WHALE’S TALES 4/30/21: CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE POD IS COOKIN’?

With the announcement on 4/28 of the Season Six NWHL Award Winners, we can close the book on the most “unique” season in league history. Free Agency is upon us, and dates have been set for try-out camps and the draft. On June 12th the Whale will be hosting their Free Agent Camp, ironically enough at the Rivs old digs at the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, NJ. And last week the NWHL announced the details for the 2021 Draft, which will be held on Tuesday, June 29. More info both of those events on the league website at nwhl.zone.

So the Whale brain trust, Amy Scheer, Colton Orr and Laura Brennan will be busy putting formulating evaluations, strategies, draft and free agency decisions, and core team retentions. Every team, regardless of which pro sport, turns over about one third of their roster each season. Some much higher, and 75% turnovers are not unheard of. The Pod were at roughly 40% turnover last season from Season Five. Cetacean Nation always views the re-shuffling of the rosters as a bittersweet experience at best. There are always players that depart which we wished didn’t). But we also realize there are many different forces at work here, in both the players decision and the decisions of each team. So we get fully behind each year’s amazing new edition of our Whale. That is largely possible because “Once a Whale, always a Whale” is not just the slogan of the citizens of Cetacean Nation. It is part and parcel of the the inclusive culture of the Pod. We never forget, because to us Whale fans, every last one of our Pod, is simply unforgettable. And we are always ready and excited, as is the Pod, to warmly embrace new arrivals to The Most Excoting Team In Hockey, our Connecticut Whale.

And those new arrivals can come in variety of ways. They can come on Draft Night as Kayla Friesen, Amanda Conway, Maddie Bishop, Tori Howran and Nicole Guagliardo did last season. And as Samantha Donovan, Nina Rogers, Syd Rossman and Paige Savage did from previous drafts. And again, two off season signings last year, Melissa Samoskevich and Maggie LaGue, where previous Whale draft selections. That’s a pretty talented mini-Pod of Amazings right there.

And of course there are the potential for free agent signings as well, as we saw with the additions last year of Abbie Ives, Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Mariah Fujimagari, Kenzie Lancaster, Maeve Reilly, Sarah Hughson and Rachael Ade. Alyssa, Rachael and Sarah have also now joined the list of “Once and Future” Whale as well. They are players who played for the Pod, were no longer on the active roster (for a variety of reasons) and returned to the ice to play for the Whale. There have been seven such players in Whale team history, as Laura Brennan, Grace Klienbach, Jessica Koizumi and Shenae Lundberg are also “Once and Future Whale”. Perhaps one day, we’ll see more. So whether by draft, free agency, or by core player retention, keeep your nose to the wind to catch a scent of what the Pod is cookin’ in the coming weeks.
 

Soul and Inspiration

Those words can describe our Amazing Captain Shannon Doyle as well as any in describing her contribution to the Whale since game one Season One. In raw numbers, Shannon is the Pod’s All-time leader in games played, shots blocked & penalty minutes, and third in points scored. But as anyone who is familiar with the NWHL knows she has been much more than the sum of her stats, both on and off the ice. Shannon once gave us this to pass on to the fans in one of her interviews with us:

“if you do come and watch us play, I promise you will love the level of play and how much each player cares about the fans, too!”

For the entirety of her six seasons with the Pod, Shannon backed up those words with her actions. And now Shannon has indicated that Season Six was likely her last. But considering again the “unique” nature of that campaign, speculation about her playing in Season Seven have begun surfacing. And even if she does hang up her skates before the start of Season Seven, don’t retire that #6 just yet. With everything Shannon has been fir the team, “A Once and Future Whale” doesn’t seem that much of a stretch.


 “Not A Whale, but…”

We heard recently from another voice from “The Other Side of the Glass” Dylan Faraci, who is the Administrator of the Facebook Group “Connecticut Whale (NWHL) Fan Group”.Speaking of the Pod and the NWHL, he offered the following:🐳 I am a huge sports fan and I think there should be a high level of sports for everyone. With the NWHL, it’s helped bring more exposure to the game of ice hockey and provides women the opportunity to play at a high level, outside of the Olympics.

I was attracted to the Whale because I am a Connecticut resident and support all pro teams in the state and metropolitan area. I also loved the branding connections with the Whalers in the former AHL franchise. Unfortunately I have not been able to make it to a game yet, but I started the Facebook group to help spread the word of the team and league to bring new eyes to the league.

Fins Up to that! And be sure to head over to Facebook and check out Dylan’s site!

WHALE'S TALES 3/19/21: Once More Unto The Breach

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips Straining upon the start. The game's afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge” From Shakespeare’s Henry V

So, yeah, Conan Doyle borrowed a phrase from the Bard. Haven’t we all? But obviously this treatise is not about the entomology phrases, but hockey. And so we shift our attention to a different Doyle. Our Captain #6 Shannon Doyle and her band of merry Pod. Ok, that’s a Robin Hood reference, but even Shakespeare references the legend several times in his writings. But back to our legendary Pod. As we now know, the NWHL Isobel Cup Playoffs have risen from the ashes of Season Six in Lake Placid. And on Friday Match 26th and 27th, in front of a national audience on NBC, and an in Canada on Twitch, Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy’s trophy, the Isobel Cup will be contested. And happily for all of the citizens of Cetacean Nation, one of the four teams still involved are our Whale. Here is how it looks on paper:

 

THE ISOBEL CUP PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

 Friday, March 26 – Isobel Cup Semifinals 5 p.m. EST – No. 1 seed Toronto Six vs. No. 4 seed Boston Pride 8 p.m. EST – No. 2 seed Minnesota vs. No. 3 seed Connecticut Whale

Saturday, March 27 – Isobel Cup Final 7 p.m. EST – Winners of Semifinals; higher seed designated home team

The games will be held at the Pride’s home facility, Warrior Ice Rink, with no fans still, due to Covid-19. However, the Fan Face Cut-Outs, who majoritively survived Lake Placid, will be traveling to Boston. And truthbe told, they should look even cooler in the cozy confines of Warrior.

 WHO’s IN, WHO’s OUT

The Pod who will be on the ice seeking the Cup will be basically the same team that. we saw on the ice up in Lake Placid. Two exceptions are #24 Janine Weber and #11 Melissa Samoskevich. Janine will be unavailable at this time, because she is still is still rehabbing from an injury sustained at Lake Placid. However, Samo has re-joined the team after missing the Lake Placid series due to her coaching obligations at Penn State. And, our former #33 Coach Laura Brennan will be behind the bench again in Boston, after her work obligations also kept her from joining the Pod in Lake Placid last month.

 OLD SCHOOL STATS

By dint of the continuation of Season Six into the playoffs, a couple of statistical events will occur as a matter of course. Shannon Doyle will add to her team career leading number of games played, which currently stands at 96. And Kaycie Anderson will move past Sam Faber into sixth place on the Whale’s career games played list. And as mentioned, Melissa Samoskevich will make her first appearance on the Whale career games played list. Other statistical standings that could be altered include the Pod’s playoff points scored list, where Kelly Babstock and Kelli Stack are the Whale’s all-time leaders with four points each. But Emma Vlasic and Katelynn Russ both have people three points apiece heading in, so that could change quickly. Emma is also just one goal behind Haley #karupa on the Whale’s all-time goal list, and that could change as well. And Abbie Ives an/or Brooke Wolejko stand ready to move up the list on the Whale all-time list games won in goal which looks like this:

Nicole Stock 7, Jaimie Leonoff 7, Sydney Rossman 3, Brooke Wolejko 3, Abbie Ives 2, Shenae Lundberg 2, Chelsea Laden 1.

FINS UP FOREVER, DANI

 NWHL founder and first Commissioner Dani Rylan Kearney, has re-signed from her most recent position with the league. Details will be forthcoming in some shape or form, but for now all we know is an era has ended. There is a lot that has been said, and will be said about Dani, both positive and negative. Regardless, this league is here because of Dani, and in our opinion history will remember this chapter of her life favorably. We here at Cetacean Nation certainly will. And we will miss her smiling face and presence around the rinks when it gets back to that. And as we have told you in person at rinkside: “Thank you for all of this.” 

Whale’s Tales 2/26/21: Ice-Out

For more than 100 years in New York’s Adirondack region, ice-out has been a much anticipated time of year for those suffering from cabin fever. And even those hardy sports who pursued activities like ice fishing, ice boating, skating, and even dog sledding, felt the tingle of spring on milder mid-winter days. And they knew from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, or their own diaries, logs, memories or instincts,, that at some point between mid-April and mid-May, ice out would occur. And the only element that commonly exists in three forms would complete it’s conversion from solid to liquid. But this year, ice out came early, at least in terms of the NWHL and it’s ultimately ill-fated “bubble season’. And the malady that upset the apple cart wasn’t cabin fever, but Covid-19. It was a body blow to the league, but far from a knock out punch. If we’ve learned anything about this league and it’s players over the past six years, it is that they are resilient. The league lost a battle, but not the war. We saw some really great hockey, albeit briefly, in Lake Placid. And although Season Six may be completed at some point, Season Seven, a murky vision at best, will come into clearer view with time. And, that upcoming season will be when The Most Exciting Team In Hockey, your Connecticut Whale, will bring Isobel home to Danbury.

VOICES FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLASS

Despite the struggles of Season Six, the popularity of the NWHL (and our Pod) has never been higher, and continues to rise in the premature post season. And as we did last edition, we continue to highlight fans who are the backbone of the league. The relationship between the players and the fans is symbiotic, and they feed off of each other’s energy and passion. We all have enjoyed reading about the relationship between the Pod and their fans, and in this addition of Whale’s Tales, we meet another. Here are some comments by the remarkable Annie Kate Goggins (@anniekappleseed on Instagram), a citizen of Cetacean someone who battles through her own struggles, and admires that kind of fighting spirit in our Whale. Annie shared with us

“I’ll start my story as I have for a few years now... Hi, I’m Annie, and I’m an addict. I’ve been in recovery from drug addiction for three years now. I’ve loved any type of sports my entire live. Growing up in Colorado, naturally I would be an Avalanche fan. #GoAvsGo! I had to put that out there. I love those guys! I have to say that if it weren’t my love for sports, particularly hockey, I might not be here today. Hockey is the best role model growing up. That might sound controversial as many think about the fighting and all. I have to say it’s quite the opposite for me. Hockey is the best representation of loyalty and teamwork. Hockey teams work together to pursue the same goal. They understand they need each other. Everyone on the team has a purpose. Players always seem to acknowledge teammates efforts and do not have self ambition. They preserve and do their best to keep a positive attitude. The sport of hockey has had that same influence on a little fan like me.”

“Furthermore, staying home like most of us here during 2020, has done a number on people battling with mental illness like addiction. To stay occupied I watched A LOT of YouTube. It was through there I discovered The Whale! And oh boy, things were taken to an entire different level. Women’s Hockey was becoming a national story. The inspiration the women brought to the ice is refreshing to my soul! These ladies not only show support to their teammates, they also are able to lead healthy lives at home as wives, mothers, teachers, sisters, friends and more. I find the NWHL to be an entire community of incredible people impacting hundreds of young women everywhere. When I read or watch how professional they are in their daily lives and with fans they truly make me want to be a better message to my friends and family. They inspire me to stay well, eat right, and remind me I have purpose on my “team” as well. Women coming together like The Whale will survive no matter what comes their way.”

“A Pod sticks together to protect one another. They help hunt for each other and even help to raise each other’s young. I have mad respect for all of the players. Their determination, and commitment is exactly the influence I had growing up with a love for hockey. Even though I went astray, I’m going to be okay. I have deep roots and know where I came from. This type of environment is what gets me through the day. Being a Whale fan makes me resilient!”

“I may be across the country and still navigating these uncertainties we are all dealing with. However, I will continue to share any small expressions of support and love I can. Whether it be simply liking or sharing a post on social media, or sharing the Whale and the NWHL to a stranger. I am a Whale! Fins Up! Love you!”

We thank Annie for sharing these great thoughts with us. In addition to appearing here in Whale’s Tales, Annie’s inspiring remarks can be found on the site here in “Not A Whale But::: Vol II Fins Up to that!

WHALE’S TALES 1/30/21: Starts and Stops

In the sport of hockey, the end to end aspects of the games engender plenty of stops and starts. And that reality has entered the Lake Placid Bubble here in Season Six. And the reason we are watching this season unfold in Lake Placid in the first place, Covid-19, is why there have been starts and stops off the ice as well. After members of the Riveters tested positive, the team withdrew from the bubble, for the safety of everyone. The Rivs were playing well, and everyone is saddened by their situation, and wish all effected, a speedy and full recovery. And we all look forward to engaging our frenemies again in Season Seven. Fins Up to that!

SCHEDULE CHANGES

So pursuant to the Rivs departure, a restructuring of the schedule was initiated. The teams were seeded by their winning percentage thus far, and the Whale are the #2 team going up into the Seeding Round. They trail Minnesota and are ahead of Toronto. Those three play each other once to determine their seed, 1-3, going into the semi-final. Buffalo and Boston meanwhile play a best of three to determine the fourth seed. So bottom line is, regardless of the seeding, the Pod will officially be playing in the nationally televised Semi-Final Round. So Fins Up to that! So in the two key seeding games coming up, the Pod play the Toronto Six on January 31st, and the Minnesota Whitecaps on February 1st. Both games are on Twitch as we start up the season again and chart a slightly altered course to the Isobel Cup.

VOICES FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLASS

The popularity of the NWHL (and our Pod) has been steadily rising, and has really taken off this season. The fan base has grown too, and as we had from time to time, we like to introduce some. Find out a bit about them, and why they love the NWHL and the Pod. Obviously, their voices are pretty far back from the glass this season, as no live fans are at the game. The Fan Cut-outs are awesome, but generally silent. But there are ore and more voices to be heard, and here we feature a couple of them. The first voice is that of former collegiate hockey star, Jillian P. Nolan (@Jillian122105 Twitter) Jill told us a little about her amazing journey in hockey, saying

“My initial experience with playing hockey was when I put on my first pair of skates at the age of six, in a small town called Happy Valley Goose Bay, Labrador, Newfoundland in the Northern part of Eastern Canada. At the age of 14 I was recruited for a full hockey scholarship to leave my home town to play for the division one hockey team, the Berkshire Bears, a prep-school in Sheffield, MA. From there, it was during my senior year at Berkshire School that I was then scouted again and picked up for another full hockey scholarship to play for the NCAA Clarkson Golden Knights in Potsdam, NY. I played with the Knights for two years (2003-2005) with a solid scoring record. And I then transferred to Utica College, home of the Pioneers, from 2005-2007 at which I was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for winning the All-American Award for women’s ice hockey in 2008. That year I guided the Pioneers to a 18-7-3 record while making it to the finals for the ECAC Women’s West Conference Tournament. I was the only non-senior named a first-team All-American, while earning the ECAC Women’s West All-Conference status after leading the team with 23 goals. I was known at the time to have led the nation averaging 1.10 goals per game and ranked second in the nation averaging 1.81 points per contest as a junior. I currently live in Florida, and I’m playing in a Men’s league for the team the Ice Dogs in order to stay in active shape for each season to come. I will always have a love for the game and respect the players that work their way up to the top! Go Whale "​

"The NWHL became particularly important to me when my best friend from Berkshire School played for the Boston Pride team in the National Woman’s Hockey League. Currently, Kacey Bellamy is an American ice hockey defender for the American Olympic Woman’s Hockey team and is #22. She was not only a dear friend, but a respectable and excellent player on and off the ice. That is when I took interest to the NWHL and started to support the different teams that play. Secondly, another small town girl, Amy Curlew, also from my hometown, had made it to the team TorontoSix, for the 2021 Isobel Cup as well. I particularly enjoy watching the Whale play above all else because I believe they have a lot of talent and work well together on the ice as a team. They seem to be well coached and have fun and that’s an important ingredient when it comes to the love and respect for the game. I wish the Whale all the luck in the world with the 2021 Isobel Cup. I know this team is capable of winning. They have a lot of talent and when they use it on the ice, the wins from their talent will follow. Good luck, Fins up! Go Whale! You got this ladies!”

Fins Up to that Jill! And another fan who recently offered content about the NWHL and the Whale is Andrea Cordova (@ang_dova) who told us this about her life in hockey

“Ever since I was a little kid, I was a fan of hockey. Street hockey ruled my springs and summers, with scraped knees and bruises to go with it. When rec hockey was an option as a club in middle school, I was there. In high school we played hockey on the weekends in empty parking lots until the sun went down or we were too hungry to go on. Those days were the best. Flash forward years, going to NHL games and still being crazy about hockey, I hear that a women's league is coming out. A women's league? And one of the teams is the Whale? They're nearby enough that I can go watch them play? And hello, did you see that cute whale with a hockey stick smile? BRILLIANT. I started following them on all social media outlets to learn about the Pod, the players, and started watching games on my laptop (Cheers to those who were watching on You-Tube like I was)"

"I finally made it to my first NWHL game, and was in love. Sitting in the stands, and seeing all of the signs posted up for the players and these young girls wearing jerseys and cheering for their favorite players, and then being able to meet these players afterwards. It was amazing. I wish that this league existed when I was younger. I wish I had these awesome women to look up to, because these are the role models that young girls should have. Now that I have a daughter, I can't wait until things normalize and I can bring her to a game so she can see how fantastic this league truly is. The NWHL has come in leaps and bounds since its inception, and it's been nothing short of fantastic to see how the game is growing. These players are inspiring. They're skilled. They're passionate. They're dedicated to growing a women's sport, and keeping it around for future generations. The Whale have had a rough few seasons, but I have a feeling this one is going to be one to remember!”

Fins Up to that Andrea! Perhaps we will be watching your little Future Draft Pick skating for the Pod one day! You can also find Jill and Andrea’s comments here on the site in “ Not A Whale, But...Voices from The Other Side Of The Glass” Volume II. We will continue to feature more of the citizens of Cetacean Nation. If you would like to have your voice from the “other side of the glass” heard, just let us know, and we’ll make it happen!

WHALE'S TALES 1/21/21: We Will Never Be Here Again

"We may lose or we may win, But we will never be here again"

Take It Easy by Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey

Well, we certainly hope so. As amazing as Season Six will be, we will all sorely miss not being there to watch it unfold in our home rinks. The ongoing pandemic has added the NWHL to it’s curiosity shop of “seasons like no other” that have become our new normal for sports. But, as we alluded, hopefully not forever. While we all want to have the opportunity to be there to watch our Pod on any given weekend, that has been replaced by a season in a bubble in Lake Placid. So the NWHL has taken an incredibly debilitating situation, and made us wild with excitement for what they’ve come up with. From the continuation of the great Twitch broadcasts to the national coverage of the Finals and Semi Finals by NBC Sports, to the Pod Pass with the Fan Face Cutouts, the postcards and the Zoom meetings, the build up has been electrifying. For both the long time fans and the most welcome influx of new fans as well. The NWHL has moved into a different spot in the world of sports, in terms of viability, sustainability and continued growth. In that sense as well, we will never be here again. And just as you cherish each stage of a child’s development, cherish this stage we are now in. It will continue to expand and amaze you, but it will never be here again.

MESSAGE FROM JESSICA KOIZUMI

The Whale's first Captain, the Amazing Jessica Koizumi, sent us some amazing thoughts to pass on to the Pod, heading into Lake Placid. Jess writes "Looking forward to following and watching some NWHL games the next couple weeks in their bubble! I looked up the CT Whale roster and there's several players still on the Whale that I have played with along with some new rookie standouts. So fun to see original Whale Shannon Doyle and Alyssa Wohlfeiler back to lead as well as a couple players I have coached at Yale, Taylor Marchin and Emma Vlasik. What a nice treat to have the experience of international Austrian player Janine Weber who has played on the Boston Blades in the CWHL with me too! What an incredible opportunity to play the game you love during a global pandemic! Enjoy every second girls, it's an immense privilege being in your shoes and getting to play in historic 1980 Miracle on Ice Lake Placid Arena. Thank you for growing the game and there are so many of us alumni and fans rooting you on. Bring home our first Isobel Cup!"

MESSAGE FROM SAM FABER

Our former Season Three Captain, the Amazing #28 Sam Faber had these words for the Pod heading into the bubble. "I would like to wish my old team the Ct Whale and my former teammates the best of luck in the bubble! The leadership of Shannon and Lando will provide the team with a culture of hard work and a never quit attitude. I predict a breakout performance from Kaycie Anderson on the offensive side! Best of luck ladies I’ll be following along, FINSUP”

AMAZING CAPTAINS

And speaking of Amazing Captains, In the recent Zoom meeting for Pod Pass holders, Coach Colten Orr announced the Captain and Assistant Captains for the Whale. Yes that is correct. He referred to the Alternate Captains as Assistant. That is somewhat of a nitpick issue among some fans, but if Colten Orr says Assistant, that is good enough for us. Either way, it means there is an “A” on your sweater! And once again this season, an “A” will be worn by our veteran defender #14 Elena Orlando, a truly iconic figure in the NWHL. The other two players wearing the “A” are #11 center Emma Vlasic, and #24 wing Janine Weber. And wearing the “C” for the second year in a row is OW #6 Shannon Doyle. Shannon, who wore an “A” during Sesons Three and Four, becomes the first Whale player to wear the “C” for two years. During the aforementioned Zoom Meeting Shannon also announced that she will be retiring after Season Six. She will do so as a multiple time All-Star and the Whale All-Time leader in games played, blocked shots, and penalty minutes. And, most likely will retire as the third leading scorer in team history. So root hard for our amazing Shannon Doyle while you can. For it appears that she, like this unique bubble season, will never be here again.

MESSAGE FROM KIM TIBERI

Some words for the Pod from another of our Big Trains who came in on the Norwich Line, #5 Kim Tiberi from Season Four, who passed this along: "Hey Pod! Best of luck to you all as you take on the first ever NWHL bubble! Best of luck, enjoy the ride and compete hard. Bring home the cup! "

ROSTER UPDATE

Some unfortunate news for the Post regarding our Amazing #11 Melissa Samoskevich, who will not be accompanying the Whale to Lake Placid bubble. Because of the responsibility of her position as Assistant Women’s Hockey Coach at Penn State, Melissa has opted out of the bubble. The Nittany Lions are off to a great start, 6-1-1, and have four crucial games scheduled within the timeframe of the bubble. Her roster spot will be taken by forward Kenzie Lancaster, a former teammate of Samo at Quinnipiac. Fins Up to both! On the coaching side, our Amazing former #12 Jamie Goldsmith has returned to the Whale in a new role, and will be subbing for Laura Brennan, whose work obligations prevent her from joining the Pod in the Bubble.

SCHEDULE

Here are the schedule dates for the first five Whale games: 1/23, 1/24, 1/27, 1/28 & 1/30.  Based on this, teams will be seeded for a round robin tournament from 1/31 to 2/3. There they will play two additional games per team to see which four teams advance to the semi-final round. And here is how the two historic days in the Bubble are scheduled to unfold. The additional two games will give the two teams in the finals (Our Pod and somebody else, right?) a total of nine games played for Season Six. Again, we will never be here again. Fins Up, enjoy, and know that the Most Exciting Team In Hockey, our Connecticut Whale Pod, will be just that once again. And the plus one this season, will be the Isobel Cup! So yes (and if you are reading this, you aren't surprised) the Season Six Isobel Champion will be your CONNECTICUT WHALE POD!