National Women’s Hockey League Announces Nominees For Awards

With the NWHL’s sixth season in the rearview mirror, the league turned their attention on Thursday to its player nominees up for five awards this season. Season six was certainly a unique one, given that all teams only faced each other once and held their semis and final over a month later in a different city.

Starting in Lake Placid, New York, the league held its regular season action until COVID-19 forced the league to suspend gameplay. From there, players were sent home to recover, and 53 days later, four of the six teams arrived in Brighton, Massachusetts.

There, the strongest players competed at Warrior Ice Arena in the Isobel Cup Playoffs. That saw Toronto take on the Pride, meanwhile, the Whitecaps squared off against the Whale. Setting up the championship title match, the Pride played host to the Whitecaps, and it didn’t let down, as they raised the coveted cup.

Many star players competed this season, meanwhile, a lot of new faces made their names known. This includes Lindsay Eastwood, Carly Jackson and Saroya Tinker. Tinker, however, differs from the rest, as she ignited an impact both on and off the ice. While her journey didn’t last longer, it was her voice that stood out atop the rest throughout her rookie season.

Now that we’ve reviewed the winding road en route to awards season, let’s go through each finalist and what they brought to the table in 2020-21. The winners were determined by a selection committee made up of media members and broadcasters from all six markets, plus national contributors. Winners will be announced on a special edition of “NWHL Open Ice” with Katie Gaus. This takes place on Twitch.tv on April 28th at 7:00pmET. As the league states in the release, additional honours, including the NWHL Foundation Awards, Fans’ Three Stars of the Season, and an assortment of player selected recognitions, will also be announced throughout the show on Wednesday evening. Without any further introduction, your NWHL finalists for this year’s shortened campaign.

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MVP Candidates

Jillian Dempsey

As the captain of the Boston Pride, Jillian Dempsey led her fourth place team from Lake Placid to Brighton to the Isobel Cup. It wasn’t an easy road, especially with the pandemic guidelines enforced by the league, but with a sprinkle of leadership, motivation and perseverance, no task was deemed too big for the reigning league champions. Taking time off as a teacher, Dempsey made the season well worth it, as she recorded three goals along with three assists. Playing seven regular season contests, the forward, who hails from Winthrop, racked up eight points with a Plus/Minus of +8. During the playoffs, she added a goal and an assist, a mighty contribution to a 4-3 victory.

Kaleigh Fratkin

Playing alongside Jillian Dempsey, Fratkin went chasing the one thing she had yet to accomplish playing women’s pro hockey: the Isobel Cup. Thanks to an excellent pairing and a team well guided by head coach Paul Mara, Fratkin won her first league championship since joining the league back in 2015. While she started out playing in Connecticut, Fratkin made her way out to Boston, where she’s played four seasons, named for two as an alternate captain. With one of those being the shortened season, Fratkin surely didn’t let down, as she racked up nine assists and tallied nine points through seven games played during the regular season. In the playoffs, Fratkin played in the final, and for her guidance this season, was handed the cup from from the hockey club’s captain.

Mikyla Grant-Mentis

In a season that presented so many unknowns, Mikyla Grant-Mentis didn’t let challenges stop her, as she made the move over the Toronto Six. Signing with the inaugural franchise, the native of Brampton was one of 18 players who took part in the season, hosted outside of Canada. Despite this, due to COVID-19 complexities, the forward weathered the elements head on, as she went on a tear while representing her home city. Formerly a prolific scorer at Merrimack College, “Bucky”, as she was known among her teammates, was a force to be reckoned with, as previously projected. Through six regular season appearances, Grant-Mentis racked up nine points, having scored five goals along with four assists. In the playoffs, she added one more of each, but Toronto came up just short of the league title in their debut season.

Christina Putigna

As she hit the ice with Jillian Dempsey and Kaleigh Fratkin, Christina Putigna had very little to worry about. Surrounded by sensational talents, the native of Toronto was all but set to follow suit. Entering her second season of pro, the stars were aligned for Putigna to break out. However, those numbers, of course, were limited due to COVID-19, which saw the format re-aligned. Skating in seven regular season games, the 23-year-old recorded eight points, racking up two goals along with six assists. In the final, she added two more assists during a back-and-forth contest against the Minnesota Whitecaps.

Mary Schwalm/The Associated Press

Defender of the Year Candidates

Shannon Doyle

Through her career in professional women’s hockey, Shannon’s Doyle’s left her mark in all facets of the game. Whether it be on or off the ice, the veteran defender has been a leader with the Connecticut Whale. Playing with the club from the get-go, Doyle has transformed what it means to be a player on the Whale since the league was instated. Coming straight from Boston University, Doyle was no stranger to ice time, as she collected lots of it through her first pro season. It was her career high in the league with 36, merely following it up with 24 in 2019-20. Looking ahead to 2020-21, the Sutton, Ontario native only skated in two games, racking up two assists. While her offence may not have dominated, her leadership did and will always be remembered. In 2017, she was named as an alternate, a position that stuck through 2018-19. When Colton Orr was brought on as bench boss, she was promoted to captain before passing on the torch this year. On behalf of ThePuckAuthority.com, congratulations, Shannon on a fantastic career.

Lindsay Eastwood

As her entrance to professional women’s hockey, this was far from the picture Lindsay could have ever envisioned. None the less, as she made the move to Toronto, the young defender embraced it, as she signed her first contract. Moving to the city in August, Lindsay got the full fledged experience of an inaugural franchise from small players to building chemistry where previously was none. With each skate, as the roster kept growing, so did Lindsay’s mastery, raw talent and personality. Entering Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, she did so alongside Megan Quinn, a close friend and former coach from the Syracuse Orange. Being named there as an All-Star defender, Eastwood was no stranger to the spotlight and took the bull by the horns in Toronto’s first game in franchise history. Once she got the first out of the way, Eastwood tacked on five assists, as she amassed six points through six regular season games. 

Kaleigh Fratkin

Playing alongside Jillian Dempsey, Fratkin went chasing the one thing she had yet to accomplish playing women’s pro hockey: the Isobel Cup. Thanks to an excellent pairing and a team well guided by head coach Paul Mara, Fratkin won her first league championship since joining the league back in 2015. While she started out playing in Connecticut, Fratkin made her way out to Boston, where she’s played four seasons, named for two as an alternate captain. With one of those being the shortened season, Fratkin surely didn’t let down, as she racked up nine assists and tallied nine points through seven games played during the regular season. In the playoffs, Fratkin played in the final, and for her guidance this season, was handed the cup from from the hockey club’s captain.

Mallory Souliotis

From the lab to the ice in Lake Placid, it was quite the adventure for Mallory Souliotis. She competed with her fourth-place team, including stars like Jillian Dempsey, Kaleigh Fratkin and Christina Putigna. While it certainly wasn’t a pretty beginning, the light started to gleam brighter come the Isobel Cup Playoffs. However, helping to squeeze her team into the last spot, Souliotis scored three goals in seven games, while also adding one goal in familiar territory at Warrior Ice Arena. She did so in the Isobel Cup semifinal, in which the Pride trumped the inaugural Toronto Six. While winning the regular season in 2019-20, she completed the journey with her first Isobel Cup. She did so as the hometown Pride took down the Minnesota Whitecaps by a 4-3 final.

Mary Schwalm/The Associated Press

Goaltender of the Year Candidates

Elaine Chuli

When Elaine Chuli first signed with the Toronto Six, she was a student of the game and of Digit Murphy’s three pillars. Those being inclusion, education and empowerment, the veteran backstop was no stranger to Murphy’s method of coaching. Having played in the CWHL, Chuli, in 2017-18, played overseas with the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. Doing so under Murphy’s guidance, the native of Waterford, Ontario put together a save percentage of .913. While there, she was backed by the likes of Emma Greco and Six captain, Shiann Darkangelo. It was her first season of pro women’s hockey before the Huskies alumna returned to Canada with the Toronto Furies. Starting in 15 games, Chuli reunited with Darkangelo, while also playing with defender Emma Greco. When the league folded in 2018-19, the three stuck together with the PWHPA. From there, when they learned Toronto was getting a new team, all three jumped at the chance to keep playing while making history. For Chuli, she came by that easily, being heavily relied upon as the starting goaltender. With a nearly perfect record, Chuli amassed a GAA of 1.61 and a .936 save percentage. Having put up four wins and one loss, Chuli got the nod in the semifinals, but couldn’t get the job done, as the Six fell to Boston.

Carly Jackson

Signing from the University of Maine, backstop Carly Jackson didn’t know what she was in for. Come January they learnt of their faith; a shortened regular season in Lake Placid, New York. While that was a first for the Canadian, so was pro women’s hockey after five collegiate seasons. For Jackson, she quickly took to the starting role, taking over in net for a mentor in Kelsey Neumann. While Neumann was still there to guide her, it was up to Jackson to help the Beauts to the postseason. While she wowed with her mobility between the pipes, she just couldn’t get the job done, only earning one victory. Through six regular season appearances, the backstop amassed a GAA of 3.59 with a .909 save percentage. The one win she earned at Herb Brooks Arena was against the Boston Pride in a 2-1 victory.

Amanda Leveille

Having led her team oh so close to the championship, Amanda Leveille continued her strong performance in 2021. Just one game short of claiming the title, Leveille hit the ice in January while seeking redemption at the Miracle of Dreams site. Looking to continue her greatness, the native of Kingston, Ontario gave it all that she had every game that she played. Starting in four regular season games, Leveille didn’t miss a beat, as she was victorious in three, with only one loss to her name. Standing on her head, which she’s used to, the backstop amassed a GAA of 2.47 with a .936 save percentage. Leading her team to second place, she started 53 days later in the Isobel Cup Final, but fell just short to the Pride. While dropping the championship game 4-3, Leveille, a two-time Isobel Cup champion, made 26 saves at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston.

Lovisa Selander

Coming off of a regular season title, Lovisa Selander entered 2021 with high hopes on her mind of competing for the championship. Of course, a full circle from the previous season, that’s exactly what she got thanks to the skill of her stellar teammates. On a team full from top to bottom of offensive prowess, speed, skill and mobility, it was the perfect combination for success, as the Boston Pride came back from fourth to league champions. Starting in Lake Placid, New York, Selander, a native of Sweden, got the nod from Paul Mara in seven regular season games. Looking to match her stats from season five, Selander achieved this with ease, however, faced several roadblocks with a 2-3-0 record. Despite that, she collected a GAA of 1.47 with a .947 save percentage. It was enough for a second shot at the cup, in which she didn’t let down, securing the title on home ice. She was backed by a lethal offence that scored early and often in a 4-3 victory.

Mary Schwalm/The Associated Press

Newcomer of the Year Candidates

Sammy Davis

When Sammy Davis joined the NWHL, she was traded from the Six to the Boston Pride as a draft pick. Projected to be taken first overall, Davis, a Pembroke, MA native, was a highly valued asset with the team from the get-go. Expected to be a significant fixture, the 24-year-old forward lived up to expectations in her first go at the pro ranks. Playing in seven regular season games, the Boston University alumna amassed five points on four goals and one assist. Being a shortened season, it was only a small sample size of the damage she can do when provided the ice time. While adding to that a Plus/Minus of +2, Davis also skated in one playoff game, where she tacked on one goal en route to the Isobel Cup Championship. She did so against the Toronto Six in the semifinal battle at Warrior Ice Arena. Helping clinch their spot in the final, Davis won her first Isobel Cup, as the Pride downed the Whitecaps on home ice, 4-3.

Mikyla Grant-Mentis

In a season that presented so many unknowns, Mikyla Grant-Mentis didn’t let challenges stop her, as she made the move over the Toronto Six. Signing with the inaugural franchise, the native of Brampton was one of 18 players who took part in the season, hosted outside of Canada. Despite this, due to COVID-19 complexities, the forward weathered the elements head on, as she went on a tear while representing her home city. Formerly a prolific scorer at Merrimack College, “Bucky”, as she was known among her teammates, was a force to be reckoned with, as previously projected. Through six regular season appearances, Grant-Mentis racked up nine points, having scored five goals along with four assists. In the playoffs, she added one more of each, but Toronto came up just short of the league title in their debut season.

Carly Jackson

Signing from the University of Maine, backstop Carly Jackson didn’t know what she was in for. Come January they learnt of their faith; a shortened regular season in Lake Placid, New York. While that was a first for the Canadian, so was pro women’s hockey after five collegiate seasons. For Jackson, she quickly took to the starting role, taking over in net for a mentor in Kelsey Neumann. While Neumann was still there to guide her, it was up to Jackson to help the Beauts to the postseason. While she wowed with her mobility between the pipes, she just couldn’t get the job done, only earning one victory. Through six regular season appearances, the backstop amassed a GAA of 3.59 with a .909 save percentage. The one win she earned at Herb Brooks Arena was against the Boston Pride in a 2-1 victory.

Haley Mack

When Haley Mack signed with the Minnesota Whitecaps, she was one of three new faces on the team’s active roster. Joining from the Bemidji State Beavers, she was part of a youth movement to get stronger and faster. That came after being selected 23rd overall in the NWHL Draft. Signing a contract shortly after for season six, the fourth-rounder hit the scene in Lake Placid, where she helped guide the team to a second-place finish. Helping sure up the forward core in the process, Mack took the ice in four games, racking up three points on two goals and one assist. Playing against the Whale in the semifinals, Mack tacked on one more goal to help the Whitecaps advance to the Isobel Cup Final. Despite a full team effort in Boston, Minnesota fell a short in a 4-3 loss to the Pride.

Mary Schwalm/The Associated Press

Denna Laing Award Candidates

Jillian Dempsey

As the captain of the Boston Pride, Jillian Dempsey led her fourth place team from Lake Placid to Brighton to the Isobel Cup. It wasn’t an easy road, especially with the pandemic guidelines enforced by the league, but with a sprinkle of leadership, motivation and perseverance, no task was deemed too big for the reigning league champions. Taking time off as a teacher, Dempsey made the season well worth it, as she recorded three goals along with three assists. Playing seven regular season contests, the forward, who hails from Winthrop, racked up eight points with a Plus/Minus of +8. During the playoffs, she added a goal and an assist, a mighty contribution to a 4-3 victory.

Shannon Doyle

Through her career in professional women’s hockey, Shannon’s Doyle’s left her mark in all facets of the game. Whether it be on or off the ice, the veteran defender has been a leader with the Connecticut Whale. Playing with the club from the get-go, Doyle has transformed what it means to be a player on the Whale since the league was instated. Coming straight from Boston University, Doyle was no stranger to ice time, as she collected lots of it through her first pro season. It was her career high in the league with 36, merely following it up with 24 in 2019-20. Looking ahead to 2020-21, the Sutton, Ontario native only skated in two games, racking up two assists. While her offence may not have dominated, her leadership did and will always be remembered. In 2017, she was named as an alternate, a position that stuck through 2018-19. When Colton Orr was brought on as bench boss, she was promoted to captain before passing on the torch this year. On behalf of ThePuckAuthority.com, congratulations, Shannon on a fantastic career.

Brooke Stacey

When GM Nate Oliver first reached out before the season, Brooke Stacey said no after having her first child. Learning to be a mother while getting back into shape, the native of Kahnawake, Quebec kept in touch with the Beauts, as the forward resumed training. Before long, with the itch to compete, the next thing she knew, she signed her contract for season six. Given the US/Canada boarder closure, Buffalo held two separate workouts, one that took place in Amherst and the other in St. Catherines. While it wasn’t the most ideal of circumstances, the Beauts made it work cleared to start skating together. At that point, the former U18 gold medalist was prepared to take part in the league’s shortened season. Playing in six regular season contests, Stacey had some struggles offensively, only adding one helper while racking up a single point. Unable to find a rhythm in her second season, the Beauts went on to finish in fifth place, just a matter of inches from securing the last playoff spot.

Saroya Tinker

When Saroya Tinker was first drafted last spring, the Metropolitan Riveters knew they had something special in her. Little did they know the vast impact she’d make both on and off the ice. In a time of racial injustice and a fight for equality in the United States, Tinker, from Oshawa, stepped up to use the platform she’s built to both educate and advocate. With a focus on the Black Lives Matter campaign, Tinker led the charge in the bubble, as she took a knee before each game in Lake Placid. While her stay was short-lived on account of COVID-19, important issues were addressed within the league with her help. From having meaningful discussions with the NWHLPA to getting involved with the Black Girl Hockey Club, these actions didn’t go unnoticed by the league or her teammates in an effort to create change. Meanwhile, on the ice throughout her rookie season, the defender only skated in three games before her team opted out due to positive case concerns. During those games she took part in, Tinker only added one helper, racking up one point before a difficult ending. Chosen in the draft’s first round, the Yale Bulldog alumna was picked at fourth overall. At only 23-years-old, the one-time silver medalist is on the fast track to greatness.

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