Connecticut Whale enter holiday break with important victory over PHF rival Boston Pride
By Rick Menning and Connecticut Whale media release
After a hard-fought 5-2 setback to the Metropolitan Riveters, the Connecticut Whale sharpened their skates and got down to business against the defending Premier Hockey Federation champion Boston Pride to close out a split series weekend.
With their 6-4 victory over their rivals from Beantown, the Whale evened their season record at 3-3-1(OT) and set a building block for a strong run as the 2022 portion of the campaign turns the page into 2023.
A nail-biter of a game on Sunday ended with the Whale on the right side of the scoresheet at the International Skating Center of Connecticut, where Head Coach Colton Orr's skaters enacted their revenge on the Pride for the season-opening shutout earlier this season.
Caitrin Lonergan opened the game just two and a half minutes into the first period, redirecting a shot from Kennedy Marchment for Lonergan’s first professional goal. Not five minutes later, Lonergan was on the board again, scoring off a breakaway opportunity that she sent five-hole to beat Boston Pride net minder Corinne Schroeder and put the Whale up 2-0 early.
“I was just excited to help contribute,” said Lonergan post-game. “I think I’ve had a lot of chances so far and was kind of just waiting for the monkey to get off my back and just excited to help the team.”
With six and a half minutes left in the first period, Pride newcomer Olivia Zafuto seemingly scored, despite the call on the ice indicating “no goal.” A lengthy review determined Zafuto’s goal was good, and the Pride got on the board. After a handful of penalties that had both teams skating at four skaters a side, Loren Gabel capitalized at even strength to tie the game at two apiece.
The first period wasn’t over until the buzzer sounded, though, and Whale newcomer Mallory Souliotis combined with Kateřina Mrázová for a tic-tac-toe goal that Mrázová tapped in back door to give the Whale the lead going into the second period.
Early in the middle frame, who else but Gabel tied the game at three. The even score was short-lived, however, as Melissa Samoskevich got her first of the season tapping in a rebound from Alyssa Wohlfeiler. Not to be outdone, Wohlfeiler got a goal of her own with less than 20 seconds on the clock, lifting the puck from the ice and sending it top-shelf behind Schroeder to extend the lead to two.
A third period goal by Zafuto gave the Pride a chance at a comeback, but Whale goaltender Meeri Räisänen held firm through the final minutes of regulation and kept Connecticut in the game. Marchment added an empty-net goal to seal the deal for the Whale. Orr described the victory as “a good character win,” noting that “[The team has] had to deal with some adversity, you know, with canceled games and giving up some leads, so it was a big game. We found a way to respond when we got scored on or when they tied it up, and I think the players felt good about it. It was a huge three points after dropping one yesterday.”
PHF 2021-22 season Most Valuable Player Kennedy Marchment took center ice prior to Saturday's contest against the Riveters as she was joined by special guests celebrating his phenomenal achievement.
The Connecticut Whale were joined on Saturday afternoon by athletes from across Connecticut, including Connecticut Sun (WNBA) guards DiJonai Carrington and Courtney Williams and delegates from the Hartford Athletic (MLS), including CEO Jim Burda, captain Danny Barerra, and defender Ash Apollon. Also on hand were staff from the Hartford Wolf Pack and Hartford Yard Goats.
Despite the star-studded attendance, the Whale ultimately dropped their first game of the weekend to the Metropolitan Riveters.
Though an early penalty taken by Alyssa Wohlfeiler seemed grim, 2022 PHF Newcomer of the Year Taylor Girard took it right back the other way, scoring shorthanded to put the Whale on the board early in the first period. In spite of the early tally, the team ultimately could not withstand the offensive onslaught of the Riveters as the opposing team scored three even strength goals in the span of 1:23 in the second period, jumping out to a 3-1 lead.
Riveters newcomers Emilie Harley and Amanda Pelkey got the first two tallies and returner Kelly Babstock added the third.
In the third period, alternate captain Emma Vlasic closed the deficit to one goal. Amanda Conway walked the puck in with space, then Vlasic got the final touch on a net-front scramble to make it a 3-2 game.
Two minutes later, Pelkey struck again, restoring the two-goal lead. From there, the Riveters took it away with a final empty net goal by Sarah Bujold, and the Whale dropped their second straight contest.
Home for holidays
The Whale will be off for three weeks for the holiday break, resuming game action on Friday, January 6, when the team hosts Boston again at the International Skating Center of Connecticut for a 7 p.m. ET puck drop. On Sunday, January 9, the Whale will head down to New Jersey to take on the Metropolitan Riveters at the Rink at American Dream, with puck drop at 1 p.m.