The Time Has Come

A New Chapter In Women’s Hockey Has Arrived With The Professional Women’s Hockey League’s Inaugural Season Underway
By: 
Nicole Haase

The inaugural season of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) is officially underway, and the first season will feature each of the PWHL’s six teams playing a 24-game regular-season schedule that will end on May 5. Playoffs will begin the following week. 

“It’s time for the best women’s hockey players in the world to lift our game to greater heights,” said Stan Kasten, PWHL Advisory Board member. 

The six teams—Boston, Minnesota, Montreal, New York, Ottawa and Toronto—will play each other at least four times. American and Canadian teams will have a fifth game against each of the other teams in their country. There will be two breaks in the season—one in February for the IIHF national team break when USA and Canada will close out the Rivalry Series and another in April for the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, New York.

Rosters have been trimmed to 23 players after training camps where coaches could test team chemistry and get a better look at players they were less familiar with. 

“We’ve all been working towards this the last 10-plus years,” said Hilary Knight, who is playing for Boston and is a four-time U.S. Olympian. “Many years we’ve been scratching the surface of what could be. Now we’re here, and it’s going to be a magical journey for everyone.”

Let’s take a look at some of the American-born players who will be lacing up their skates in the PWHL:

 

 

Home Arena:
Tsongas Center (Lowell, Mass.)

General Manager:
Danielle Marmer

Coach:
Courtney Kessel

American Players:
Hannah Brandt, Emily Brown, Sammy Davis, Shiann Darkangelo, Aerin Frankel, Taylor Girard, Megan Keller, Hilary Knight, Cami Kronish, Gigi Marvin, Sidney Morin, Amanda Pelkey, Taylor Wenczkowski

Boston started by signing the American trio of Hilary Knight, Megan Keller and Aerin Frankel to three-year contracts in the initial free agency period.

Knight, the first-ever IIHF Female Player of the Year and all time IIHF Women’s World Championship scoring leader (61 goals, 101 points), will anchor the team up front and brings not just a knack for the back of the net, but an innate sense in front of it and the ability to use her size and strength to contest every inch of the ice. She’s a leader in every sense of the word and has been at the front of the push for this league.

On defense, the team has two Boston-area college graduates in Keller (Boston College) and Frankel (Northeastern). They are fixtures on the U.S. Women’s National Team as well as icons of women’s hockey in Boston. Frankel is one of the best there is with her glove hand and uses her relatively smaller size well to be active in the crease. Keller rarely gets pushed off a puck on defense and is one of the best at starting the breakout in the other direction while bringing a massive shot from the blue line.

 

 

Home Arena:
Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, Minn.)

General Manager:
Natalie Darwitz

Coach:
Charlie Burggraf

American Players:
Lauren Bench, Abby Boreen, Sydney Brodt, Brooke Bryant, Claire Butorac, Natalie Buchbinder, Clair DeGeorge, Maggie Flaherty, Brittyn Fleming, Taylor Heise, Nicole Hensley, Dominique Kremer, Sophia Kunin,  Nikki Nightengale, Kelly Pannek, Maddie Rooney, Liz Schepers, Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Lee Stecklein, Grace Zumwinkle 

Natalie Darwitz wasted no time in establishing the tenor of the Minnesota squad by signing fellow Minnesota natives Lee Stecklein and Kelly Pannek alongside Kendall Coyne-Schofield in the initial free agency period. Darwitz fortified that home-grown feeling by drafting Taylor Heise first overall in the inaugural draft. In fact, nearly every player Minnesota took to training camp is a native or spent time playing hockey in the state—whether at Shattuck St. Mary’s, in the NCAA or with the Minnesota Whitecaps...The Minnesota team has a lot going for it, but what should scare their opponents is the idea of Heise and Grace Zumwinkle teaming back up. The two were second and third in scoring in the NCAA last season, combining for 55 goals and 72 assists in 39 games played. They are dynamic individually, but explosive together.

 


 

Home Arena:
Total Mortgage Arena (Bridgeport, Conn.) & UBS Arena (Belmont Park, N.Y.)

General Manager:
Pascal Daoust

Coach:
Howie Draper

American Players:
Alex Carpenter, Alexa Gruschow, Paetyn Levis, Abbey Levy, Savannah Norcross, Madison Packer, Abby Roque, Olivia Zafuto

New York is banking on the aggressive, game-changing offense provided by Abby Roque and Alex Carpenter.

Carpenter, the 2015 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, is quick and deft with some of the best hands in the game while weaving around defenses and finding space where no one else can. She’s smart and adaptable and able to quickly make connections with her linemates while maintaining her laser-like ability to pick her spot and put the puck in the back of the net.

Roque, the 2020 USA Hockey Bob Allen Women’s Hockey Player of the Year, is a feisty and physical forward. She claims her spot on the ice and then doesn’t often concede it. Stellar in the faceoff dot, Roque is crucial to her team being able to maintain possession and set up plays. 

 


 

Home Arena:
Verdun Auditorium (Montreal, Quebec) & Place Bell (Laval, Quebec)

General Manager:
Danièle Sauvageau

Coach:
Kori Cheverie

American Players:
Madison Bizal, Jillian Dempsey, Mariah Keopple, Maureen Murphy

Americans Maureen Murphy and Jillian Dempsey bring a touch of Boston to Montreal. Murphy is a recent graduate of Northeastern University. She finished last season seventh in the country in scoring with 20 goals and 35 assists in 33 games played and was named a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award top-10 finalist as well as Beanpot MVP. Dempsey, a Winthrop, Mass., native, graduated from Harvard and spent nine seasons playing professionally, first with the CWHL Boston Blades (where she won a Clarkson Cup) and then the NWHL/PHF Boston Pride. Dempsey won three Isobel Cups and ranked first in PHF history for regular season points (146), goals (70), assists (76), and games (142). 

 


 

Home Arena:
Mattamy Athletic Centre (Toronto, Ontario)

General Manager:
Gina Kingsbury

Coach:
Troy Ryan

American Players:
Jesse Compher, Kali Flanagan

Jesse Compher and Kali Flanagan are the only two Americans on the Toronto roster to begin the season. Flanagan was the 2022-23 Defender of the Year in the PHF in part because of her abilities across all 200-feet of the ice sheet. She’s decisive on defense and does not easily lose her mark or the puck. Flanagan has a knack for finding the open player and the vision to feed the puck to the right spot to spring them towards the net. Dempsey will shoot the puck when the look is there but is most often reading a play and anticipating she can be part of the buildup.

Compher helped Wisconsin win the 2023 NCAA national championship as a grad transfer. A stellar individual player who accelerates quickly and can outskate defenders. Compher has quick wrists and the ability to place the puck that makes her shot deadly. But more than that, at Wisconsin she showed a knack for mentoring younger players and helping them elevate their game. Compher is one of those players who brings up the caliber of play around her and her lines were often more special than the sum of their parts on their own. 

 


 

Home Arena:
The Arena at TD Place (Ottawa, Ontario)

General Manager:
Michael Hirshfeld

Coach:
Carla MacLeod

American Players:
Amanda Boulier, Becca Gilmore, Savannah Harmon, Gabbie Hughes, Jincy Roese, Hayley Scamurra, Natalie Snodgrass

Expect American women to have an immediate impact for Ottawa with Jincy Roese and Savannah Harmon bringing size and offensive depth to their blue line and Becca Gilmore and Gabbie Hughes adding their talents to the offense.

Gilmore was the 2022 Ivy League Player of the Year at Harvard and Hughes was a top-3 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award that same year. Both won gold medals with U.S. Women’s National Team at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

Harmon and Roese are each shut down defenders who read the puck well, are great at angling a forward away and add depth on offense with a strong shot from the blue line and good instincts on when to sneak in and snipe the puck. 

 

Issue: 
2024-01

Poll

Who is your favorite American player?
Auston Matthews
21%
Jason Robertson
6%
Tage Thompson
10%
Matthew Tkachuk
7%
Patrick Kane
24%
Other
33%
Total votes: 376