On March 11 the Connecticut Whale revealed that they had re-signed three important players from last season’s team. All three players were crucial in the Whale winning their first playoff game in four years and the trio, along with the previously re-signed players, will look to hit the ground running in season 6 and build upon the momentum gained from that playoff win.
Hanna Beattie will be entering her fourth season with Connecticut, Taylor Marchin will be with The Pod for her third season, and Katelynn Russ will be starting her first full season with the Whale after impressing during her two regular-season and two playoff games. Both Beattie and Russ carried the offensive load in the Whale’s 5-3 playoff triumph in Buffalo, combining for four goals and an assist.
“The Whale are really proud to have Katelynn, Taylor, and Hanna set to return next season,” Connecticut GM Bray Ketchum Peel in the press release announcing the signings.
Beattie, who can play defense or forward, had her best season as a pro by far in 2019-20 and was selected to play in the 2020 All-Star Game. In 22 regular-season games, she put up six points (3g-3a), 26 shots on goal, had 12 blocked shots, and won 27 of the 51 face-offs she took. In 50 career NWHL games, she has seven points (3g-4a) and has two goals in four playoff games with the Whale.
“Hanna is the type of player every team wants in their lineup,” said Ketchum Peel. “She rose to the occasion last season when we put her on defense, and she found her scoring touch in big moments.”
She was often partnered with captain Shannon Doyle on the blueline this past season and the duo worked very well together. “Hanna has been a fabulous teammate since day one and is someone who always works hard in practice, helps her teammates, and always brings positive energy to our room,” Doyle told The Hockey Writers back in January.
“She brings something that can’t be tracked on a stat sheet, she makes the smart play each shift; and that confidence is infectious to all of us around her.”
Taylor Made for Connecticut
Marchin finished her second season with the Whale with 35 blocked shots, which was second in the league behind teammate Doyle’s 68. The physical defender played in all 24 games for Connecticut and registered her first three NWHL points, all assists, and then added another one in the postseason.
She has played in a total of 40 games with the Whale (regular season and playoffs) and rejoins a blueline that will be a formidable opponent again against the other five NWHL teams. “Taylor has been part of the backbone of the Whale defense. She is reliable and loves to compete,” Ketchum Peel said.
“I would describe myself as a reliable defender and teammate, who isn’t flashy but loves to rip a slap shot, said Marchin last summer. “I always look to bring a strong work ethic and a calming presence in the defensive zone to my team.”
Big Game Russ
Russ had quite the audition with the Whale at the tail end of the season. After her 135-game career ended at Union College she joined Connecticut for their final two games of the season. But it was in the postseason, specifically the play-in game, that she made the biggest impression.
The winger netted two huge goals and added an assist on the game-winning goal in helping the Whale advance to a semifinal game in Boston two days later. “Russ is a force up-front,” said Ketchum Peel. “She’s strong, a great skater and she loves to shoot. Expect a lot of goals from her in her first full year in the NWHL.”
With the trio of signings, the Whale now has nine players under contract for next season. Beattie, Marchin, and Russ will join veteran defenders Doyle and Elena Orlando, goaltender Brooke Wolejko, forwards Emma Vlasic and Kaycie Anderson, and rookie defender Tori Howran who was recently drafted seventh overall by Connecticut in the 2020 NWHL Draft.
The long losing streak for the franchise is a thing of the past now and with a solid core group returning the Whale will be focused on hitting the ground running this upcoming season, no longer having to worry about getting to know each other’s tendencies and styles of play. The hope is that they can now use the playoff success as a springboard and finally capture that elusive Isobel Cup.
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.