Why mess with a good thing? Simply put, you don’t. The Boston Pride are doing a very fine job of bringing their defenders from 2018-19 back into the fold for the season ahead.
Word was released on the morning of Jun. 24 that “The Pack” had re-signed blueliner Lauren Kelly. The signing itself is Boston’s 11th of the 2019 offseason, and their fourth defender coming back from last season.
“The Pride are really happy to have Lauren Kelly back,” said Boston head coach Paul Mara in the press release for the signing. “She’s very solid on D and has a huge shot. With her work habits, she’s going to take another big step forward in her pro career.”
Kelly is one of six Pride defenders to have played in at least 14 regular season games in 2018-19. She and the rest of the team’s defense corps limited their NWHL opposition to 36 goals against – third best among the five teams – while also helping Boston to generate a league-leading 60 goals for.
Kelly Is Dependable in Her Own End
Kelly was one of a bunch of newcomers that joined the NWHL last season. Dependable in her own end, she did not receive the notoriety that some of the flashier first-year players garnered.
Make no mistake though – if you are not noticing Lauren Kelly on the ice, it is because she is doing her job. And it is an important job at that.
Kelly’s plus-5 for plus/minus was the second-best for all Pride defenders behind Mallory Souliotis’ plus-9. In fact, of the eight defenders to appear in Boston’s lineup last season, she was one of five to end on the positive side of that scale.
Offensively speaking, Kelly finished the campaign scoring a goal and two assists in 15 games. While those are not eye-popping numbers, they do not mean that she didn’t possess a habit for shooting the puck. Kelly fired on net 22 times. In fact, her best performance on the attack came during the Pride’s Oct. 13, 2018 5-1 win over the Metropolitan Riveters. Kelly had five shots on goal and earned both of her assists during the game.
Just because she did not do a ton of scoring in her first professional season does not mean that 2019-20 will not be a breakout season for Kelly. Keep in mind that she scored 25 goals and 39 assists in 140 games as a Northeastern Huskies defender. Her finest season was her senior year in 2017-18 when she generated career highs in goals (12) and points (21) in just 33 contests.
Pride fans can expect that Kelly’s numbers will go up in the season ahead.
“I’m looking forward to building on what I learned as a player and as a teammate last year and applying it to this season,” Kelly said about her re-signing. “I’m super excited about the players who have already signed with the team. I know it’s going to be a great group of girls working together to bring the Isobel Cup back to Boston.”
She can say that again.
The Pride’s Pieces Are Coming Together
At the time of the Kelly announcement, the Boston Pride have made the most amount of signings of the five NWHL teams. Eight of their 11 signings are returnees, while three rookies have been sprinkled within.
One of the rookies on the team is former University of New Hampshire defender Jenna Rheault. With a season under her belt, Kelly is a veteran capable of showing a player like Rheault the NWHL ropes.
“Last year I grew as a person and a player,” Kelly went on to say. “I hope to take the knowledge I gained from the coaching staff and improve more and more.”
That is exactly what a coach like Mara would want to hear. A former blueliner himself, Mara played 14 seasons of professional hockey. Imparting tutelage from one defender to another is as much a part of the game as taping up a stick. Kelly is yet another asset in the Pride’s wheelhouse in that regard. “The Pack” feeds off of each other, and it shows whenever anything good happens on the ice.
There is another important factor to consider here as well: Boston’s goaltending.
The Pride have yet to make a goaltender signing for 2019-20. Only two teams – the Buffalo Beauts and the Minnesota Whitecaps – have signed netminder thus far. But for a free agent goaltender who might be pondering where she wants to play, seeing a mostly established Boston blue line is a very lucrative option. What goalie wouldn’t want to have Kelly, Rheault, Souliotis and the other rearguards playing in front of her?
Here is a look at how the Pride’s roster is currently shaping out as of Jun. 24:
Defense: Kaleigh Fratkin, Jenna Rheault, Lexi Bender, Mallory Souliotis, Lauren Kelly.
Forward: Tori Sullivan, Christina Putigna, Lexie Laing, Mary Parker, Jillian Dempsey, McKenna Brand.
Beginning May 15, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2018-19 roster and their draft picks. Additionally, for those players who have completed their college eligibility and want to continue their hockey careers, NWHL Free Agency provides the best opportunity to continue playing at the highest level of professional women’s hockey. The fifth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Minnesota Whitecaps look to defend their Isobel Cup championship.
My colleague Dan Rice will keep THW readers up-to-date on Metropolitan and Connecticut’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Buffalo and Boston. Together we will be keeping readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.