Connecticut Whale head coach Colton Orr spent 12 seasons in the NHL building on his enforcer reputation. His mission now is to create a mindset of grit and tenacity for his National Women’s Hockey League team.
Orr hopes to instill an eye-of-the-tiger mentality as the squad continues to prepare for its first regular season NWHL game on Oct. 5 at the Danbury Ice Arena.
Coming off a season in which they won only 2 of 12 games, and with only five victories the prior campaign, the Whale needs just such a transformation to spark a resurgence and climb in the standings.
Given the task of creating a winning environment with a revamped roster of seasoned veterans and promising newcomers, Orr and assistant coach Laura Brennan are nonetheless confident that the Whale will contend in a league where talent runs deep in all five franchises.
It will take plenty of hard work, however, as the Whale returns only one forward — Kayla Meneghin — who had any offensive production (one goal, one assist) from the 2018-19 campaign.
At the defensive end, however, it’s a much different story as the Whale look to be a formidable force with the likes of fifth-year standouts Jordan Brickner, Shannon Doyle and Elena Orlando back in the pod. Doyle contributed three goals and five assists last season. Taylor Marchin, who played in 13 games last season, and rookie Erin Hall are also members of the defensive corps.
Whale Ready to Chart Their Course
As with any roster overhaul, the competition to earn key roles in 2019-20 will come into sharper focus in Storrs.
That battle will be especially evident in goal, where a newcomer will take charge between the pipes. The candidates are Brooke Wolejko, Sonjia Shelly and Cassandra Goyette, and all are primed to give their best effort.
Forwards looking to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the attacking zone this season along with Meneghin include Jane Morrisette, Kaycie Anderson, Kendra Broad, Emma Vlasic, Hanna Beattie, Sarah Hughson and Grace Klienbach.
The Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Metropolitan Riveters and Isobel Cup champion Minnesota Whitecaps have solid personnel and, as training camp continues, the hard work necessary to succeed is on every player’s mind.
“These fantastic athletes on the Whale and across the NWHL are role models to the next generation … I’m determined to take all of the hockey knowledge and life lessons learned from great NHL people like (former Rangers coach) Tom Renney and apply them to the Whale,” Orr said in his NWHL introductory press release.
The Whale’s Sept. 28 exhibition contest against the University of Connecticut women’s hockey team will help determine what roles each of the 16 players on the roster will have heading into the regular season. Three goalies, eight forwards and five defensemen will compete against the Huskies. The 3 p.m. showdown is at the Freitas Ice Forum.
Whale Trio Among NWHL ‘Elite Eight’
Whale defensemen Jordan Brickner, Shannon Doyle and Elena Orlando are on a prestigious list of only eight NWHL veterans who, when they hit the ice this season, will have played in the league since its inception in 2015-16.
The trio will take their place among an esteemed group which also includes Kiira Dosdall and Madison Packer (Metropolitan Riveters), Jillian Dempsey and Kaleigh Fratkin (Boston Pride) and Corinne Buie (Buffalo Beauts).
Mayor to Drop Puck at First Game
Danbury mayor Mark D. Boughton, who just over two years ago had successful surgery to remove a benign tumor from his brain, will drop the puck at the Whale’s historic home opener on Oct. 5. The ceremony will take place shortly before the action against the Buffalo Beauts gets underway at 2:30 p.m.
Boughton is in his ninth consecutive term, which makes him the longest tenured mayor in Danbury’s history.
Broadcasters Set to Call the Action
Phil Giubileo and Erica Ayala will be in the broadcast booth at the Danbury Ice Arena as the Whale embark on the home portion of its 2019-20 season.
Games are available on the free mobile app Twitch, the exclusive live-streaming partner of the NWHL. The league recently announced a three-year partnership with Twitch, which has more than 15 million active daily users.