One of the most underrated stars in all of women’s ice hockey, Kaleigh Fratkin employs a combination consisting of alacrity and a solid work ethic, providing the New York Riveters with a prized acquisition. Having signed as a free agent during the offseason, after a successful season with the Connecticut Whale (where she was the first Canadian-born player signed in NWHL history), Fratkin’s flair for combining offensive playmaking ability and defensive grit makes her impossible to turn away from when she is on the ice.
Embodying the essence of setting a positive example through hard work, Fratkin, a participant in the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game, has added an even stronger defensive focus to her game, providing the Riveters with a significant presence on the blueline and a power play quarterback.
Accepting the role of being a veteran player, while providing grit on defense, fearlessly blocking shots and eager to get into the corner for the puck, she combines such a work ethic while remaining faithful to her abilities as an offensive catalyst,
“Evidently being a veteran player this year has come with more leadership on the ice. And not just to help offensively from the back end, but mainly to be put in high-pressure situations defensively.
The biggest change for me from my first season has been focusing on taking care of defense responsibilities first. After last season, I told myself that in my second season I wanted to show people how valuable my defensive game is as well, making me a complete defensemen. I’ve found that by playing for a new organization with a different coaching staff has allowed me to do so.”
Among a sorority of new faces donning the Riveters this season, Fratkin is part of a who’s who in women’s hockey. Joining Fratkin includes former Patty Kazmaier Award winner Amanda Kessel, NCAA Frozen Four champion Milica McMillen, former Boston University teammate Rebecca Russo, Miye D’Oench, fellow Canadian Tatiana Rafter and goaltenders Sojung Shin from South Korea and Katie Fitzgerald, among others.
While the Riveters feature the highest number of new faces this season, the obligatory adjustment and time needed to gel has proven to be a rather quick one. Although a good team culture cannot be created out of sheer necessity, the abilities of players such as Fratkin provide important contributions.
Veteran players on the Riveters such as Kiira Dosdall, Gabie Figueroa, Ashley “Stretch” Johnson, Bray Ketchum, Madison Packer and Janine Weber comprise a core group accentuates the team’s values, while the newly arrived components are crucial towards sustaining and fortifying said values. Undoubtedly, Fraktin is a welcome addition for the Riveters, and it is a feeling reciprocated as she discusses what she enjoys most about skating with the club,
“My teammates. Every time I show up at the rink I’m excited to be there. We’ve developed a family atmosphere and it makes you want to work hard and get better. Everyone is supportive and we have a staff that believes in us. It makes all the sacrifices much more worth it when you’re surrounded by a great group of people.”
Wearing her trademark number 13, Fratkin made her Riveters debut in a pair of exhibition games against the Russian national women’s team on September 25-26. In both games, Fraktin would log an assist, although the one she recorded in her first game was exceptionally notable. Along with Bray Ketchum, the two not only assisted on the game winning goal, it represented Amanda Kessel’s first goal in the Riveters jersey.
Although Fraktin would have to wait until her fourth regular season game to record her first goal with the Riveters, it was an incredible performance that saw her shatter the offensive floodgates. In a 3-2 road win against the Buffalo Beauts, the fans at Harbor Center saw Fratkin involved in two of the Riveters goals.
After a scoreless second period which saw the Beauts hold on to a 2-1 lead, Fratkin helped capitalize on a power play opportunity as Megan Bozek served a cross-checking penalty. With Dosdall and Russo gaining the assists, Fratkin tied the game at the 7:41 mark of the third, erasing the Beauts lead.
With less than two minutes remaining in the contest, Fratkin’s playmaking skills shone again as she found Miye D’Oench, who slipped the puck past Brianne McLaughlin for the game-winning tally. As a side note, Fratkin has logged at least one point in three games against the Beauts this season.
Throughout the ebbs and flows of a season, there are the occasional moments that make an impression, helping to not only serve as season highlights, but reminding others why the game is played. Such a highlight took place on November 20, 2016 as rookie goaltender Katie Fitzgerald blanked the Connecticut Whale, Fratkin’s former team, in a 4-0 outcome, providing the Riveters with the first shutout in franchise history.
Such an outcome truly embodied the essence of teamwork. Not only did Fratkin’s former BU teammate Russo score twice in the win, she would make an impression, proving that one can contribute to victory without scoring. In the third period, despite a convincing 3-0 lead against the Whale, Fratkin blocked a shot with her hand, helping to preserve the first shutout in Riveters history.
In such a selfless role, it was testament to Fratkin’s devotion to the game and her teammates, which also encompasses sacrifice. Despite icing her hand after the game, a jubilant Fratkin showed class by still taking the time to speak to the media. Images of the ice pack on her hand made the rounds on social media, definitely earning the respect of fans.
Perhaps more impressive was the remarkable dignity and decorum that Fratkin and many of her teammates conducted themselves with following the league’s heartbreaking announcement concerning reductions in player salaries. Having sent ominous shockwaves throughout the hockey community, players such as Fratkin refused to be demoralized, showing up as professionals remaining loyal to their fan base, with such an admirable display of character quite possibly their finest hour as hockey players.
“After our past two weekends, you can feel and see by our performances on the ice that we’ve gelled. A lot of this has stemmed from buying into Coach’s systems and sticking to the process. He and Coach Paulsen have high expectations in us and we trust what they’re doing and we’re trusting each other to do our individual jobs. I think that is the reason for the gel and chemistry.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Troy Parla