The Connecticut Whale have returned home from a disappointing yet not disheartening two-loss weekend in northern New York with a renewed focus on using Saturday’s first period and Sunday’s third period as building blocks.
The Whale battled right down to the last 24 seconds in a 5-4 overtime setback to the Buffalo Beauts on Oct. 19, and saw a terrific comeback bid fall short in a 6-4 outcome on Oct. 20 to close out the series at the Northtown Center.
A fast start and promising finish to 120 minutes of hockey resulted in only one point for the Whale. However, two stretches of play in particular brought to light just how well the Connecticut skaters can execute collectively at both ends of the ice.
The two contests provided a wild roller-coaster ride of emotions for the Whale, who scored three times less than 12 minutes into the action in the first of the back-to-backs, only to have the hosts respond with five of the next six goals.
Then, the following afternoon, it was the Beauts who struck early and often for a 4-1 lead, only to see the Whale answer with three of the next four goals to trail 5-4 before the rally ended with an empty netter.
Three games into their National Women’s Hockey League season, Whale players remain confident as they prepare for their next series Oct. 26 and Oct. 27 against the Isobel Cup champion Minnesota Whitecaps at the Danbury Ice Arena. Games start at 3:30 p.m. (Saturday) and 1:30 p.m. (Sunday).
Whale Take Charge Early in Game One
Jane Morrisette went right at the Beauts’ defenders as the game was heating up Saturday, and she planted two backhanders past Buffalo goalie Mariah Fugimagari. Captain Shannon Doyle added a goal from the high slot later in that first period to put the Whale up 3-0.
Jordan Brickner had assists on all three of those scores as the Whale’s early dominance had the Twitch TV audience of more than 2,000 viewers lighting up the chat room.
But then penalties began to take a toll on the Whale and the Beauts capitalized on four power play opportunities, including the clincher in overtime.
The first two of those chances cut the Whale’s lead to 3-2 after two periods.
Sarah Hughson made it 4-2 with her first career NWHL goal off a nice feed from Morrisette five minutes into the third period. However, Buffalo added two over the next four minutes and regulation ended in a deadlock.
On the assist ledger right behind Brickner (3) thus far this season, the trio of Elena Orlando, Kaycie Anderson and Hughson have two apiece.
Saturday’s Whale Player of the Game
Morrisette, a rookie winger hailing from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, was a beast against the Beauts.
Her three-point game was her first since Jan. 16, 2015, when as a Beacon she achieved a then career-best three assists against New England College.
Rough Start to Second Game in Amherst
Buffalo quickly went on the attack in this one, finding the back of the net twice in the first five minutes before Kayla Meneghin struck with her first goal of the season at the 14:36 mark to cut the deficit to 2-1. However, the Beauts added two more before the first intermission.
Meneghin played a super all-around game as she led the Whale with three takeaways. She also came through with two blocked shots.
Connecticut charged back with three of the next four goals, including tallies by Emma Vlasic and newcomer Haley Payne that cut the deficit to 5-4. Brickner provided the Whale’s other goal during that surge with a second-period tally.
The Whale’s Sonjia Shelly took over between the pipes in the second and third period and turned back 16 of 17 Beauts’ shots.
One interesting statistic, researched by the Cetacean Nation fan club on Twitter, reveals that 14 different Whale players have shots on goal already this season, and the squad now has 30 or more shots (30, 30 and 31) in all three games.
Sunday’s Whale Player of the Game
After being limited to four shots (one for a goal) and no blocks on Saturday, Whale captain Shannon Doyle doubled down on Sunday with eight shots and four blocks to lead the team in both categories.
Doyle’s two clutch assists on goals by Vlasic and Payne in the third period gave Connecticut a fighting chance down the stretch.
Whale Duo Start Charitable Endeavors
Doyle recently announced a fundraising initiative connected to the number of blocks she achieves this season.
Whale forward Kendra Broad is also turning her play on the ice this season into a venture for a good cause.