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The IX: Hockey Friday with Eleni Demestihas, August 12, 2022
Happy Friday, everyone! This week saw some new PHF roster signings, but on many other fronts, things have been relatively quiet. This won’t last, with the World Championships beginning on August 25th.
While everyone is using the offseason to reset, the PHF’s Montreal expansion team has stayed busy. Last week I went over their first crop of signings, and this week they announced five more. As of the end of this week, Montreal has sixteen players under contract, including two goalies. Of particular note in this second group is former Buffalo Beauts forward Brooke Stacey. Stacey last competed professionally in the 2020-2021 season, when she joined the Beauts just months after giving birth to her son. In her rookie season with Buffalo, Stacey had 16 points in 14 games. At five-foot-ten, Stacey was able to use her size and speed to wreak havoc on breakaways, and I can’t imagine that it will be any different in Montreal. This isn’t the best quality video (rest in peace, NWHL Twitch era), but you can still get a good sense of how nasty Stacey’s release can be:
Montreal’s forward group already looks very strong. With only three defenders signed to the roster, it’s likely that they will focus on their blue line moving forward. However, they’re not exactly lacking in defense, particularly now that they’ve completed their tandem with Marie-Soleil Deschênes, who has spent the last few seasons with many of her future teammates in the PWHPA’s Montreal hub. Although we don’t have good statistics from her time with the PWHPA, Deschênes was an impressive U Sports goaltender, and did have some experience with the Montreal Canadiennes in the CWHL before her PWHPA seasons. My guess is that she will be the backup to Tricia Deguire, but you can’t say enough about having someone in that role who has been around for a few years and has a relationship with the other veterans on the team.
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Other notable PHF signings in the past week include the Boston Pride’s Sammy Davis, the first overall selection from the 2020 NWHL Draft. Davis has 17 points in 27 career professional games to this point, and I expect her production will increase dramatically this year if she gets significant powerplay time, or even just has a consistent set of linemates. She was shuffled around a lot last year, which is a compliment in one sense because she’s versatile enough to pull it off but, if she can build chemistry on a line, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a breakout season from her.
While the PHF, NCAA and U Sports offseasons draw to a close, international duty has just begun for Team USA and Hockey Canada.
Team USA invited 116 players to its 2022 Festival, and at the conclusion of camp it will name its senior National Team, Collegiate Selects team and U18 Selects team. Michelle Jay of The Ice Garden wrote a breakdown of those invitees and Melissa Burgess of The Victory Press has been attending sessions at the HarborCenter in Buffalo.
Being able to see Emily Matheson back on a roster would be a relief for Team USA fans, who saw their coach roll with essentially only four defenders for much of the team’s last tournament, opting to bench his youngest blueliners. We were told that Alex Cavallini, although invited, would not be attending camp, and now we know it’s because she’s expecting a baby herself. It’ll be interesting to see if she, like Matheson, eventually returns to camp rosters.
Dani Cameranesi’s retirement leaves a significant gap on the senior team roster that several younger players will likely compete to fill, including Olympian Jesse Compher. If Jesse is able to move up in the lineup, I would not be surprised to see some others challenge for the spot in the bottom-six that she will leave behind, including Katy Knoll (Northeastern University), Dominique Petrie (Harvard University) and Natalie Snodgrass (Minnesota Whitecaps).
Snodgrass is one of six players signed to the PHF who are attending the Festival. The other five include her Minnesota teammates Sydney Brodt, Anna Klein and Liz Schepers, and Boston Pride teammates Becca Gilmore and Kali Flanagan. Flanagan is the only one of the group to have played a full PHF season prior to this camp.
Meanwhile in Canada, their own summer showcase will proceed through August 14. Hockey Canada will use the showcase to select a senior team and a development team, and has invited substantially more players than attend USA Hockey’s Festival— 142 in total. I don’t expect many surprises from the senior team roster in comparison to the roster that played in the most recent Olympics, with one notable exception: Natalie Spooner is expecting a child, which will leave space in the middle-six for someone new.
My best guess is that we’ll see Loren Gabel make a comeback. She was left off the Olympic roster, which many people felt was a pretty surprising snub. I tend to agree, especially given how dominant she was in the NCAA, where she capped off her senior season at Clarkson University with a staggering 69 points in 38 games. She’s been playing with the PWHPA’s Toronto hub for the past three seasons. She seems like she’s doing pretty well in camp.
Of the summer showcase invitees, four players have inked PHF contracts, including, most notably, Mikyla Grant-Mentis. It’s hard to overstate how dominant Grant-Mentis has shown herself to be in the PHF, but that may not be enough to break onto a stacked national team. Still, the fact that her performance in the PHF has brought enough attention to her talent for her to receive a call-up is huge for her, for the league and for the sport. She’s joined by the Boston Pride’s Élizabeth Giguère and Corinne Schroeder, and Minnesota Whitecaps defender Olivia Knowles.
This week’s must-listen is Jeff Ponder’s podcast, Let’s Go Blues Radio (and not just because I’m a St. Louis Blues fan). Jeff had the opportunity to speak with Whitecaps goaltender Amanda Leveille, and it’s a great listen. Among many other things, we learn that Leveille suffered a broken collarbone last season, and was definitely not at full mobility when she returned in the playoffs.
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