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PWHL New York players already feel at home with warm welcome at AHL Islanders' game

By Rick Menning


BRIDGEPORT, CT -- For those in attendance at this past Saturday's American Hockey League game between the Bridgeport Islanders and Providence Bruins at Total Mortgage Arena, there was a lot of love in the air.

That love was shared among a good representation of Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) New York players -- who showed up to check out their new digs -- and a Bridgeport fan base that acknowledged with cheers a special video board presentation from the soon-to-be co-occupants.

The visit by members of the new team came as a welcome surprise to everyone including yours truly (it was announced about an hour before puck drop), with the crowd getting their first up-close-and-personal look at several of the PWHL team members during a stoppage of play midway through the first period.

MIC NIGHT: Members of PWHL New York are introduced within a first-period timeout during an American Hockey League game at Total Mortgage Arena on Saturday, Dec. 2. (Photo courtesy of Bridgeport Islanders).

While the on-ice stage belonged to the AHL's Islanders and Bruins on this particular evening, it will be PWHL New York basking in the glow of the spotlight on Friday, Jan. 5 when Toronto comes to Bridgeport for a 7 p.m. puck drop.

More than a few eyebrows were raised among the special guests -- who sat in the suite level near center ice -- as they started to soak in all the amenities of the building on Saturday night.

"It's a beautiful facility! Wow!," said PWHL New York defender Ella Shelton, who was the team's first-ever draft pick back in September.

Shelton, from Ingersoll, Ontario, is an Olympic gold-medalist and a member of Canada's national team since 2020-2021. Her resume also includes two gold medals and a silver medal at World Championships.

"Walking in and getting a bird's eye view of the entire rink and all the colors in the stands was really cool. It will be exciting to hopefully see good crowds at our games," Shelton continued.


Home sweet home


With PWHL New York's entire schedule now known --starting off with a New Year's Day showdown at 12:30 p.m. inside the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto -- Shelton said Saturday's visit to Total Mortgage Arena makes it all feel very real.

"Being here and knowing that (we are close to) playing some games here is very exciting," added Shelton, who has signed a three-year contract with PWHL New York through the 2025-26 season.

The team will also play home games at UBS Arena in Elmont on Long Island. The National Hockey League home of the New York Islanders sits next to Belmont Park.

Micah Zandee-Hart, one of three free agents to commit to the New York franchise along with Abby Roque and Alex Carpenter prior to the draft, loves the professional atmosphere within the nearly 10,000-seat Total Mortgage Arena.

"We all were thinking walking in here that this is what a professional rink should look like and this is the type of facility we want to be playing in, so I feel this is right where we want to be," said Zandee-Hart, who like Shelton played for Canada's gold-medal-winning national women's team at the 2022 Olympics. She also won three World Championship medals (a gold, a silver and a bronze).

The Victoria, British Columbia native has familiarity with the New York area from her collegiate tenure at Cornell University. In her senior season with the Big Red, Zandee-Hart finished fourth in the nation in scoring among defenders.

"It will be great to also get down to UBS Arena and see that facility," Zandee-Hart continued. "The New York Islanders and Bridgeport Islanders have opened their arms to us and letting use play in their arenas will make our experience even better."


An Islander connection


When PWHL New York forward Alex Carpenter takes the ice at Total Mortgage Arena next month, a member of the Bridgeport Islanders will be taking a special interest in her performance.

Kyle MacLean, a forward on the AHL team in Bridgeport, is close friends with Robert "Bobo" Carpenter who is Alex's brother. In fact, their dads coached together in New Jersey when their kids were first learning the sport.

TOTAL FOCUS. Bridgeport Islanders' forward Kyle MacLean takes aim and rockets a shot on goal during American Hockey League action in Bridgeport. Kyle is a friend from his childhood days with PWHL New York forward Alex Carpenter. (Photo courtesy of Bridgeport Islanders).

Bobo is presently playing in the East Coast Hockey League with the Florida Everblades. And while MacLean noted that Bobo is a great player, he also added that Alex deservedly got much of the attention growing up.

"Alex is always the one that everyone talked about," said MacLean, who has five goals and six assists in 20 games for Bridgeport thus far this season. "She's on the USA national team and is such a decorated player. She's had a great career so you definitely always hear her name come up."

PUCK POSSESSION: PHWL New York forward Alex Carpenter surges into the offensive zone during her play on the United States national team. Alex is a friend from her childhood days in New Jersey with Bridgeport Islanders' forward Kyle MacLean.

MacLean said he and his teammates definitely took notice when the PWHL New York players were introduced on the video board in the first period of Saturday's game.

"It was great to see these elite hockey players at the game tonight, and to know that a new league is here and it's growing. We're as excited to have them here as the fans are. This is a great rink and they are going to love playing here as much as we do."

To have the parent New York Islanders involved in the support and growth of the PWHL franchise is a huge positive to MacLean.

"As an organization, they want to do everything they can to grow the women's game and have them represent in the area," he said. "They are on the right track to build a successful league, and this is a great platform for them to showcase their skills."




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