Connecticut Stays Hot with Seventh Consecutive Win After Battle vs. Boston
Following an action-packed All-Star weekend, the Boston Pride hosted the Connecticut Whale on Saturday in the first of a two-game series.
The two New England organizations are all too familiar with each other, having met previously back in mid-November in Connecticut, where the series was split 1-1. Now back in Boston, the Pride looked to get back in the win column and potentially move closer to second place in the standings. The Whale however, had different plans and came to Boston looking for their seventh win in a row and they certainly got it, as they defeated the Pride 3-2 in regulation. The game was very balanced offensively and defensively, for the most part, there were just a few extra openings that Connecticut took advantage of to create scoring chances.
Saturday evening’s matchup was prefaced with a pregame ceremony honoring Students in Healthcare Night, an initiative led by Boston’s Sammy Davis. Davis is currently an Occupational Therapy Doctoral student with Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, where she is expected to graduate in 2023.
The key to success for any offense is to score early and often. Both top lines for each team, had their share of attacking zone rushes in the first couple minutes back and forth. Connecticut’s difficulty to control the puck favored Boston as captain Jillian Dempsey secured the puck in the neutral zone, beating two defenders on the left wing boards and cut in for a shot denied by Whale netminder Abbie Ives. Dempsey caught her own rebound and passed it out to Mallory Souliotis on the doorstep, who fired a wrister past Ives for the first goal of the night for Boston at 5:34. Souliotis recorded her first goal of the season on the play.
Connecticut is well-known for their gritty, intense style of play and Saturday proved no different. Boston may have felt a bit comfortable with their lead, giving the Whale some room to break out and setup scoring chances, and unfortunately, they did. A line change by the Pride allowed CTW to find a spot to make a rush into the zone on the left wing by Emma Vlasic, much like Dempsey did earlier, and found Amanda Conway out front for the pass and tucked it behind Katie Burt for the goal, tying the game 1-1 at 7:11.
Both teams were pretty well-behaved in the first half of the opening period, with no penalties to note. Following the commercial break, the Pride wanted to spice things up and give Connecticut a powerplay opportunity. A minor penalty for cross-checking sent Kaleigh Fratkin to the “doghouse” for two minutes. The Pride penalty kill unit should have gotten a collective vote to the All-Star Showcase last weekend based on their unbelievable performance this season. Fratty’s penalty expired as Boston returned to full strength, with no goals allowed on the shorthand.
The fifth player back on the ice helped the Pride set up offensively after a faceoff win, breaking out of their own zone. Sammy Davis carried the puck into the attacking end with Taylor Wenczkowski in tow. Davis saucered the puck out to the point to Wenczkowski who sent a wristshot that deflected into the net, over the shoulder of Abbie Ives, putting the Pride up 2-1 at 15:29. Wenczkowski’s fifth goal of the season allowed Boston to take the lead heading into the second period. Before the period could end, however, the Pride would get their first powerplay opportunity following a tripping penalty on Kennedy Marchment at 19:10. Boston couldn’t score before the buzzer, but they would have just over a minute on the player advantage to open the period.
End of First Period: BOS – 2, CTW – 1
The gameplan for Boston coming out of the locker room was essentially “hold the lead, and score a powerplay goal.” Unfortunately Boston’s powerplay unit couldn’t capitalize on their chances as the penalty on Marchment served its time. The Pride have been noticeably struggling for the majority of the season on the powerplay, which is a good sign for opposing teams. As we’ve said in the past, there needs to be an adjustment on the special teams and time is slowly ticking away as we get closer to the end of the season.
Connecticut took a play out of Boston’s book as they went on the offensive early in the period. The defensive zone for Boston was just that, as the Whale’s overwhelming presence flustered the Pride a little bit. Boston could simply not find control with the puck which caused the Whale to take over and create a few scoring chances. Janine held the puck in deep, flipped it on net with a weak backhand. Emma Vlasic was ready for the rebound and caused a bit of traffic in front as Katie Burt tried covering the puck. Vlasic snuck it past Burt for the game-tying goal, in the midst of the traffic jam at 3:31. A brief hold on the play, however, caused some confusion as the goal was reviewed. Maybe there was some goalie interference, but the call on the ice was confirmed as the Whale tied things up 2-2.
Following Connecticut’s goal, things began to pick up on the physical side as Taylor Girard was assessed a minor penalty for roughing at 5:23. Boston’s powerplay unit had another chance to make something happen on offense. The offense had a few offensive rushes, but nothing crossed the goal line for Boston. Where the Pride couldn’t capitalize, Connecticut figured out a way to find an opening. The Pride’s defense could not spread out which gave the Whale too much room to work with, as Janine Weber found Allie Munroe at the point. Munroe fired a shot in that was saved by Burt and Kennedy Marchment was down low for the rebound off the pad and slid it just past Burt for the go-ahead goal at 6:23. Kennedy Marchment has been on fire this season with now eight goals and eight assists. She’s averaged 1.2 points-per-game which is an impressive feat in her rookie year. A sure-fire Rookie of the Year candidate, no doubt about it.
The remainder of the period was quiet on the scoreboard, but Boston wouldn’t stay silenced, at least not in terms of penalties. Kayla Friesen, who made her return to the Pride on Saturday, drew a minor penalty for body-checking at 19:48. This is not so bad. Weird, right? The Pride have had a 90% success rate on the penalty kill, so it makes sense to be positive about our team on the shorthand. As the clock ran down to zero, the Connecticut Whale would have the lead as they head into the third period.
End of Second Period: CTW – 3, BOS – 2
The final frame of play was a nail-biter because there were so many scoring opportunities for Boston to capitalize on that just wouldn’t connect. Kayla Friesen’s time in the penalty box expired as neither team could muster up any momentum. With that said, the third period was rather boring as no goals were scored in the last 20-minutes.
We expected there to be a stalemate of sorts, as these two teams are long-time rivals and they’re keen on each other’s gameplan. The last period reflected that, or maybe everyone was a bit fatigued. It was probably a mixture of both. Most of the excitement came along in the second half of the third, as the physicality became a factor in the game. Rebecca Morse rented out the penalty box for a couple minutes following an elbowing call. Boston’s powerplay had one more shot to make some magic, and hopefully tie the game and send things to overtime. As the pattern has followed to this point, Boston was unable to generate momentum on the player-advantage for a game-tying goal. The Pride’s powerplay success rate now stands at 4%, the lowest in the PHF. Hopefully the team can improve on that statistic by shaking up the lines. It may work…you never know until you try.
Connecticut’s penalty was matched by Boston as Sammy Davis was charged a minor penalty for checking from behind at 13:08. Davis was a bit shaken up on the play following her hit as she fell to the ice just as play stopped on the delayed penalty. A couple bumps and bruises are certainly common in hockey, but you hate seeing your team’s players getting hurt in any capacity. Both penalties expired without any goals allowed, which is a Catch-22 in a sense that even though we didn’t score, Connecticut didn’t expand on their lead.
The remainder of the period was mostly back and forth yet again. Not too much excitement except for a few plays that could have been seen as a penalty here and there. It’s hard to be upset about a game like this, both teams came out with speed, intensity, and overall focus on getting a win. Connecticut was just more offensively sound at the end of the day, and got the upper hand with a shorthanded goal in the 2nd. As the final buzzer sounded, the Connecticut Whale would record their seventh consecutive victory, as they defeated the Boston Pride 3-2. The Whale still sit in second place behind the Toronto Six at 9-3-1, while the Pride are still holding their third place spot at 7-4. Hopefully we can see some offensive adjustments on Boston’s side in Sunday’s game, that little extra ounce of momentum can change the whole dynamic and put them back in the win column. Keeping the pressure and closing the gaps are essential points to focus on if Boston wants to come away with a victory on Sunday in the season finale with the Whale.
Final Score: CTW – 3, BOS – 2