists. Emily Janiga snagged the first power-play goal of the season. The Rivs offense was elite in Lake Placid, but the big question is still on the blue line; the Riveters gave up a 3-0 lead in a loss to Connecticut.
- Rose Alleva might be one of those under-the-radar pickups we point to in the offseason. Signed from a professional tryout contract, she was a standout for the Rivs over the weekend. She picked up three assists in the second game, more than her single career point in 14 games with Minnesota previously. She’s going to get an opportunity to play a lot with a Riveters club figuring out its blue line. She has worked on a pairing with Kristen Barbara, so there’s a lot of potential there.
Minnesota 0-2 (swept by Boston)
- This feels like a year Allie Thunstrom is ready to go off. The season goals record holder had a rough go of it in the Lake Placid season but started with a thunderous — get it — opening game, scoring twice in the 6-4 loss. If she gets going, the Whitecaps offense again will be up there as one of the toughest in the league.
- What a rough way for the Whitecaps to start the season. Minnesota is projected to be a Cup contender again — it has made each of the past three — but must start the year with four consecutive games against Boston, the team that thwarted it in the final last season. The first two games in Boston were rough, a 6-4 defeat and a 1-0 loss. Their next challenge? That same Pride team in Minnesota for two.
Toronto 1-0 (win over Buffalo)
- The second full season of Mikyla Grant-Mentis seems like it’ll be just as fun as the first. The league MVP from a season ago had three assists in the Six’s opening win over the Beauts, and once again looked like the most dominant player on the ice. Since the start of last season, Grant-Mentis has at least one point in every Six game ever since their second game as a franchise.
- Mark Joslin became the first Black coach in NWHL/PHF history to be behind the bench in Toronto’s opening game. Assistant coach Angela James and general manager Krysti Clarke were also the first Black representatives in their respective roles for a PHF game.