Just one offseason after winning the Clarkson Cup, the Boston Blades have gone from reigning champions to underdogs. The NWHL's inaugural season featured an exodus of players to the CWHL, which contributed to the Blades losing 16 players.
That list includes former Boston leading scorers Brianna Decker, Hillary Knight, and Jillian Dempsey. Boston also lost Monique Lamoureux, Jordan Smelker and Meghan Duggan. And the Blades changed their front office, leaving Boston with just four returning players -- Megan Myers, Dru Burns, Genevieve Lacasse and Tara Watchorn. They brought in General Manager Krista Patronick and Coach Brian McCloskey to replace Aronda Kirby and Digit Murphy.
Boston was able to draft players like Rachel Farrel, Erin Kickham, Brittany Lyons and Meghan Shea -- local women from the New England area.
"We put together a team that I just think is going to be great," Patronick said. "I think they’re going to compete in this league and they’re going to surprise people."
The new roster consists of many players with Division I experience, including several Hockey East alumni.
"Our offense definitely [has] a lot of experience on it in terms of Divison I girls," Patronick said. "I’m still pretty confident going into the season."
Defender Watchorn is the team's leading returning scorer. The Team Canada member will be expected to lead the young and thin team at the blue line. Boston's last line of defense is Lacasse, who's also a part of Team Canada.
The roster was finalized with 18 forwards, five defenders, and two goaltenders. Because of the imbalance, Patronick said some defensive forwards will need to switch to the blue line.
"Luckily we definitely have a couple of versatile forwards who I think will do really well at D," Patronick said.
So far, Patronick said forward Ellie Tremblay will make the change.
"She’s played defense for [almost] her whole life and then probably the last five to six years she was playing forward," Patronick said. "So when Coach approached her about going back to D she was like, 'That’s fine, it’s going to be like riding a bicycle. I’ll get back on the blueline.'"
Patronick pegged the team's identity as fast.
"We have a lot of new girls and obviously it’s a roster that’s heavily based on offense," Patronick said. "It’s going to be a fast team, but once we’ve put the work in and with them practicing, I think we’ll see a lot of production out of this team.”
Of all the new players, Patronick said she was most excited for Kristina Brown, a Boston College alumna who was drafted by the Blades. After graduating from Boston College, Brown played in Europe.
"I’m really excited to see what she’s going to do in terms of production, because if you look at her stats in Europe they weren’t too big. But in this league I’m really excited to see how she does," Patronick said.
"She had a lot of professional experience that she’s bringing to the team...she’s been able to come in here and be a leader for these girls, so it’s been great to see."
Aside from Brown, Patronick is looking forward to what Nicole Giannino and the St. Germain sisters, Sadie and Clara, will contribute.
"Any time you have such a new roster, you know they're going to have to bond on and off the ice and that’s going to take time. That might not happen the first weekend of league play, it might not happen the first two weekends," Patronick said.
"We’re being pegged as the underdogs and that’s okay with us. I think we’re going to surprise people.”
Here's the full Blades roster:
F Grace Murphy
F Nicole Giannino
F Sadie St. Germain
F Erin Kickham
F Rachel Farrel
F Nicole Flores
F Desiree Casian
F Brittany Lyons
F Ellie Tremblay
F Megan Myers
F Kate Gray
F Kelly Paton
F Ashley Cottrell
F Olivia Keefe
F Maddie Burton
F Megan Shea
F Kristina Brown
F Maggie Gore
D Dru Burns
D Clara St. Germain
D Sarah Duncan
D Maggie DiMasi
D Tara Wachorn
G Amanda Cariddi
G Genevieve Lacasse
Photo credit: Boston Blades/Twitter