WOLEJKO STARS IN GOAL, BUT BOSTON TOPS WHALE IN BRIDGEPORT
By Dan Rice
It was business as usual for the Boston Pride on Saturday afternoon, despite the change in venue, for their last trip of the season to Connecticut. The Pride defeated the Whale 3-0 in Webster Bank Arena, the home of the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, as the first part of the first-ever NWHL-AHL Doubleheader. The Sound Tigers and Webster Bank Arena were fantastic hosts to the 957 fans in attendance for the historic game.
“That was as solid of 60 minutes as we’ve played all season,” said Boston’s head coach Paul Mara following his team’s 22nd win of the season.
The Pride came out firing on all cylinders early on and finally found a chink in the armor of Whale netminder Brooke Wolejko at 8:34 when McKenna Brand found herself all alone at the side of the net for an easy rebound goal. Brand’s goal was her 18th of the season, moving her to within one of the league-leader Allie Thunstrom of the Minnesota Whitecaps, and was assisted by her linemate Christina Putigna. It also ended up being the sixth game-winning goal of the season for Brand, most in the NWHL.
Boston buried their second goal of the first period 8:04 later. Putigna doubled the Pride's lead on the power play with a rocket of a shot that rang off the crossbar and post before ending up behind Wolejko.
As the game went on, the Pride continued to pepper the net with shots, but Wolejko refused to allow the third goal, keeping her team in the game. “She’s played well against us all year,” said Mara. They recorded ten shots on goal in the opening two minutes of the third period, which was as many as the Whale had in the entire game to that point.
“I don’t know if the ice was bigger (than we are used to), but it seemed like we had a lot of room out there to get our feet moving,” said Pride defender Lauren Kelly. “That’s something that we try to focus on with our forwards moving up the ice.” Mary Parker finished the scoring of the day with 1:55 left in the third period on an empty-net goal.
But the star of the day was no doubt Wolejko, who turned aside shot after shot after shot after shot. After shot. She finished the game with 48 saves, several of the spectacular variety and admitted she was seeing the puck well despite the heavy workload. “I just try to take it one shot at a time, but unfortunately we didn’t get off to a good start,” said Wolejko. “I feel like a better start from us would have changed the tone of the game.”
Connecticut has had its struggles this season but they may have found a gem of a keeper with Wolejko who has stopped a ton of pucks over the second half of the season - and she has the Whale’s only two wins. The past two weekends against Boston she has faced almost a hundred shots, giving up only five goals.
At the other end of the ice, Lovisa Selander picked up her first shutout of the season, and Boston’s second of the season, needing to only make 15 saves. “It’s just one of those things where she’s played well, but just hasn’t had a shutout,” Mara said of his goaltender who improved to 16-1-0 on the season.
Dan's 3 Stars of the Game
1) Brooke Wolejko (CTW) 48 saves, L
2) Christina Putigna (BOS) goal (8), assist (21)
3) Jillian Dempsey (BOS) 11 SoG
Photo Credit: Bryan Johnson