On the first day of July, the Connecticut Whale kicked off a new month of NWHL signings with the announcement that they had come to terms with the second overall pick in the 2020 NWHL Draft, Kayla Friesen from Clarkson University. Friesen joins a talented group of players that the Whale has assembled that has many people pegging them as the most-improved team this off-season.
A day later the Metropolitan Riveters announced they had re-signed three players who made their league debuts last season, forwards Tatiana Shatalova, Brooke Avery, and Jayne Lewis. All three provided secondary scoring for the Rivs last season, and Lewis did it in just two games when she joined the team following the end of her collegiate career.
Winnipeg to Whale
As a senior at Clarkson, Friesen (a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba) racked up 30 points (10g-20a) in 28 games and was second on the team with 225 face-off wins. Before transferring to Clarkson she played three years at St. Cloud State University where she was team captain as a junior.
“Signing with Connecticut allows me to be part of an organization that’s moving in the right direction,” said the 22-year-old Friesen in the press release announcing her signing. “I’m extremely proud to join the NWHL – a league that wants the best for women’s hockey and is willing to take the steps needed to build a strong platform and business that will continue to grow and endure for generations to come. I’m excited to get things rolling this season.”
Though he only coached her for one season, Clarkson head coach Matt Desrosiers had high praise for Friesen. “She’s physical, strong, not afraid to get to the tough areas of the ice to compete for pucks and goals. Kayla is the type of player that coaches want in their program and she will be a great addition to the Connecticut Whale and the NWHL.”
Friesen is the 15th player signed by the Whale for the upcoming season. She joins forwards Emma Vlasic, Kaycie Anderson, Amanda Conway, Melissa Samoskevich, Nicole Guagliardo, and Katelynn Russ, defenders Shannon Doyle, Elena Orlando, Taylor Marchin, Hanna Beattie, Tori Howran, and Maggie LaGue, and goaltenders Brooke Wolejko and Abbie Ives.
Rivs Rolling Through the Off-Season
With the announcement that Shatalova, Avery, and Lewis would be back for another season to rep the Rivs they now have a total of 10 players returning (with maybe a few more also in play) from last season’s squad. This keeps the ball rolling in the right direction after the team fell off the tracks after winning the Isobel Cup.
Avery finished her first season as a pro with five points/goals over 21 games and was a valuable asset for the coaching staff to plug in at multiple positions throughout the lineup when the situation called for it.
Shatalova, the league’s youngest player at 20-years-old, finished her first season in the NWHL with 12 points (2g-10a) in 22 games – which was fifth on the team in points/assists. She had one midseason stretch where she tallied nine points in eight games.
Lewis finished her career at Sacred Heart (tied with Taylor Moreland) as the school’s all-time leading scorer (139 points). As a senior she was the team’s leading scorer, putting up 35 points (22g-13a) in 32 games.
“We have a lot of confidence that Tatiana, Brooke, and Jayne will all be major contributors as the Riveters contend for the Isobel Cup next season,” said GM Kate Whitman Annis. “This trio of impact players are important signings for our team in the upcoming season.
By bringing back Avery, Lewis, and Shatalova the Riveters now have signed 16 players this off-season. They join goaltenders Tera Hofmann and Sonjia Shelly, defenders Rebecca Morse, Saroya Tinker, Leila Kilduff, Samantha Fieseler, and forwards Madison Packer, Kendall Cornine, Cailey Hutchison, Mallory Rushton, Emily Janiga, Kate Leary, and Sammy Kolowrat.
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.