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Quite a splash! Connecticut Whale goalie caps dazzling first game for PHF squad in Simsbury

By Rick Menning


SIMSBURY, CT -- As a collegian at Quinnipiac University, goaltender Abbie Ives gave more than a few opposing skaters fits with her performance between the pipes as her 2,231 saves and .926 save percentage can attest.

But perhaps most noteworthy from her statistics with the Bobcats is her 14 career shutouts while starting in goal during three of her four seasons atop the York Hill Campus in Hamden, CT.

Up until Friday, the Connecticut Whale veteran netminder who is in her third season with The Pod had never experienced what she did in igniting the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) hosts to an inaugural victory in their new home.

HUGS ALL AROUND: Connecticut Whale goaltender Abbie Ives receives an initial embrace from veteran team captain Shannon Turner before the rest of the players join in the celebration as the horn sounds clinching the 2-0 triumph vs. Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Sawn.)

Accentuating a sensational night at the International Skating Center of Connecticut (ISCC), Ives was acrobatic in stopping every shot the visiting Minnesota Whitecaps threw in her direction. She did everything but stand on her head during a 24-save masterpiece and her first pro career shutout as the Whale prevailed, 2-0.

Building on her 400-plus saves as a professional, the Bedford Hills, N.Y. native faced a significant challenge less than three minutes into the game.


Show Stopper


With a standing-room-only crowd at the ISCC looking on, and with Connecticut facing an early penalty kill, Ives stopped not one but two dead-on shots from her left side within the first minute of the kill.

But she didn't stop there.

Over the next several Whitecaps' rushes into the offensive zone, Ives stretched out to make save number three before subsequently landing full body on a slow-rolling puck as all four Minnesota attempts at power-play tallies were denied with emphasis.

"It's definitely good to get into (the action) like that early," said Ives, who won her 13th career game against just four losses in goal for the Whale. "It's good to be involved and set the tone for the rest of the game."

Whale Head Coach Colton Orr was impressed with not only Ives' effort but the team as a whole against a hard-charging Whitecaps' team that hung in there to the final buzzer.

To have Ives put the explanation point to the Connecticut Whale's opening contest in their new building made it very special.

"The work Abbie put in during the offseason and her focus and the way she is playing right now has been great," Orr said during the post-game press conference. "She's so solid and tracks pucks so well...we have all the confidence in the world in her."


Top-line again


Another huge thrill for the large gathering of fans on opening night in the new home rink was seeing two of the Whale's top-line stars provide the goals.

Kennedy Marchment, who in her rookie 2021-22 season with the PHF set a single-season franchise scoring record enroute to Most Valuable Player accolades, scored the historic first-ever Whale goal in Simsbury when she deposited a pass from Katerina Mrazova off a rebound in the first period.

She credited the big crowd with providing adrenaline for the Whale.

"The atmosphere was super amazing tonight," said Marchment, who scored 13 goals and added 20 assists last season. "All the cheering and the loudness was great. It makes you want to work hard and do your best as a professional."

Like Orr, Kennedy had high praise for Ives' determination and resolve to keep every puck out of the back of her net.

"Abbie was absolutely outstanding," Marchment said. "She deserved that shutout. She worked for every save and was the backbone of the team tonight."

Connecticut followed-up with its insurance goal in the third period when Alyssa Wohlfeiler, in her fourth season with the franchise, connected via a terrific feed from Taylor Girard.


Saturday blues


Unfortunately, the Whale couldn't make it a clean sweep during their debut weekend at the ISCC facility as Minnesota left the state with a 4-3 cliffhanger win on Saturday afternoon.

There was a bright spot early in the game as Justine Reyes blasted home her first-ever PHF goal off a pass from Lenka Serdar.

"It feels pretty good (to score that goal)," said Reyes, playing in her first season with the Whale after accumulating 109 points in 145 career games with the St. Lawrence University Saints. "I think my line has been cooking the past couple of games so it was nice to get that play going."

Then, later in the action, Taylor Girard scored Connecticut's second goal and, in the process, extended her point-per-game pace as she has now accumulated six points across five games played this season.

Katerina Mrazova recorded her first goal of the 2022-23 campaign with less than one minute left in play. Goalie Meeri Räisänen made 18 saves in her first home start in Simsbury.


Next sightings


While weekend series usually involve the same opponent, that will not be the case over the Dec. 17-18 ice doings at the International Skating Center of Connecticut.

After a visit from the Metropolitan Riveters on Saturday (Dec. 17) at 2 p.m., the Whale battles the PHF Champion Boston Pride on Sunday (Dec. 18), also a 2 p.m. puck drop.

Tickets are available for both games at whale.universitytickets.com/. Both match-ups can also be seen on ESPN+.









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