Photo by: Troy Parla
Pride also re-sign RFAs Kathryn Tomaselli and Michaela Levine
BROOKLYN, NY, May 23, 2017 – The Boston Pride have finalized contracts with their first three restricted free agents of the offseason.
Lexi Bender, one of the top defenders on last season’s 16-1 Pride team, has re-signed with the club for the 2017-18 season. Joining Bender are forwards Kathryn Tomaselli and Michaela Levine, who saw limited action in 2016-17 but are expected to play larger roles for the Pride in the NWHL’s third season.
“We have the most beautiful facility (Warrior Ice Arena) for our games and practices, and we have the best fans and a first-class franchise, so I couldn’t wait to re-sign with the Pride,” said Bender. “The team is going to look different next season, but I’m confident we’ll have a strong group. I will miss (Coach) Bobby Jay because he was so great to me, but I’m excited to work with Thomas Poeck, who was a puck-moving defenseman in the NHL. Since I play that style, I’m sure there’s a lot I can learn from him.”
In 17 games with the Pride last season – her first in the NWHL – Bender had 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points. Joined by U.S. National Team players Gigi Marvin and Kacey Bellamy, as well as standouts Blake Bolden and Alyssa Gagliardi, Bender was a part of a formidable Boston blue line. Bender was drafted 15th overall in the 2015 NWHL Draft.
Bender, who will turn 23 in July, played 154 games over four years at Boston College – the most by any player in school history. She earned All-Hockey East Honors in every season, scoring 19 goals and adding 76 assists for 95 points over her collegiate career.
Bender graduated from BC with a double major in Environmental Geosciences and Economics. She was raised in Snohomish, Washington and played boys’ hockey from age 5 to 14 in the Seattle Junior Hockey Association.
“We didn’t have a girls’ program when I was a kid,” said Bender. “But when I went back last year at Christmas break to help out, they had three girls’ teams. That was great to see.”
Bender played four years of high school hockey at the legendary Shattuck St. Mary’s, winning the national championship for Tier I U16 and U19.
Her father, Buddy Bender (“Great hockey name,” said Lexi) played collegiate hockey at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her brother, Tucker, begins his freshman year on the hockey team at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota next season.
Kathryn Tomaselli was offered a new contract after an impressive performance at the NWHL Free Agent Camp earlier this month. She was scoreless in eight games with the Pride last season.
At Union College, she was 31-19-50 in 135 games over four seasons. The Cape Coral, Fla. native was named Union’s captain for her senior season.
Tomaselli played hockey, volleyball and softball at Williston-Northampton School in Massachusetts. She was named Most Valuable Player in hockey at the school for the 2011-12 season