The NWHL is filled with rookies making immediate impacts. Miye D’Oench leads the New York Riveters in scoring, while Alex Carpenter of the Boston Pride has filled in for USA Olympic star Hillary Knight. The Pride have another rookie under the radar, however, in defender Lexi Bender,
Bender, a teammate of Carpenter’s at Boston College, has stepped right into a Pride blueline that has created plenty of offense this season. Often paired with Blake Bolden, another former college team mate, the duo has created plenty of shot opportunities leading to Pride goals.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” Bender said. “I couldn’t be happier. This level is so fast and the game play is fluid.”
Bender has also been paired with Kacey Bellamy, the NWHL’s shot leader for defenders, and she has helped Bender adjust to the pro game. The group of blueliners has been one of Boston’s strengths this season, with many of the shots originating from there when the team has its offense settled, especially on power plays.
After playing with dominant college and high school teams early in her career, Bender feels right at home with the undefeated Pride. Bender played for the undefeated regular season Eagles last year where she was a key part of the team’s run to the national title game.
“It’s amazing to be a part of, because you know when you’re on teams like that, you’re a part of something bigger,” said Bender. “I also played for Shattuck Saint Mary’s, and that team was great. It’s great to be a part of a winning culture.”
Bender’s offensive prowess is no surprise; she scored 95 points over her collegiate career with the Eagles, and was a member of the USA U22 squad. The Pride are a group that mostly precedes the NWHL, as a club full of team USA members, and Bender has had no trouble finding her place with her mentality.
“We’re really pushing ourselves to play our game,” said Bender. “Just not be satisfied with anything and keep playing hard.”
Facing limited challenges is a challenge within itself, and one that Bender is used to after playing for multiple dominant teams. Boston is yet to lose this season, and with results like the 5-1 victory over New York this past week, Bender and the Pride are still trying to find ways to challenge themselves.
“We are just always competing against each other,” Bender said. “With mini games, or battle drills, we are looking to improve each day.”
While Bender herself has competed on high levels, to be playing with the best players in the world is still an adjustment. While on the ice, it might not be obvious, she has had to change her game as the team has also altered theirs to adjust to her strengths as well.
Bender has played with the likes of Bolden and Carpenter before, and competed against many of her team mates in college as well. But now she is a part of something bigger, and while it’s something she’s used to, she’s proud to be a part of the Pride.
“It’s humbling,” Bender said. “To see the work ethic everyone brings is inspiring.”