When asked about her lineage in the NWHL, Lexie Laing has a quip at the ready, the joke right on the tip of her tongue. The youngest of the Laing sisters, the 24-year-old sibling of former Boston Pride goaltender Brianna Laing and forward Denna Laing, Lexie points out that not only does the 2019-20 campaign mark the third season in which one of the Laings has suited up for the Pride, it makes it so that all three have played in the odd years. Denna played in Year One of the NWHL, Brianna in Year Three and Lexie made her debut this season, Year Five.
“Oh, you think you can get rid of a Laing,” Lexie said. “But then you get one right back the next year. We just don't go away.”
Fact of the matter, though, is the Pride would have it no other way. That’s particularly true with the way the youngest Laing has performed throughout the first 18 games of her career.
After captaining Harvard in her final collegiate campaign and posting a career-best eight goals and 26 points for the Crimson last season, Laing has come into the NWHL and slotted into the middle of the Pride lineup without missing so much as a step. On an offensively overpowering Boston team – the Pride have a league-high 63 goals, 33 more than the next-highest scoring outfit – Laing has been consistent in her production. Her 11 goals put her in a tie for third on the Pride and sixth in the NWHL. Her 23 points are more than all but two of her teammates and three players in the circuit.
“Tori (Sullivan) and Carlee (Toews), my two linemates, are both huge factors because they're both great players,” Laing said about her offensive output this season. “I think right from the moment they put us together, we clicked really well. We have an attitude of, 'Let's just go out there and play. If we score, who cares. That'd be great.’…That’s refreshing. We don't feel a pressure to produce, so it's kind of been nice because that's been what's happening for our line.”
Laing did acknowledge that there’s more to the line’s production than their laidback approach, however, noting the speed-first mentality all three possess and the unselfish mentality with which they play. That spreads defenders and opens shooting lanes. It also hasn’t hurt that the Pride’s top line – Jillian Dempsey, McKenna Brand and Christina Putigna – takes some attention away from the second unit, but Laing is quick to point out that the entire Pride lineup can simply overwhelm opposing defenses.
“We're not considered a one-two punch. It's a constant. We're always attacking,” Laing said. “There's not a line on our team that's the 'easier line.' We're constantly attacking, pressuring the other team.”
That’s been key in helping the Pride run roughshod over the rest of the league. Last weekend’s defeat of the Connecticut Whale gave Boston a perfect 18-0-0 record and the longest winning streak in NWHL history. And fittingly, the record-setting victory came on “Denna Day,” the annual outing in which the Pride honor and fundraise for the eldest of the Laing sisters, who suffered a tragic spinal cord injury while playing for the Pride during a 2015 inter-league outdoor game against the CWHL’s Les Canadiennes de Montreal.
For Lexie, who scored in late in the first frame of the weekend win, her big sister’s presence on “Denna Day” is telling about what she means to the league and to the Pride. “I just think it speaks a lot to the Pride organization that she's still involved year after year,” Laing said. “It's not, 'Oh, yeah, this is a thing that happened,' and forget about it years later. They make a conscious effort to bring (Denna) into everything they do.”
And by everything, Laing means everything. Denna has been around the team throughout the season, at practices and at games and at team events. In a sense, it has provided the youngest and the oldest Laing sister with a first-of-its-kind experience. “Because we have such a big age gap, I've never been on a team playing with her,” Laing said. “That's something we would always look forward to during summers when we would go to my dad's summer camp. It’s definitely special for me…It’s cool to see how she leads and inspires other people on my team.”
The support of her sister, as well as the on- and off-ice support of the Pride players around her, has also helped propel the NWHL’s latest Laing into another experience that will be a first – not just for herself, but also for the three Laings who have come through the league.
When the league announced its all-star selections earlier this month, Laing found herself scooped up to be a part of Team Dempsey and one of the Pride’s league-high eight selections. It’s the first time one of the three Laing sisters will appear on an NWHL all-star squad, and it’s all the more fitting Laing will do so in front of friends and family when the weekend’s events take place on Feb. 8-9 at Boston’s Warrior Ice Arena, home of the Pride.
“It's a major honor,” she said. “I didn't really expect it, to be honest. I think it just made me recognize that all the hard work that I am putting in during practices and in games, showing up every day, is definitely working.”
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