The Connecticut Whale spent Saturday afternoon working on the ice hockey version of a jigsaw puzzle as they battled the host University of Connecticut (UConn) women’s team in an exhibition game in Storrs, CT.
While there are still pieces to that puzzle left to fit into place, the overall picture is starting to become more clear as the National Women’s Hockey League squad prepares for its final two preseason practices this week. The Whale open their regular season at the Danbury Ice Arena on Saturday, Oct. 5 with a 2:30 P.M. showdown against the Buffalo Beauts.
Lines Don’t Sway from Game Plan
Having to ward off a tenacious Huskies’ charge for most of their 4-1 loss at the Freitas Ice Forum, the Whale kept to its strategy of mixing and matching lines. Assistant coach Laura Brennan, filling in for head coach Colton Orr, gave the three rookie goalies an equal opportunity to take charge in the nets for one period apiece.
And take charge they did, stopping 42 of 46 shots with a one-and-done approach while allowing the Huskies few second-chance opportunities.
Sonjia Shelly settled between the pipes in the first period and turned away 13 of 14 shots, with the only blemish being Taylor Wabick’s goal nine minutes into the contest that gave UConn a 1-0 advantage.
Brooke Wolejko handled the second period and made 14 saves in 16 attempts, while Cassandra Goyette took over in the third period and turned aside 15 of the Huskies’ 16 tries. “We found out that all three of our goalies are great goalies,” Brennan said. “I was pretty happy with what they showed out there.”
Attack Scheme a Work in Progress
The Whale’s lone goal came three minutes into the second period when Kendra Broad took a feed from Emma Vlasic and beat UConn goalie Samantha Carpentier-Yelle. The Huskies’ netminder was perfect the rest of the way and finished with 15 saves.
The tie didn’t last long, however, as UConn struck less than two minutes later on the first of two goals by Claire Peterson. Danika Pasqua made it 3-1 with a tally at the 18:46 mark of that same period.
Peterson added the third-period goal as the Whale managed only three shots over the final 20 minutes. All things considered, Brennan was pleased with her team’s ability to persevere through the Huskies’ offensive showing.
“I thought today was a good first step for us to see where we’re at, what we need to be working on, and what our personnel can do,” Brennan said. “We’re just trying at this point to find the right pieces to the puzzle.”
The Whale fought through the adversity throughout the contest as Hanna Beattie teamed up with Vlasic and Grace Klienbach for several rushes into the low slot.
On another odd-man rush through traffic, Kaycie Anderson and Kayla Meneghin joined forces with Beattie on a counter-attack resulting in Carpentier-Yelle having to make a sprawling save.
At the other end of the ice, Elena Orlando had several solid blocks in front of her trio of netminders.
The positives were also evident in the faceoff circle, where the Whale prevailed with 26 draws to the Huskies’ 22. Brennan’s squad did commit six penalties, however, to UConn’s two.
All in all, reasons for optimism abound. “We’ll just keep building and working hard in practice with an emphasis on generating more shots and generating more of an offense,” Brennan said.
Girls Welcome to Free Hockey Clinic
Prior to Saturday’s opener, the Whale will welcome those of ages 11-14 to the ice for a Girls Try Hockey For Free clinic.
The event begins at 11:40 A.M. and takes place in conjunction with Girls International Hockey Weekend (Oct. 5-6). The program is run by the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers.
The lesson at the Danbury Ice Arena is designed for those with little or no experience. All participants will receive a free ticket to the Whale – Beauts game that same day at 2:30 P.M.
Free rental skates and loaner equipment will be provided.