On August 1 the Connecticut Whale continued their roster rebuild when they announced that they had come to terms with Emma Vlasic from Yale University. During the Whale makeover this offseason GM Bray Ketchum has signed four forwards and four defenders thus far and none of the four forwards, including Vlasic, played in the NWHL last season; only Grace Klienbach (2017-18) has NWHL experience (13 games) among the four forwards.
All four of the defenders did play for Connecticut last season though which will be a welcome sight for whoever ends up tending goal for the Whale. For the last two seasons despite their talent, Connecticut has been at the bottom of the league in goals scored, so Ketchum has every reason to attempt a different approach than the one that former GM/coach Ryan Equale employed.
“Emma is coming off of a strong college career at Yale,” said Ketchum, who also starred at Yale, in the press release announcing Vlasic’s signing. “We are excited to watch her grow as a professional hockey player. She will bring speed and skill to the Whale forward lineup. Welcome back to Connecticut, Emma!”
Wilmette, Illinois is home for Vlasic, but she now will be back in Connecticut where she recorded 46 points (23g-23a) in 114 games for the Yale Bulldogs. “I just want to keep improving my game and learn from the best of the business,” said Vlasic. The 23-year-old was captain during her senior season and this past June her younger brother Alex was drafted in the second round by the Chicago Blackhawks; their cousin Marc-Edouard Vlasic has played 965 games over 13 seasons for the San Jose Sharks.
“The chance to play professionally in the NWHL is an unbelievable opportunity,” she added. “When I was growing up, there was no professional women’s hockey and I’ve always been a huge fan of the NHL, so I’m really excited to be signing with the Connecticut Whale this season and be a part of the NWHL.”
This is what the Whale roster currently looks like:
Defense: Shannon Doyle, Taylor Marchin, Elena Orlando, Jordan Brickner
Forward: Kendra Broad, Jane Morrisette, Grace Klienbach, Emma Vlasic
Lorence a Golden Addition for Caps
On August 2 the Minnesota Whitecaps announced they had signed 27-year-old forward Meghan Lorence who last played a full season in her senior year (2014-15) with the University of Minnesota. While with the Golden Gophers Lorence captured three NCAA Titles (2012, 2013, 2015) and recorded 102 points (50g-52a) in 158 games. She was an alternate captain in her senior season.
“When I was younger, I remember going to Whitecaps games in Minnesota when the team first formed and they were playing independently, and I thought it was so cool that there was a chance for female hockey players to continue their career after college,” Lorence said in the press release announcing her signing. “Being a former Jr. Whitecap, I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue my journey and be a part of the Whitecaps and the NWHL this year, to keep the tradition going for the young female athletes to have the same opportunity for years to come.”
With the departures of star players like Kendall Coyne Schofield, Katie McGovern, and Hannah Brandt from Minnesota’s roster there are job openings available for forwards to get some serious playing time. “I’m very excited to be joining the Whitecaps this season,” added Lorence who is a native of Mounds View, Minnesota.
Richards Heads Home
Another player from the state of Minnesota will also be suiting up for the Whitecaps this season, but she won’t be a rookie like Lorence will be. On August 5 it was announced that the team had come to terms with Audra Richards who was an All-Star as a rookie with the Metropolitan Riveters last season and tied for the team lead in goals with eight.
“We are very pleased to have Audra on the Whitecaps this season,” said Whitecaps’ co-head coach Jack Brodt. “She had a really good season with the Riveters last year and we are expecting her to be a contributor for the Whitecaps this season.”
Richards’ first assist with Minnesota will be her first NWHL assist. She played in all 16 games for the Rivs and was tied with Jonna Curtis (who is now her teammate in Minnesota) for most goals scored by a first-year player. In addition to the eight goals she scored during the regular season, the Maplewood, Minnesota native added another two in their playoff game against the Connecticut Whale.
“The NWHL is truly something special and I am tremendously happy to be a part of it for another season,” said Richards in the press release announcing her signing. “Being able to play in my home state for the first time in seven years will be an incredible experience, knowing I will be with so many of my family members, friends, former and current teammates,
Richards Raves About Rivs
“I’m extremely excited to be signing with the Minnesota Whitecaps, added Richards. “It is a fantastic program with great leadership, success, and I cannot wait to be a part of it.” Richards will make her lone trip to New Jersey to play against her old teammates on January 4 and 5.
“I would like to thank the Riveters for giving me the opportunity to play in the NWHL as a rookie last season, it was a dream come true. My thanks go out to the Riveters fans – I will truly miss your enthusiasm and I cannot wait to see you in New Jersey,” said Richards.
This is what the Whitecaps roster currently looks like:
Goaltenders: Amanda Leveille, Allie Morse
Defense: Amanda Boulier, Lisa Martinson
Forward: Allie Thunstrom, Jonna Curtis, Nicole Schammel, Brooke White-Lancette, Haylea Schmid, Meghan Lorence, Audra Richards
Beginning May 15, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2018-19 roster and their draft picks. Additionally, for those players who have completed their college eligibility and want to continue their hockey careers, NWHL Free Agency provides the best opportunity to continue playing at the highest level of professional women’s hockey. The fifth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Minnesota Whitecaps look to defend their Isobel Cup championship.
My colleague Nathaniel Oliver will keep THW readers up-to-date on Buffalo and Boston’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Connecticut and the Riveters. Together we will be keeping readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.
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.