Rivalry Series rosters announced — PWHPA updates — PHF season approaches

The IX: Hockey Friday with Eleni Demestihas, Oct. 28, 2022

Happy Friday! It’s a slightly lighter week this week since there was no Dream Gap Tour stop last weekend and the regular PHF season has not yet begun. I’ll recap some end-of-offseason PHF news, share some PWHPA updates, and review the Rivalry Series rosters that dropped this week.

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There’s been some roster movement as the PHF offseason draws to a close, which isn’t totally surprising. There are a few teams still hovering right under the minimum roster requirements, but there is no reason to think that their rosters will remain lacking on opening night. 

The Metropolitan Riveters, on paper, only have 18 of 20 players signed. However, associate head coach Ivo Mocek suggested to me on Twitter that the Riveters have signed a 19th player who has not yet been announced. I know that they’ll have their 20th by opening night, and I’m expecting both of those players to be forwards. During their exhibition games against the Buffalo Beauts, the Riveters had defender Taylor Marchin playing right wing, which is not something you want to be doing during the regular season — and my sense is that they won’t need to.

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I’ve previously mentioned the Boston Pride, which has lost both Becca Gilmore (undisclosed) and Lauren Kelly (injury). I previously reported that Mary Parker had been seen on the ice with the Pride during exhibition games, but she was never announced, and the newest information I have is that she was not signed and will not be joining the team. Jillian Dempsey, the longtime Pride captain, has also been playing and will definitely be announced at some point. I’m not sure why she hasn’t been announced, but she has definitely been signed. The Pride played the Montreal Force last weekend in Vermont and won 3-1 off of two Loren Gabel goals and a Kaleigh Fratkin rocket.

The Connecticut Whale also beat Buffalo last weekend, meaning that Buffalo has gone winless through their preseason. The Minnesota Whitecaps are also without a win but have only played one preseason game, falling to the University of Minnesota. 

Canada and the U.S. released their Rivalry Series rosters this week for the first slew of games between the countries this fall. 

Both rosters are pretty standard, with a few notable callouts. A handful of players will make their debuts for Team USA during this series, including Riley Brengman (D, Ohio State); Becca Gilmore (F, Harvard alum); Kelsey King (F, Minnesota State); Maureen Murphy (F, Northeastern); Gabby Rosenthal (F, Ohio State); and Haley Winn (D, Clarkson).

Wisconsin’s Jesse Compher, Minnesota’s Grace Zumwinkle, BC’s Hannah Bilka and Minnesota’s Taylor Heise are all missing from this roster after Worlds. Wisconsin and Minnesota play each other during the Rivalry Series, and there are no single regular-season games as important to players and fans as the Border Battle, so it wouldn’t surprise me if players from both teams were skipped over for this relatively low-stakes series. While you might be willing to miss big college games for a World Championship, and you certainly would for the Olympics, there’s no reason to miss the Border Battle for the Rivalry Series, especially if you can take the opportunity to see some other young players.

My pick to watch is Maureen Murphy, who is long overdue to make her debut and is genuinely ridiculous.

Team Canada’s most notable snub in my eyes is Victoria Bach. That being said, it’s almost impossible to pick someone that you would replace with her on this roster. She doesn’t play anywhere near the same role as Laura Stacey or Jamie Lee Rattray, and it’s clear that Team Canada is trending younger — younger, even, than Bach, who is only 26. There are two players on this roster who play in the PHF, which is huge for the league, the players and the national team: Loren Gabel, who has looked incredible with Boston during preseason, and Élizabeth Giguère, who has also looked great, often on Gabel’s line. Both of their careers to this point are deeply impressive, and they absolutely should be on this roster, no matter where they play professionally. I’m glad to see that Team Canada appears to agree.

Sarah Fillier is not on Canada’s roster, but I would bet that has to do with her school commitment. Princeton, as an Ivy League school, begins its season late. They need her and aren’t likely to want to let her go for the Rivalry Series when she proved at Worlds that she should be on every roster moving forward, barring something drastic.

Looking at the rosters, I would give Canada the edge in this series. It’s been a while since Team USA has beaten them, and I know they’ll be hungry to do so, but Canada’s roster is extremely balanced, and many of these players have demonstrated chemistry with each other. The drawback of the U.S. calling in a lot of new players at once is that those players will need to develop that chemistry, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Canada catches them flat-footed in the process.

The Athletic‘s Hailey Salvian wrote a piece on the state of the PWHPA this week, which you can read here.

While I found it interesting, I’m not sure I saw anything in it that surprised me. We’re told once again that the PWHPA is aiming to start formal league play next fall and play between 20 and 24 games in a season. The main concern is that they’ve been saying this for, essentially, years — that they’re aiming to start play next year in the spring or next year in the fall — and it has yet to materialize in a way that feels imminent. It’s one thing to be told repeatedly that something is imminent, but I don’t think the PWHPA has demonstrated publicly that a league is truly on the horizon.

I’m not saying that it isn’t. I don’t know, because the PWHPA has been pretty opaque about the details to most of the media. I believe that it believes it, and I want to believe it, too. I know that we’ve heard there are investors and a plan, but without details, it’s difficult to believe when the same thing has been reported for a few years in a row.

I hope that this time, the PWHPA is ready and that this time next year, two professional leagues will be taking the ice in North America, because that would truly be the best outcome for the sport and the players. Two leagues will only breed innovation. It’s time to stop pretending there’s no competition and instead embrace the competition. Where one league lacks in effective social media and communications, the other can pressure it. Where one league falls short of providing players with the salary or experience they want, the other can pressure it. And on top of it, dozens more players will be able to take the ice in front of fans, which is what we all want.

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Written by Eleni Demestihas