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Nothing but Options in Goal for the Boston Pride

By Marisa Ingemi, 03/15/17, 2:15PM EDT

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PHOTO CRED: Michelle Jay

Pride have a problem going into the Isobel Cup Semi-Final, but it's one of those "Good Problems" to have.

For any hockey team to give up the least amount of goals in any league you’d expect to see a stalwart goalie between the pipes.

For the Boston Pride, they have two.

Brittany Ott, after leading the team to an Isobel Cup last season, has returned to prime form yet again in 2016-2017, but the team also has Lauren Slebodnick defending the cage.

“Last year was a disappointment,” said the Pride goalie. “I was hurt half the year so didn’t have an opportunity, and when I was in there at the start of the year, it wasn’t my best games. I didn’t show how well I could play. This year I’ve remained healthy and gotten opportunities.”

This season, Slebodnick has been a contributing factor to the undefeated Pride with a 1.22 goals against average that is best in the league. Ott, winner of the 2016 NWHL Award for Best Goaltender, is second with 1.82.

Stats lines like this raise a question amongst fans: Who should start game one of the Isobel Cup Playoffs for the Boston Pride?

Slebodnick also leads the league with a .942 save percentage, while Ott has the most shutouts in the NWHL with three. Ott suffered the only blemish on the Pride’s schedule with a loss on the last day of the regular season when she started in net against the Riveters.

Between Ott and Slebodnick, it was only Ott who was ever pulled from the net this season. On February 24th, Ott surrendered three goals in first period to the Connecticut Whale before Slebodnick would step in and only allow one for the rest of the game. Slebodnick’s performance would be enough, and allow her team to rally back and win 5-4.

Slebodnick finished with the only perfect goalie record in the league, but with Ott’s numbers very close to Slebodnick, both goalies have carried the way for the Pride and the dynamic duo have actually helped each other improve.

Despite both goalies having strong seasons and public perception of potential controversy, the two are good friends and have a strong work-dynamic.

“We get along really well,” said Slebodnick. “Some goalie partners can be hostile, but we don’t have that. We’re both supportive and hope whoever is in net plays well. In practice it pushes us, if she makes a great save, I think I need to play up.”

“We both have different styles and can learn from each other,” Slebodnick said. “We complement each other and will have different ideas of playing different ways.”

Led by one of the top defensive units in the league, which includes Olympian Kacey Bellamy, standouts Lexi Bender and Blake Bolden, and Slebodnick’s college team mate from Cornell, Alyssa Gagliardi, it only strengthens the play of whoever is in the crease.

“It’s comforting having who we have,” said Slebodnick. “It makes me and Brittany’s jobs a little easier. It’s just easier to play when you have full confidence in the people in front of you.”

Boston saw its undefeated run come to an end on Saturday with a 3-2 loss to the New York Riveters. Even though the record is no longer without a mark in the L column, goaltending remains one of the biggest strengths the Pride have.

“You’re always competing, you want game time but you want to win,” Slebodnick said. “It’s all very friendly and I’ve been a part of teams that don’t have that.”

The Boston Pride will host the Connecticut Whale tomorrow at Warrior Ice Arena for the first semi-final of the Isobel Cup Playoffs. But who will start? The Pride’s head coach, Bobby Jay, has his work cut out for him, but for the tandem of terrific tenders, they’ll continue to have each other’s back.

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