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Brand signs contract to play pro hockey for Boston of NWHL

McKenna Brand (7) recently signed a contract to play professional hockey for the Boston Pride of the National Women's Hockey League. Photo courtesy Northeastern Athletics

McKenna Brand, a 2014 graduate of Park Rapids Area High School and a 2018 graduate of Northeastern University, signed a contract on Aug. 17 to play professional hockey for the Boston Pride of the National Women's Hockey League.

Brand is the daughter of Craig and Cami Brand. Craig was a three-sport athlete at Detroit Lakes and graduated with the class of 1989.

McKenna Brand, who was the 11th overall player selected in the 2017 NWHL Draft by the Metropolitan Riveters, has the opportunity to stay in the Boston area after becoming a free agent and signing with the Pride.

"I am so happy and excited to have signed my first pro contract and enter the NWHL with the Boston Pride," said Brand. "I entered the NWHL free agency earlier this summer, making myself available to every team in the league. I talked to the Boston coach on the phone a couple of times and it just seemed like the right fit for me moving forward. Boston is a great city that has given me so many great memories from college and I was more than happy to be given the opportunity to continue living out there and pursuing hockey. I can't wait to get things started in September."

Brand caught the attention of the teams in the NWHL with an exceptional collegiate career at Northeastern. In four seasons playing for the Huskies, the 5-foot-6 forward played in a school-record 150 games and became only the 28th player in school history to surpass 100 career points. Brand finished her career with 56 goals and 55 assists for 111 points to rank No. 24 in school history. In those four years, Brand had four shorthanded goals, 13 power-play goals and 10 game-winning goals on 471 shots.

Highlighting Brand's collegiate career was scoring two goals in leading Northeastern to a 2-1 win over Connecticut in the 2018 Hockey East championship game to give the Huskies their first Hockey East title and advance to their second NCAA Division I Tournament. Brand was named to the Hockey East All-Tournament Team her senior season.

Brand scored eight goals and tallied 10 assists in 36 games as a freshman and followed with 10 goals and 11 assists in 38 games as a sophomore in helping Northeastern advance to its first NCAA Tournament. Brand was one of the top scorers in the nation as a junior, tallying 23 goals and 15 assists for 38 points in 37 games while having a plus-22 rating to earn Hockey East First Team honors. As a senior, Brand scored 15 goals and assisted on 19 others for 34 points in 39 games.

Now it's on to the professional ranks where Boston and Metropolitan join the Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and Minnesota Whitecaps in the five-team league. Minnesota is new to the league this season. The NWHL was established in 2015 with Boston winning the regular-season title with a 14-3-1 record and winning the initial Isobel Cup to cap off the 2015-16 season. Boston also claimed the regular-season title in 2016-17 with a 16-1 record, but Buffalo won the Isobel Cup. Metropolitan captured the Isobel Cup last season as Boston finished third in the regular-season standings with a 4-8-4 record.

Practice starts Sept. 13 followed by a scrimmage against Northeastern on Sept. 22. The Pride will play a 16-game schedule during the regular season, beginning on Oct. 13 with a home game against the Riveters. Boston plays at Minnesota on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 and concludes the regular season with a home game against Minnesota on March 2.

"I am very excited to play my former team," said Brand. "We also play against the Whitecaps in December and I am really looking forward to that series to be able to play in front of family and friends in Minnesota."

As for her goals entering her first professional season, Brand is planning on playing her style of hockey and helping lead the Pride to a successful season.

"From talking with the Boston coach, it seems like we are going to have a highly offensive team and I will be relied on to continue being the goal-scoring, two-way forward that I established myself to be in college," said Brand. "Individually, I hope to bring a lot of offensive power to the team while also being a reliable player in our own end. I want to be a great team player and do whatever I can for our team to win. It would be pretty cool to make the NWHL All-Star Game or be the NWHL Rookie of the Year, but I want to go into the season with the mindset of doing whatever I can to help our team win the Isobel Cup and be the champions of the league."

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