WHALE WATCHING WITH ERICA: THE POD SWIMS TO WEBSTER BANK ARENA
By Erica Ayala
This Saturday, the Connecticut Whale return to the Nutmeg State for their final home game of the 2019-20 regular season. The Pod will hit the ice at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport as part of a special NWHL-AHL doubleheader. Fans can get tickets to this unique event by following this link. The Pride and the Whale will face off at 2:00 p.m. ET before the Bridgeport Sound Tigers host the Hershey Bears at 7:00 p.m.
The Whale are also hosting their annual You Can Play game on Saturday.
Out of the All-Star break, Connecticut fell to Boston 4-1 on the road on Feb. 15. The Pod held The Pack scoreless through 36 minutes of the game before Lexie Laing opened the scoring late into the second period. Kaycie Anderson scored her third goal of the 2019-20 season in the loss.
The Whale have taken every team in the league to overtime, but have only two wins on the season. Connecticut recently added defender Laurel Hill and forwards Alex Aramburu and Janine Weber to help move the puck offensively. Weber and Hill bring much-needed size to the Whale roster, while Aramburu brings additional quickness. Connecticut has improved its puck possession over the past several games but continues to struggle with the final touch in front of the net. Additionally, they are below 10 percent on the power play for the season.
With the playoffs just around the corner, the Whale need to find their scoring touch to take some pressure off of their goaltenders.
Players to Watch
Connecticut continues to shine defensively behind captain Shannon Doyle. The fifth-year defender leads the team in blocked shots (29) and assists (7). Rookie and fellow All-Star Emma Vlasic leads the team in goals (9). She is one goal shy of becoming the fifth player in franchise history to score 10 goals in a single season.
Head coach Colton Orr has presumably tapped Brooke Wolejko as his go-to goalie for the final stretch of the season. Wolejko stopped 46 of the 49 shots she faced last week in Boston and was named the third star of the game. She has been impressive against the Pride all season long. Wolejko enters Saturday's game with an impressive .912 save percentage, which is ranked fourth in the league.
Last week, Boston captain Jillian Dempsey helped put the Whale away with a goal and an assist in front of the sold-out Warrior Ice Arena crowd. She enters Saturday's game in Bridgeport as the league leader in points (38), assists (22), and points per game (1.7). Pride defender and NWHL veteran Kaleigh Fratkin continues to boost Boston from the blue line. She made several clutch plays to get Boston the win last weekend, including a primary assist on the first goal of the game.
She and the team know they can't take anything for granted heading into Saturday's matchup. "I think we just battled through, it wasn't the prettiest hockey for us as a group, we knew that. But, Connecticut's given us a hard time this year. They never back down," said Fratkin after the 4-1 win last week.
How to Watch
Fans can enjoy Saturday's action several different ways. First, you can watch the action live at Webster Bank Arena and help the Connecticut Whale celebrate their annual Pride Game with You Can Play! The price of admission is good for both games of the first-ever NWHL-AHL doubleheader. The second way to watch is at the Boston Pride Watch Party at Railstop in Brighton. The party begins at 1:30 pm. And, as always, fans can watch the action streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch.
Photo Credit: Michelle Jay, Bryan Johnson