The Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) training camps are underway with the back-to-back champs looking for a three-peat and a new squad adding its final players to the force.
The PHF regular season kicks off on Nov. 5 with a trio of games featuring six of the league’s seven teams. New to the league this year are the Montreal Force, who have constructed an impressive roster for their inaugural campaign. Along with the rest of the league, the Force will look to dethrone the Boston Pride who are back-to-back Isobel Cup champions.
With a bigger salary cap, multi-year contracts and improved player benefits this season, the PHF attracted new players and continues to take strides toward building a sustainable professional women’s hockey league.
With puck drop rapidly approaching, here's a look at the PHF’s seven franchises.
Boston was not a high-scoring team in 2021-2022, but they were a balanced roster with layers of attack, which inevitably lifted the Pride to their second straight Isobel Cup title.
Two-time defender of the year Kaleigh Fratkin is back for her sixth season with the Pride, while Kaitlin Burt returns as the team’s starting goalie.
Boston got stronger this off-season by adding one of the league’s top players and 2019-20 MVP Allie Thunstrom. Thunstrom has twice led the league in goals and served as an alternate captain with the Minnesota Whitecaps last year.
Boston’s additions also included Olympian and Czechian standout Aneta Tejralova who was named one of Czechia’s top-three players from their bronze medal World Championship team.
Coupling their new arrivals with the return of veterans Jillian Dempsey, Taylor Wenczkowski, McKenna Brand and playoff standout Christina Putigna, the Pride will not be an easy team to dethrone.
Perhaps the biggest off-season move in the PHF came from the Beauts. Buffalo convinced Mikyla Grant-Mentis to leave the Toronto Six, luring her to the Beauts with the most lucrative contract in professional women’s hockey history.
Buffalo’s blueline is anchored by reigning defender of the year and captain Dominique Kremer. Despite Kremer’s presence, the blueline will be an area of concern for the Beauts. Likely to play top pairing minutes alongside Kremer is new acquisition Jessica Healey, a physical presence who spent the past three seasons in the SDHL with HV71.
Even with Grant-Mentis and Healey, Buffalo will need growth from within to improve upon their last-place finish from 2021-22. As the youngest team in the PHF, growth is possible.
The PHF’s reigning scoring champ and MVP Kennedy Machment is back. Taylor Girard, the PHF’s newcomer of the year, is back as well to give the Whale a dynamic one-two scoring punch.
Connecticut also added Olympian forward Katerina Mrazova who scored more than a point per game for Czechia en route to their historic bronze medal at the World Championship this summer.
Connecticut’s blueline and team culture got a big boost from the late off-season re-signing of captain Shannon Turner and the return of Allie Munroe who's back for her second season in the PHF. Munroe often anchored Connecticut’s power play driving offense for the Whale.
In net, Abbie Ives is back after starting for Connecticut last season. Ives will be pushed by newly signed 32-year-old veteran Meeri Raisanen. Raisanen played for Finland’s national team at both the Olympics and World Championship this year. This is her second stint with the Whale after spending a single season with the team in 2018-19.
After a finals loss to Boston last year, Connecticut will look to challenge for the franchise’s first Isobel Cup.
Captain Madison Packer leads the way for the Riveters. The veteran is one of the faces of the league, and will undoubtedly be a key offensive threat for the Riveters alongside newcomer Amanda Pelkey.
Pelkey, a former member of the US national team, winning multiple World Championship gold medals and Olympic gold in 2018, joins the Riveters after spending the last three seasons with the PWHPA.
An area of strength this season for the Riveters could emerge in the net. Although neither netminder is a PHF veteran, they both arrive with impressive resumés. Eveliina Makinen is a longtime member of the Finnish national team and is coming off a strong campaign with Brynas in the SDHL.
Her partner in goal is rookie Rachel McQuigge who was one of the best goaltenders in the NCAA last season, posting a 1.88 goals against average and .938 save percentage in 29 games with Princeton.
Perhaps the most intriguing portion of the Riveters' roster is their completely overhauled blueline. The team added several international players with national team experience, including Ebba Berglund (Sweden), Sarah Forster (Switzerland) and Minnamari Tuominen and Anna Kilponen (Finland). They also signed Emilie Harley who's coming off a strong rookie campaign with the Buffalo Beauts.
Long the backbone of the Minnesota Whitecaps, Amanda Leveille is coming back for her fifth season in net. Twice the PHF goaltender of the year, two-time Isobel Cup champion and three-time NCAA champion, Leveille gives her team a chance to win every game and season.
The Whitecaps have proven themselves as annual contenders and have excellent depth again this year. Up front, losing Allie Thunstrom is a major hit. Minnesota will lean more heavily on Jonna Albers, who will be supported by an incoming star, 24-year-old, Sydney Brodt. Brodt is a former US national team member who scored 56 points in 36 games last season playing for Linkoping in the SDHL.
On the blueline, a pair of intriguing acquisitions highlight the group. Team USA alum and Olympic gold medallist Sidney Morin joins the Whitecaps in her home state after five seasons in Europe.
Rookie Olivia Knowles is a player to watch as well. Knowles captained Minnesota in the NCAA last year and won a pair of medals with Team Canada at the U-18 level. Another former Minnesota captain, Patti Marshall, returns for her second season and will be a staple on the blueline as well.
The new kids on the block have compiled an impressive roster of players, most hailing from Quebec. While the biggest names stayed in the PWHPA, no team in the PHF has had the success Montreal showed in pulling PWHPA members from that loop.
The Force signed 11 players who competed with the PWHPA last season and filled the remainder of their roster with University graduates. Only Brooke Stacey played in the PHF last season, but the team, which will tour Quebec for their opening season, will have a plethora of offensive weapons headlined by Sarah Lefort, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Catherine Dubois. A year-one title is not out of the question for Montreal.
Perhaps the biggest additions to the Toronto Six this off-season were the appointment of Angela James as GM and Geraldine Heaney as the coach. The Hall of Fame duo brings immediate clout to the organization.
Toronto did, however, see a major subtraction in losing superstar Mikyla Grant-Mentis to Buffalo via free agency. Toronto signed former PWHPA standout Brittany Howard, which should help recover some of Grant-Mentis’ lost offense, but they’ll also need internal support from returnees, including captain Shiann Darkangelo.
Toronto’s offense will continue to benefit this season from a skilled blueline featuring Taylor Woods and Lindsay Eastwood who can drive play from the back end.
Elaine Chuli can steal games in the net. Last year’s PHF top goaltender is one of the best in the business. Toronto will have one of the better tandems in the league after signing goalie Carly Jackson away from Buffalo.