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NWHL Goaltending Set for Inaugural Season

NWHL Goaltending Set for Inaugural Season

The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) completed its initial foray into the free agency process this past week. Although we are still awaiting the official announcements of the final players signed, the goaltending situation appears to be complete.

Each team has a roster limit of 18 players and will have three goaltenders on the roster. “Signing three goaltenders to each NWHL team provides the team with stability in case of an injury, and allows the coaching staff to run complete practices and have options when they want them,” Commissioner Dani Rylan said in a statement to NWHL.co.

It’s unclear how this will work as the season goes on. While it might be helpful to have a third goaltender for practices and in case of injuries, each team is also allowed to have a set of non-roster players who will be available for practices and in case of injuries to roster players. It’s not known why this does not apply to goaltending.

Whether teams dress three goalies for each game or not, this choice results in an essentially dead roster spot on an already short bench. And in the end, some of these players simply will not play very much.

In some cases, one goaltender would appear to have a leg up on a starter’s position. In others the competition seems to be more open. In the following table, italics indicate the player or players deemed most likely to be the team’s starter.

Boston Pride
Brittany Ott (Univ. of Maine 2009-2013/CWHL Boston Blades 2013-2015)
• Kelsie Fralick (Connecticut College 2011-215)
• Lauren Slebodnick (Cornell University 2010-2014)

Buffalo Beauts
Amanda Makela (Mercyhurst College, 2011-2015)
• Brianne McLaughlin (Robert Morris University 2005-2009/US National Team)

• Kimberly Sass (Colgate Universtiy 2008-2012)

Connecticut Whale
Chelsea Laden (Quinnipiac University 2011-2015)
• Nicole Stock (Brown University, 2005-2009)
• Jaimie Leonoff (Yale University 2011-2015)

New York Riveters

Nana Fujimoto (Japanese National Team)
• Shenae Lundberg (Union College 2011-2015)
• Jenny Scrivens (Cornell University 2006-2009)

There is little professional experience on any of the NWHL rosters as they look now. Among the goaltenders only Brittany Ott has any pro games to her credit. Last season with the CWHL Boston Blades, she played 11 games with a .905 save percentage. (Sadly, Ott will not be bringing back her famous blue pads.)

According to the NWHL, there are eleven players who have agreed to play for the NWHL but who are waiting for releases from other contracts. These would obviously be professional contracts either with the CWHL or a European league. Watch This Hockey has reported that Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Gigi Marvin, Kacey Bellamy, and Meghan Duggan will all be moving to the NWHL, but this has not yet been confirmed by either league.

It is doubtful that any of the remaining spots will go to goaltenders, as all teams have their three spots filled.

It is worth noting that most goalies with professional experience did not sign with the new league. Surely the difficulty of uprooting established lines and support systems played a role in this. Even with the money earned from the league, these women will need a way to support themselves, and work, school, and family considerations matter.

At the same time, most American and Canadian Olympians remained either in the CWHL or continued. their training outside the ranks of pro hockey. Nor have Olympians from other nations, such as Noora Räty, signed on. Only McLaughlin and Fujimoto have Olympic experience.

With some important exceptions, then, the new league is largely a league of recent NCAA graduates and older players who have been away from competitive hockey for a time. Of the twelve goaltenders signed, five played in the NCAA in 2014-15 and two more (including Ott) are very recent graduates. All but Fujimoto have at least three years NCAA experience.

About The Author

Clare Austin

Clare Austin is a reluctant "stats nerd" living in Nashville, where she has never worn a cowboy hat or boots.