NCAA Women's Hockey: The Wisconsin Badgers on 2023 National Champions
It's difficult to call a program like Wisconsin an underdog, but after suffering the longest
A look at each PHF team's roster and staff ahead of the 2022-23 season and season predictions.
2021-22 finish: 10-5-5 regular season - 3rd overall; won Isobel Cup
Projected Roster: Olivia Zafuto, Lauren Kelly, Kali Flanagan, Élizabeth Giguère, Allie Thunstrom, Taylor House, Jenna Rheault, Kaleigh Fratkin, Jillian Dempsey, McKenna Brand, Taylor Wenczkowski, Sammy Davis, Christina Putigna, Kayla Friesen, Corinne Schroeder, Lovisa Selander, Loren Gabel, Aneta Tejralová, Meghara McManus
Head Coach: Paul Mara (4th season)
Notable Additions: Loren Gabel, Allie Thunstrom, Olivia Zafuto
Notable Departures: Amanda Boulier (11 points/20 GP last season), Katie Burt (1.41 GAA, .958 save % in 14 games)
What to Watch: By and large, the Pride have maintained their core, with a lot of returning players. They've added some offensive powerhouses in Gabel, who had 12 points in nine PWHPA games last season, and Thunstrom, who registered 21 points in 20 games last season with the Whitecaps.
One aspect of the Pride's game to watch is their power play. Surprisingly, their power play was just six percent effective last season, worst in the PHF. It's not everything, but it is a big component of the game and something they're inevitably looking to improve this year.
Season Predictions: I'd anticipate the Pride to finish in the top half of the standings, so let's say third (maybe fourth) overall.
2021-22 finish: 6-14-0 regular season - 6th overall; lost in Isobel Cup quarterfinals
Projected Roster: Samantha Fieseler, Maddie Truax, Dominique Kremer, Allison Attea, Antonia Matzka, Meg Delay, Jessica Healey, Whitney Dove, Amy Budde, Iveta Klimášová, Autumn MacDougall, Madi Nichols, Emma Nuutinen, Cassidy MacPherson, Anjelica Diffendal, Claudia Kepler, Courtney Maud, Jenna Suokko, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Michaela Boyle, Summer-Rae Dobson, Grace Klienbach, Tera Hofmann, Kassidy Sauvé, Lovisa Berndtsson
Head Coach: Rhea Coad (2nd season)
Notable Additions: Emma Nuutinen, Kassidy Sauvé, Mikyla Grant-Mentis
Notable Departures: Carly Jackson (6.00 GAA and .903 save % in 17 games), Taylor Accursi (captain, 11 points in 14 games), Cassidy Vinkle (7 points in 19 games), Marie-Jo Pelletier (retired)
What to Watch: The Beauts have retained only a few players from last season's roster, so they are by & large an unrecognizable squad heading into the new year. Their biggest addition is that of Mikyla Grant-Mentis, one of the best players in the PHF, who returns to Buffalo after a productive season with the Toronto Six.
The Beauts finished at the bottom of the league last season, and they've made a handful of roster changes to try and improve. It's a mixed bag of tricks, as they've added some great pieces but lost significant others who played big roles.
Season Predictions: While Buffalo may have gotten better, other teams did, too – and I don't see this roster as strong enough to compete against squads like Montreal and Connecticut. The Beauts will finish sixth or seventh in the league.
2021-22 finish: 15-3-2 - 1st overall; lost in Isobel Cup Final
Projected Roster: Caitrin Lonergan, Emma Keenan, Justine Reyes, Katerina Mrazova, Lenka Serdar, Meeri Räisänen, Tori Howran, Mallory Souliotis, Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Allie Munroe, Emma Vlasic, Taylor Girard, Hannah Bates, Kennedy Marchment, Janine Weber, Janka Hlinka, Melissa Samoskevich, Abbie Ives, Amanda Conway, Shannon Turner
Head Coach: Colton Orr (4th season)
Notable Additions: Emma Keenan, Mallory Souliotis, Meeri Räisänen
Notable Departures: Emily Fluke (13 points in 19 games), Catherine Crawley (six points in 20 games), Cailey Hutchison (seven points in 19 games)
What to Watch: Connecticut's strength last season was an all-around effort. Their goaltending was top-notch, but they also scored a lot, too. The Whale averaged 3.7 goals per game and had a league-best plus-30 goal differential. They've retained all their top scorers, too.
Over the past few years, the Whale have really been building themselves into a contender. They remain the only one of the Founding Four teams to not have won the Isobel Cup, but Colton Orr and his squad are continually improving and they have a lot of returning players. Could this be the year?
Season Predictions: With a strong returning core, the Whale certainly have the power to finish in the top two of the league. I'll say second overall in the regular season.
2021-22 finish: 7-12-1 - 4th overall; lost in Isobel Cup quarterfinals
Projected Roster: Anna Kilponen, Ebba Berglund, Emilie Harley, Minttu Tuominen, Sarah Forster, Taylor Marchin, Amanda Pelkey, Catherine Crawley, Fanni Garát-Gasparics, Kaycie Anderson, Kelly Babstock, Kendall Cornine, Kennedy Ganser, Leah Marino, Madison Packer, Reagan Rust, Réka Dabasi, Sarah Bujold, Eveliina Mäkinen, Rachel McQuigge
Head Coach: Venla Hovi (1st season)
Notable Additions: Emilie Harley, Fanni Garát-Gasparics, Amanda Pelkey, Reagan Rust
Notable Departures: Rebecca Russo (17 points in 20 games), Theresa Knutson (12 points in 19 games), Brooke Wolejko (3.07 GAA, .915 save % in 13 games)
What to Watch: If the aforementioned Beauts are unrecognizable from last season, I'm not sure what that makes the Riveters. With a new team president, GM and head coach, the Riveters have wiped nearly all of their roster and are starting with a clean slate. Many of their additions have never played in the PHF, too, so it'll be interesting to see how they've built chemistry through practices and exhibitions and how the international players adjust to the North American style & ice.
Season Predictions: This one's hard. The Riveters are such a wildcard this season with such a revamped roster, but I'll put them middle of the road at fourth or fifth. I could certainly see them jumping up into third.
2021-22 finish: 6-13-1 - 5th overall; lost in Isobel Cup semifinals
Projected Roster: Sidney Morin, Emma Stauber, Sydney Baldwin, Olivia Knowles, Patti Marshall, Amanda Boulier, Maddie Rowe, Jonna Albers, Brooke Madsen, Natalie Snodgrass, Ronja Mogren, Brittyn Fleming, Ashleigh Brykaliuk, Sydney Brodt, Meaghan Pezon, Stephanie Anderson, Anna Klein, Liz Schepers, Denisa Krizova, Amanda Leveille, Jenna Brenneman
Head Coach: Ronda Engelhardt (5th season)
Notable Additions: Sydney Brodt, Sidney Morin, Natalie Snodgrass
Notable Departures: Allie Thunstrom (21 points in 20 games), Audra Morrison (15 points in 20 games), Taylor Turnquist (11 points in 19 games)
What to Watch: Losing two of their top three scorers will certainly provide a challenge for the Whitecaps. Overall, a lot of of their top producers are gone, but they seem to have compiled a fine roster of new players to fill in the gaps. Snodgrass, Morin and Brodt, along with Boulier, will be critical assets. Returning the goalie tandem of Leveille and Brenneman will help round things out.
Season Predictions: I think the Whitecaps finish fifth or sixth overall.
2021-22 finish: N/A
Projected Roster: Bridgitte Laganiere, Catherine Daoust, Christine Deaudelin, Kaity Howarth, Gabrielle De Serres, Sally Hoerr, Alexandra Labelle, Alyssa Holmes, Ann-Sophie Bettez, Brooke Stacey, Catherine Dubois, Jade Downie-Landry, Kim Deschenes, Kristina Shanahan, Deziray De Sousa, Maude Gélinas, Laura Jardin, Samantha Isbell, Sarah Lefort, Marie-Soleil Deschênes, Tricia Deguire
Head Coach: Peter Smith (1st season)
What to Watch: This Montreal team is going to be fun to watch in its first season. Their roster is well-stacked with talent from all walks of life: the PWHPA, USports, overseas. One interesting player to me is Taylor Baker, who had 18 points in 17 games last season with MAC Budapest in the EWHL. The team's focus on analytics is also something we haven't seen prominently in the PHF yet; they've hired Alyssa Longmuir as a Senior Quantitative Analyst and Mikael Nahabedian as Director of Analytics.
The other thing to watch for the Force is their overall energy. They're essentially playing a barnstorming tour of Quebec. While they'll have the backing of the fans, it's a lot of travel and it's almost like they're playing the whole season on the road.
Season Predictions: Expectations and hopes are high for this Montreal team, and I'm no different. I anticipate a very strong team and wouldn't be surprised with a first-overall finish. (Note: we don't know the Isobel Cup playoff format yet, so it's hard to judge just where these teams land in that aspect.)
2021-22 finish: 16-3-1 - 2nd overall; lost in Isobel Cup semifinals
Projected Roster: Taylor Woods, Nadine Edney, Leah Lum, Kati Tabin, Lexi Templeman, Breanne Wilson-Bennett, Courtney Gardiner, Brooke Boquist, Taylor Davison, Tereza Vanisova, Emma Greco, Shiann Darkangelo, Elaine Chuli, Brittany Howard, Lindsay Eastwood, Alexis Woloschuk, Emma Woods, Carly Jackson, Saroya Tinker, Michela Cava, Dominika Laskova
Head Coach: Geraldine Heaney (1st season)
Notable Additions: Carly Jackson, Brittany Howard, Lexi Templeman
Notable Departures: Mikyla Grant-Mentis (30 points in 20 games)
What to Watch: The Six have retained much of last season's roster, but still added a lot of new pieces, too. Losing Grant-Mentis is significant, particularly when it comes to the offense – she was their leading scorer and also took a lot of face-offs. But adding Carly Jackson as a complement to Elaine Chuli instantly strengthens their goaltending. The real test will be seeing how their offense comes together in the absence of MGM and what their center depth looks like when put to the test.
Season Predictions: With how the other PHF teams have bolstered their rosters and seemingly improved over the offseason, I have the Six finishing fourth or fifth overall.
(Photo: Montreal Force/PHF)