Over the last four seasons, the city of Boston became a second home for Lexi Bender. Starring for the BC Eagles, the Snohomish, Washington-raised Bender was propelled into the pantheon of elite competitors in Hockey East play. A key contributor during a highly celebrated epoch in Eagles lore, it would culminate with Bender contributing a career-best 33 points in her senior season (earning Hockey East First Team All-Star nods), which was simultaneously, the first undefeated season in Hockey East history, elevating the program into the stratosphere of greatness.
Following Bender’s junior season on the campus of Chestnut Hill, her impact would extend the professional ranks, resulting in hockey history. Emerging as one of 25 groundbreaking women that comprised the NWHL’s inaugural draft class, Bender would become one of four BC Eagles, along with Alex Carpenter, Haley Skarupa and Dana Trivigno whose talents were recognized as potential cornerstones for the league’s founding franchises.
Selected in the third round by the Boston Pride, becoming the second American-born woman drafted in franchise history, it allowed Bender a treasured opportunity to extend her playing career in a city that would hold a profound impact. Her success with the Eagles was symbolized by durability, setting a program record with 154 career games played.
Donning the Pride colors has allowed Bender another treasured hallmark. As she works toward the collaborative effort of bringing the franchise its second Isobel Cup, her transition to professional women’s hockey has brought with it a very familiar face. Despite being selected first overall by the New York Riveters in the 2015 NWHL Draft, an offseason trade for Miye D’Oench brought Alexandra Carpenter into the fold.
Having been part of a successful sisterhood of exceptional hockey talent with the Eagles, it has brought a sense of familiarity as Bender enters her inaugural season with the Pride, reunited with four other Eagles alums on the roster. Among them are Carpenter, Emily Field, Blake Bolden and Maggie Taverna.
Teammates for three seasons at BC, Bender and Carpenter came of age as the program was propelled into the national championship picture. Rekindling the on-ice magic that captured the imagination of Boston hockey fans, it was only fitting that Bender would earn the assist on Carpenter’s first goal of her NWHL career. In asking Bender if it was fun to call Carpenter a teammate again, the reply was definitive,
“ABSOLUTELY! I consider Carp not only a great teammate but also a very good friend and feel incredibly lucky to be able to experience our first professional season together. To be a part of her first NWHL goal (of the many to come!) is very cool, looking forward to her reciprocating the gesture (smiles).”
Taking into account that Bender’s rookie season began in grand fashion, with an exhibition game against Boston College (bringing her career full circle) along with taking to the ice versus the Russian national team, there truly is a feeling of pride in getting the chance to remain in Boston.
Having seen action in all five games, Bender has proven to be a perfect fit on the Pride’s blueline corps, which also features current and former national team players such as Kacey Bellamy, Blake Bolden, Alyssa Gagliardi and Gigi Marvin. While Bender looks forward to scoring her first career NWHL goal, there is a strong sense of belonging among her new teammates on the Pride. While she has acknowledged that the jump to the pros has involved an adjustment, bringing her trademark smile to the ice, complemented by a positive attitude and love for the game, it is poised to ensure that she shall quickly adapt,
“I would say the level of skill and parity from top to bottom of the rosters. The end product is a very high-paced, exciting product and ultimately, the funnest hockey I have ever played.”
Making her regular season debut on the road, in an October 7 meeting against the Buffalo Beauts, also a rematch of the inaugural Isobel Cup Finals, Bender graced the ice in her familiar number five. Both teams approached the game with high energy as both looked to start the season on a strong note.
After a scoreless first period, Bender and Brianna Decker would earn the assists on Carpenter’s goal at the 5:08 mark, which was also the Pride’s first goal of the season. It would prove to be the first of four goals scored by the Pride in the period, as the defending Isobel Cup champions began their second season in franchise history with a solid 4-1 victory.
“The first regular season game against the Beauts was incredibly exciting, the energy of the Harbor center, coupled with the tension between the two teams from last season- not to mention my own excitement in playing my first professional game made for a very memorable night. Looking forward, I want to try to recreate and bring this energy to every game this season.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from: https://twitter.com/BC_WHockey and https://twitter.com/PrideAndPower1