Watertown Middle School students greeted staff member Lauren Kelly with a big sign last week, and she brought along a great item for show-and-tell: the Isobel Cup, awarded to the team that wins the Premier Hockey Federation championship.
Kelly, who works with autistic students in the Connections Program at WMS during the day, plays defense for the Boston Pride on nights and weekends. The women’s professional hockey team recently traveled to Tampa, Fla., for the Isobel Cup Playoffs, and came home champs after winning three straight games. It was the Pride’s second straight Cup and third overall.
The fourth year pro, who graduated from Northeastern, decided to share the fun with the students at the middle school.
“I just brought the Isobel Cup into school (on April 4),” Kelly said. “All the kids were excited to see the trophy, and they made a big sign for me: ‘Congratulations Ms. Kelly.’ The Middle School staff has been very supportive, allowing me to go down to Florida.”
In all, Kelly was gone for about a week for the PHF Playoffs, leaving on a Wednesday night, practicing Thursday, and playing games on Friday, Sunday and Monday.
The Pride struggled at the end of the regular season, losing the final five games (all in overtime). The team had to hit the road every weekend in March due to postponing two weekends of games in late December and early January due to COVID-19 protocols.
Boston came into the playoffs as the third seed, which meant they had to play one more game than the top two teams to win the title. Kelly said the team knew it could repeat as champions.
“I think everybody in the locker room believed we could win. I don’t think a lot of people outside the locker room believed in us,” Kelly said. “I think with the type of season we had we made adjustments in the locker room. The way we were playing in the regular season would no cut it. It fell on our shoulders and we came together as a team. That’s why we were successful as a team.”
Kelly came into the playoffs a bit banged up.
“In the playoffs I had a broken pinky,” she said. “It was interesting to play with splint.”
First up for Boston was the Buffalo Beauts, a team they had just lost to twice at the end of the regular season. The Pride shut out Buffalo, beating them 6-0.
The second-place Toronto Six didn’t prove much more difficult for Boston in the semifinals. The Pride won 5-1, and Kelly got an assist on the first goal.
In the final, the Pride faced the first place Connecticut Whale, which had only lost three games all season. Boston took an early lead in the first period, but the Whale responded with a goal in the first period and another one 33 seconds into the second to take a 2-1 lead.
A couple minutes later, the Pride looked to be on the ropes when Pride captain Jillian Dempsey (who scored the first goal) was called for a 5 minute major penalty for cross checking. Boston survived the penalty without allowing a goal, and in the third period the Pride scored twice in 18 seconds to take the lead. They iced the game with an empty netter. The final score was the Pride 4, the Whale 2.
While both Isobel Cup victories were sweet, Kelly said that she enjoyed this year’s a bit more because she could share the joy. Fans could not participate in the previous season due to the Pandemic.
“I do think this year was more special. We were able to have our families there,” Kelly said. “Last year it was great to win at home in Boston at Warrior Arena, but it stunk that when you looked in the stands and you saw cardboard cutouts, not our families. Having them there (this year) to celebrate and come on ice afterwards was great.”
Kelly’s parents Cheryl and Robert (a retired Watertown Police officer) were on hand to celebrate with their daughter.
The Cup’s visit to the Middle School was just a taste for Kelly, who had to hand it off to a teammate afterward. In May, Kelly will have the Cup to herself for a whole week.
Kelly has a busy schedule. Along with working as a paraprofessional in the Watertown Schools and playing for the Boston Pride, she also serves as assistant coach for three Watertown High School teams: volleyball, girl’s hockey, and softball. Her older sister Erika is head coach for the latter two.
She wants to continue her pro hockey career.
“That’s the plan,” Kelly said. “I am really excited in the direction the league is going and women’s hockey in general. I’d love to keep playing.”