After re-signing their star rookie goaltender Brooke Wolejko a week ago the Connecticut Whale are bringing back another crucial rookie for next season. On April 7 the team announced that Emma Vlasic will also be returning for her second season with the franchise.
As a rookie Vlasic led the Whale in goals (9), face-off percentage (.579), shots on goal (67), and tied for the team lead in power-play goals (2). She played in all 24 games in the regular season and two playoff games. The 23-year-old also led all forwards on her team in blocked shots (20).
After going the entire season without an assist Vlasic recorded three assists in Connecticut’s first playoff win in four years, a 5-3 win against the Buffalo Beauts. She is one of three players (Kaleigh Fratkin, Katelynn Russ) that had three points in the NWHL playoffs.
Making a Splash
“My first season with the Connecticut Whale was a great experience and I’m already looking forward to getting back on the ice with my teammates and getting ready for another fantastic NWHL season,” Vlasic said in the press release announcing her signing.
She was selected to the 2020 NWHL All-Star Game and was on the winning team in the Relay Challenge during the Skills Competition before chipping in two assists to help Team Dempsey win the game. Prior to joining the NWHL Vlasic played at Yale University where she served as team captain during her senior year. In 114 games at the Ivy League school, she recorded 46 points (23g-23a).
“I was really impressed with how we developed as a group and you really saw how we came together over our last couple of games. In Buffalo, I really thought we really put together a team effort (to get that win) and that displayed how much we had improved over the course of the season. That was really special to be a part of,” Vlasic said via phone.
“The Whale have what it takes to compete among the best in the league and I’m excited to pursue an Isobel Cup championship with my team. I’m very proud to be set for another season in Connecticut,” she added.
Vlasic is Kind of a Big Dill
With both Wolejko and Vlasic now under contract for next season, GM Bray Ketchum Peel has a young, solid foundation to build upon as she attempts to guide the Whale to their first Isobel Cup championship. Connecticut is the only team that has yet to capture an NWHL title, but the way they played against both Isobel Cup finalists at the end of this past season gives them hope that their day to lift the Cup may be coming sooner rather than later.
“Emma had a tremendous rookie season. She is a threat in the face-off circle and we can rely on her in all situations,” said Ketchum Peel. “Her work ethic is exceptional and we know she will continue to develop as a strong player in the NWHL. We are excited to welcome back Emma!”
Moments after the announcement of her signing dropped several of her teammates took to Twitter to express how happy they were to see Vlasic back with The Pod for a second season.
“Watch out goalies, this girl can snipe! Can’t wait to get back on the ice with you Pickles,” tweeted Wolejko.
“She’s kind of a big dill! Huge signing for the Connecticut Whale, a fantastic player, and teammate,” tweeted Elena Orlando.
Sunny Days Ahead
“We saw the potential that we have and if we start that way next season it will allow us to be that much better,” Vlasic said. “We had close games with the best teams in the league and we plan to be right up there and beating those teams next year. That’s the kind of development we expect out of this organization.”
The Illinois native can play effectively in all three zones and there is no situation where the coaching staff would hesitate to put her on the ice, and she’s only going to get better as she develops and grows her game. “After seeing what we are capable of we just have to put that into a full season next year and I’m excited to see what that looks like,” she added.
Vlasic is the eighth NWHL player to sign for the league’s sixth season and the third rookie (Wolejko, Kendall Cornine) that is confirmed to return for a second season. With a solid mix of veterans and younger players already committed to next season, the league will continue to grow with talented players and people like Vlasic around.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.