We’re less than 100 days until the puck drops on opening weekend of the 2021-22 NWHL season and some rosters around the league are getting closer to completion.
Throughout the month of July, a sum of 30 signings were announced for Season 7 bringing the total number of confirmed contracts to 55 since the league’s free agency period began in mid-May.
The Buffalo Beauts now have a total of 21 players committed for the new campaign after announcing 10 signings in July to go along with seven in June and four in May. Their latest list includes returnees Taylor Accursi, Brittany Colton, and Taylor Wasylk, free-agent acquisition Samantha Fieseler, NWHL Draft picks Allison Attea, Anjelica Diffendal, Kennedy Ganser, Emilie Harley, and Missy Segall, along with top International Draft choice Lovisa Berndtsson.
The Connecticut Whale’s roster now stands at 11 players following five announced signings in July to go along with five in June and one in May. Top NWHL Draft picks Taylor Girard and Emma Polaski headline this latest group that also includes returnees Mariah Fujimagari and Tori Howran, plus free agent signee Cailey Hutchison.
The Metropolitan Riveters made the biggest splash this month signing 11 players to bring their roster to 12. July’s announcements included returnees Kendall Cornine, Haley Frade, Emily Janiga, Leila Kilduff, Theresa Knutson, Allie Olnowich, Mallory Rushton, and Sonjia Shelly, plus free agents Kristen Barbara, Nora MacLaine, and Brooke Wolejko.
The Toronto Six announced four-player signings in July which brings their roster to 11 factorings in the five players added in June and two in May. The most recent players to ink Season 7 contracts include the returning trio of Lindsay Eastwood, Samantha Ridgewell, and Emma Woods, along with NWHL Draft pick Leah Marino.
The Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps have yet to formally announce any player signings.
Here’s a detailed summary of the players added to NWHL rosters throughout July:
Taylor Accursi | F
Beauts team captain and longtime forward Taylor Accursi has re-signed with the team for her fifth straight season. The 26-year-old was not able to play in Lake Placid during the 2020-21 NWHL season because of her commitments as an Ontario Provincial Police Officer, but has scored 42 points in 52 career regular-season games for Buffalo and is the team’s all-time leader in career goals with 26.
“Having to watch from home while the girls were in Lake Placid was hard,” Accursi said. “But it gave me an extra year to get even better, faster, and stronger for Season 7. I can guarantee that nobody will be more hungry for the Cup than me this season.”
Allison Attea | D
Defender Allison Attea has signed a contract to play for her hometown Beauts after being selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NWHL Draft. She played collegiately at Holy Cross suiting up for 111 career games including 86 at the Division I level amassing 20 points for the Crusaders.
“I am very excited to be playing hockey for the Buffalo Beauts in my hometown this season,” said Attea. “Buffalo has been home to me for my entire life, and it is a dream come true that I can continue playing hockey here. I am honored and grateful for this opportunity to continue playing hockey in our city.”
Lovisa Berndtsson | G
The historic number one pick in the inaugural NWHL International Draft has signed with the Beauts. Goaltender Lovisa Berndtsson, a veteran of 14 seasons of professional-level hockey in Sweden including nine in the SDHL, will make her North American debut during the 2021-22 season. Playing for Djurgårdens from 2015-16 through this past 2020-21 season, she’s compiled a solid record of 92 wins in 150 regular-season games.
“It means a lot to me and I’m very happy that the Beauts have given me this opportunity,” said Berndtsson. “After many years in Sweden, it will be a great experience to play in North America. I also look forward to getting to know the city of Buffalo. I feel extremely honored to represent the Buffalo Beauts this coming season and can’t wait to get the season started!”
Brittany Colton | F/D
Brittany Colton has re-signed with the Beauts after making her NWHL debut last season where she played in all six of the team’s Lake Placid contests. This follows a collegiate career at the University of Maine where she split her tenure between defense and forward.
“Britt is a tremendous role player for us and always has a smile on her face,” said Beauts General Manager Nate Oliver. “She can play either forward or defense, which is a great option for us to have. While Britt’s strengths are more on the defensive side, she can play on the topmost line like she did at Maine if called upon to do so.”
Anjelica Diffendal | F
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Anjelica Diffendal played 122 NCAA games for her hometown Robert Morris University tallying 24 goals and 16 assists for 40 career points. She was chosen by the Beauts with the first pick in the second round of the 2021 NWHL Draft.
“I hope to impress the fans with my deceptive speed,” Diffendal said. “I tend to be explosive in the neutral zone and sometimes catch the defense off guard. My teammates also liked to point out my goal celebrations, so I am hoping to bring some of that to each game as well!”
Samantha Fieseler | D
Former Riveters defender Samantha Fieseler has joined the Beauts by signing a free-agent contract with the team. In 2019-20, the Mercyhurst University graduate played in the SDHL for Göteborg HC, appearing in 30 games and tallying a goal and three assists.
“We really wanted to add further depth to our blue line and that is why we brought in Sam Fieseler,” said Beauts General Manager Nate Oliver. “Sam was at our free-agent tryouts and she literally earned herself a spot onto the Beauts roster with a strong showing. She has good professional experience already with Göteborg and the Rivs.”
Kennedy Ganser | F
The Beauts selected from the University of Alberta for the second straight season acquiring forward Kennedy Ganser with the first of three picks in the third round of the 2021 NWHL Draft. The Provost, Alberta native played alongside Autumn MacDougall for the Pandas before the COVID-19 pandemic and finished her U SPORTS career with an impressive 85 points in 112 games.
“It still feels pretty surreal to have been drafted by the Beauts,” said Ganser. “Growing up, I had always hoped that there would be a ‘women’s NHL’. Now that I have that opportunity, it is pretty exciting.”
Emilie Harley | F/D
The second overall pick in the 2021 NWHL Draft, Emilie Harley, will suit up for the Beauts in the 2021-22 season. The Syracuse, New York native has experience as both a defender and a forward and had a successful collegiate career at Robert Morris University playing 130 NCAA games for the Colonials where she accumulated 46 points.
“As a defenseman, I think I see the ice really well and distributing the puck is one of my best skills, so hopefully that will give us more time in the offensive zone,” said Harley. “I’m a solid defensive player and my height gives me an advantage to keep my opponent away from our net which is my main goal. My experience as a forward also gives me the confidence to make plays or skate with the puck to try and score.”
Missy Segall | F
The third of the Beauts’ three picks in the third round of the 2021 NWHL Draft, Missy Segall became the first player from Hamilton College to ever be chosen in the league’s annual selection process. Across three seasons with the Continentals prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she scored 51 points including 25 goals and 26 assists in 76 games.
“After having my senior season canceled because of the coronavirus, I’m excited to be playing hockey games again,” said Segall. “While practices are fun, there’s nothing like playing an actual game. This past year I missed all aspects of the game day; from the bus rides to the drop of the puck, to postgame cooldowns. I’m just excited to be playing hockey games again and to do so in Buffalo.”
Taylor Wasylk | F
Veteran forward Taylor Wasylk has re-signed with the Beauts for her second straight season with the team and her fourth in the NWHL. In nine career games split between Buffalo and Boston, she’s recorded four assists and also has experience in the CWHL and with the U.S. National Women’s Team where she won a silver medal in 2012.
“I could not be more excited to re-sign with the Buffalo Beauts,” Wasylk said. “I hold so much respect for the players, coaches and management that make up this team and organization as a whole. I had an incredible first experience with the team in Lake Placid in January and I am looking forward to carrying that into the 2021-2022 season.”
A familiar face returns to the Whale crease in 2021-22 as goaltender Maria Fujimagari has re-signed with the club. The former Beauts netminder who began her NWHL career in 2019-20 trained with Connecticut during last year’s abbreviated season and appeared in one game in Lake Placid.
“I’m very excited to be a contributing member of the Whale this season. The culture and commitment to excellence really align with who I am,” said Fujimagari. “From the top down the pieces are in place for us to be a powerhouse.”
Taylor Girard | F
The first overall pick in the 2021 NWHL Draft will make her historic debut with the Whale this coming season. Taylor Girard, the club’s first-ever selection in the number one spot, joins the team from Quinnipiac University where the Macomb, Michigan native spent her junior and senior seasons with the Bobcats posting 18 and 16 points respectively during her final two years of NCAA action.
“I’m extremely excited to be joining the Connecticut Whale. I can’t wait to get on the ice and get this next season rolling!” said Girard.
Tori Howran | D
Defender Tori Howran rejoins the Whale after making an immediate impact with the club as a newcomer last season. The 23-year-old was the seventh overall pick in the 2020 NWHL Draft from the University of New Hampshire and averaged over 23 minutes per game and recorded three points in as many contests.
“I’m truly thankful to be returning to Connecticut for Season 7,” said Howran. “I enjoyed playing my rookie season with the Whale, and I can’t wait to get back to Connecticut to get things started.”
Cailey Hutchison | F
Veteran NWHL forward Cailey Hutchison joined the Whale via free agency after spending the past two seasons as an alternate captain for the Riveters. She played in 28 games during her Metropolitan tenure producing 12 points along with some effective results in the face-off circle where she ranked fifth-best in the league during the 2019-20 campaign.
“I’m beyond excited to start the next chapter of my career with this great organization,” said Hutchison. “I really believe in the culture and direction that the ownership, management, and coaching staff have set forth. I’m looking forward to getting on the ice with our team and making something special happen this year!”
Emma Polaski | F
The Whale’s second-round pick in the 2021 NWHL Draft, Emma Polaski, will skate with The Pod during the 2021-22 season. The Morristown, New Jersey native spent four years at Syracuse University where she scored an even 31 goals and 31 assists for 62 points in 128 games for the Orange.
“I can’t think of a better organization than the Whale to have the opportunity to continue my hockey career with,” said Polaski. “I’m so excited to get on the ice with the team and begin Season 7!”
Kristen Barbara | D
The Riveters bolstered their blue line by adding free agent Kristen Barbara who joins the club after competing with Toronto during their expansion season. The 2018 Clarkson Cup champion with the CWHL’s Markham Thunder played four games with the Six in Lake Placid plus an Isobel Cup semifinal.
Kendall Cornine | F
Forward Kendall Cornine returns for a third season with the club who selected her sixth overall in the 2018 NWHL Draft. The Livingston, New Jersey native was a scoring sensation her rookie campaign tallying five goals in her first five contests before finishing the year with 13 tucks and 24 points in as many games.
“Fired up for Season 7,” she tweeted.
Haley Frade | F
Haley Frade makes her return to the Riveters after debuting with the club at the end of the 2019-20 season. Those three regular-season games and a single playoff appearance is the only professional experience on record for the Providence College graduate who produced 93 points in 143 NCAA games between 2011-15.
Emily Janiga | F
2021-22 will be Emily Janiga’s fourth season since being selected in the very first NWHL Draft back in 2015. She played two seasons for Buffalo including a 2016-17 rookie campaign where she scored 11 points in 17 games and picked up a goal in her Rivs debut last season.
“Welcome back Emily Janiga,” captain Madison Packer tweeted. “Can’t wait to watch you light it up out there.”
Leila Kilduff | D
Leila Kilduff returns to the Riveters blue line for a third straight season. Known as a stay-at-home defender, the native of San Jose, California found her scoring touch in Lake Placid with two goals and one assist to lead the club with three points in as many games following a rookie campaign with just five points over 22 contests.
“Point per game in Lake Placid,” coach Ivo Mocek tweeted. “Would be crazy not to re-sign. Welcome back, Leila Kilduff.”
Theresa Knutson | F
Forward Theresa Knutson returns for a second NWHL season with the Riveters looking to build on her one goal in three games output. She’s no stranger to the scoresheet having recorded 63 goals in 59 regular-season games over two seasons in Germany following her collegiate career at the University of Connecticut.
“This isn’t a dream but sure feels like one, round two I’m ready for you,” she tweeted.
Nora MacLaine | F
Another UCONN graduate, Nora MacLaine played three seasons alongside Knutson and will be a NWHL newcomer in 2021-22. She joins the Riveters following experience in Australia competing with the Perth Inferno where she scored 23 points in 12 games of 2019-20 play.
Allie Olnowich | D
Chatham, New Jersey native Allie Olnowich is staying close to home for a second straight season re-signing with the Riveters. The Syracuse University graduate never missed a game during her final two collegiate seasons and skated in all three of her team’s NWHL games in January.
“Super pumped to be back for my second season with the best,” she tweeted. “Let’s get Season 7 started!”
Mallory Rushton | F
Forward Mallory Rushton will skate a third straight season for the Riveters having joined the club in 2019 after graduating from RIT. Her rookie campaign produced 13 points in 24 games, followed by a sophomore season with one goal over three appearances in Lake Placid.
Sonjia Shelly | G
It will be a third straight NWHL season for goaltender Sonjia Shelly in 2021-22 and a second with the Riveters. The former Whale stopped all 40 shots faced in last season’s opener for her first career shutout then stopped 36 of 37 in the club’s final game leaving Lake Placid with a sparkling 0.50 goals-against-average and .987 save percentage.
“So excited and fortunate to play this amazing game with an even better group of people,” she tweeted. “Season 7 let’s go!”
Brooke Wolejko | G
Another former Whale netminder, Brooke Wolejko joins the Riveters as a free agent following two seasons in Connecticut. She saw action in just one game in Lake Placid a year after setting the franchise record for saves in a season with 458 accrued over 16 appearances counting a career-high 56-save effort on December 28, 2019, against Boston.
“So excited to join the Riveters! Can’t wait to get Season 7 started,” she tweeted.
Lindsay Eastwood | D
A significant piece to Toronto’s defensive end returns for a second straight season as Lindsay Eastwood re-signs with the club. The Kanata, Ontario native holds the distinction of scoring the first goal in franchise history and finished the abbreviated season with six points in as many games.
“I had a ton of fun last year, we had such a good group and we have some unfinished business,” Eastwood said. “I think first and foremost, we were on a hot run there in Lake Placid and then I think if the situation was different, we would have had a different outcome on the season. I love the team, it was one of the most fun seasons I’ve had in a long time. The City of Toronto is a fun city, hopefully, now it’ll open back up and we’ll be able to live a little more normal and hopefully have a regular season as well, so I’m really looking forward to starting fresh and seeing what it’s all about this year.”
Leah Marino | F
The youngest player to be picked in the NWHL Draft has signed her first professional contract. 20-year-old Leah Marino, a third-round selection from Robert Morris University, will suit up for the Six after three seasons in Division I hockey where she capped her career as a CHA conference champion with the Colonials.
“I am beyond excited to get started and play in the NWHL,” said Marino. “After the sudden discontinuation of the Robert Morris hockey program, I wasn’t ready to step away from the game. The Toronto Six franchise gave me a new home, one that values the professional aspect of women’s hockey and the excellence that comes with it.”
Goaltender Samantha Ridgewell returns to the Six for her second straight season after primarily serving as a backup to Elaine Chuli in Season 6. She played just one full game in January stopping 20 shots in a 6-5 shootout loss to Minnesota but also has pro experience overseas with Djurgårdens IF in the SDHL where she shared the net with top International Draft pick Berndtsson in 2019-20.
“I’m just glad that I did re-sign,” said Ridgewell. “When the season was over, I was like I feel like we didn’t get to truly experience what this league has to offer, so that was a huge reason why I wanted to re-sign right away, just because we didn’t get to experience it to the full extent that we can. It’s just really cool, I’m really excited to see what’s in store for Season 7.”
Emma Woods | F
Alternate captain Emma Woods returns to the Six after helping the club capture a regular-season title during their inaugural campaign. In four games The Burford, Ontario native tied for fourth in team scoring with four assists helping them advance to the Isobel Cup semifinals.
“I am thrilled to have another shot to win the Isobel Cup and bring it back to Toronto for the first time,” Woods said. “This past season definitely didn’t end the way we wanted it to, and I think that makes me even more excited to get back with the team and prove what we are capable of, and believe we can do!”
The salary cap for the 2021-22 season has been announced as $300,000 per team which is the highest in league history. Financial terms of individual player contracts will not be disclosed.