Alex Carpenter, Pascal Daoust, Abby Roque, and Micah Zandee-Hart appear via Zoom on September 9, 2023.
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PWHL New York Signs Carpenter, Roque, Zandee-Hart to Three-Year Deals

The PWHL's New York team signed its first three free agents this past week, inking forwards Alex Carpenter and Abby Roque and defender Micah Zandee-Hart to three-year deals.

PWHL New York Signs Carpenter, Roque, Zandee-Hart to Three-Year Deals by Melissa Burgess

The PWHL's New York team signed its first three free agents this past week, inking forwards Alex Carpenter and Abby Roque along with defender Micah Zandee-Hart to three-year deals. Zandee-Hart is the first player to "cross the international border" as a Canadian player (and national team member) signing with an American franchise.

GM Pascal Daoust stressed the importance of building a franchise from scratch for aspirations of excellence with exceptional individuals – not just players, but extraordinary people. This focus, on the person as well as the player, was also an approach that Carpenter pointed out as especially welcoming. Daoust explained that he wanted to make sure the signings were two-way streets: that the team wanted them, but that they truly wanted to play for the team, too.

"After my first conversation with Pascal, it was pretty clear that... our values aligned in what we're looking for, the team to be known for, and what this process is going to be like," Zandee-Hart said. She also noted her friends and close ties in the area, a support system that will be helpful in the coming years despite being so far from her family.

Roque, meanwhile, said that the PWHL as a whole is "setting the standard" for what they want the women's hockey landscape to look like going forward, stressing how important that is.

"You look at the other 17 people who have signed, it's an incredible group of players who will sign these contracts; you look at who will be able to be drafted – it really is so deep," she said. "Being one of the first people, it's obviously an honor, because of how strong the player pool is with this one league. That's something that we have to take to heart & remember, that this is the first of something in itself, with all of us being in the same league. It's something really special, and I think that's something that we need to make sure we're putting our best foot forward to just continue that on."

"In the past, leagues haven't been nearly what we needed as women professional hockey players," she added. "That was the whole idea – it needed to be a level of professionalism that spoke to the talent and the drive in general."

Roque said she did a "deep dive" into the CBA when it was sent out, because her curiosity was piqued. She noted key attributes like meals at the rink, flights, and accommodations and the standards for facilities themselves. "A lot of those little things that I don't think were around before, now being put into stone that we need, that's huge for us," she said. "To be professional, you really need to be treated as if you are. Looking through all of that stuff, it was really great to see."

Carpenter, 29, played four years at Boston College from 2012-2016, where she put up an incredible 278 points (133G, 145A) in 150 games. She joined the Boston Pride the following season and continued to impress, with 29 points (9G, 20A) in 17 regular-season games and six points in just two playoff games. She would spend the next four years playing overseas, first in the CWHL and then in Russia's ZhHL, with various iterations of the Kunlun Red Star / KRS Vanke Rays. She captained the team in her final season there.

Meanwhile, she was also representing the United States on the international stage. Over the past ten years, Carpenter has won two Olympic silver medals and six World Championships gold medals. Last season – her first in North America in five years – this recorded 11 points (6G, 5A) in 20 games with the PWHPA.

"From the outside, most people think I'm a pretty intense player," she said of herself. "Over the years, I've really tried to pride myself on being a two-way player. Back in the day in college, it was very offensive, scoring goals and all that, but I think over the years, I've tried to adapt and become a solid two-way player for whatever team I'm with."

Carpenter spoke about the stability offered by a three-year contract as well. Her previous experiences at both the NWHL and CWHL offered only one-year deals.

"To be able to really build a program here and not have to worry about oh, am I getting traded somewhere else? or so many other factors," she said. "It's really special that we'll be able to focus on this program for three, hopefully more, years. It's really exciting to see how far it's come, having played in so many different leagues all over the world. I'm really excited to see what the PWHL is going to do and how successful we're going to be."

Roque spent the last two seasons with the PWHPA, following four years at the University of Wisconsin. This past season, she had 16 points (7G, 9A) in 20 games and was the top-scoring American player in the PWHPA. She registered 170 points, including 114 assists, in four years at Wisconsin, and wore an "A" in her senior year.

Like Carpenter, Roque has also represented the U.S. on the international stage. The 25-year-old is a dual citizen (US/Canada) and made history in Beijing as a member of the Wahnapitae First Nation, becoming the first person of Indigenous descent to play for the American women's hockey team. In addition to the silver Olympic medal in 2022, she has three World Championships medals and two World U18 Championships medals.

"A huge thing for me is being a solid two-way center," she said. "I love to be able to play defense before we play offense. It's always been my motto. And then just making plays out there is what I love to do. I love to pass it, a little too much. I get yelled at often by coaches to shoot. I'm kind of the gritty player, if you could say that. I get into some scuffles. It's just kind of how I like to play the game. It's fun, it should be fun and competitive."

Zandee-Hart rounds out the three signings for New York. The 26-year-old British Columbia native is used to playing far from home – she referenced her collegiate career at Cornell – and is looking forward to the challenge ahead.

She skated in 20 games with the PWHPA last season, recording 12 penalty minutes and three points. A former Cornell captain, she was a plus-51 and had 87 points in 125 NCAA games. She's represented Canada internationally for the last ten years, including captaining the U18 team to a silver medal in 2015, and has earned gold medals at both the Olympics and World Championships.

Naturally, Zandee-Hart focuses on the defense first. "Just showing up every day, trying to bring the same me every day, being consistent and reliable," she said, describing her contributions as a teammate. "It's something I think people know they're going to get from me, and just working hard and trying to help the team in whatever way I can."

The trio is the youngest, by average, of the PWHL team signings so far.

Next up for the PWHL is its inaugural draft, which is being held on September 18 at 1:00 PM in Toronto.