Alyssa Wohlfeiler: Field Notes From The Roller Coaster

 Woo-ooh-ooh-ooh
But I'd come back and ride that roller coaster!  The 
Jonas Brothers

 

 

As you saw in the graphic to introduce this interview with our Amazing “Once and Future Whale” #8 Alyssa Wohlfeiler, she was a force in the abbreviated Season Six up in Lake Placid. For the fourth season in her professional hockey career, Alyssa averaged better than a point per game in this year. Andnow as we all know, beginning tomorrow, the NWHL is back at it for the Isobel Cup Playoffs. The roller coaster is back in operation, and Alyssa and her Pod teammates have a ticket to ride. So on the eve of the resumption of play, we thought it to be a good time to share what Alyssa had to say when we chatted a few days ago.  Cetacean Nation began by noting that Alyssa has played hockey all around the world. And we wondered what the experience was like for her in the unique “bubble environment” in Lake Placid. She replied

"I had a blast actually. For me it was a lot of fun. I don’t work a 9-5 job, so I didn’t have to do any sort of work like that when I was there. So I thought it was a ton of fun. Everyone kind of social distancing, hanging out at the hotel or whatever was allowed. I felt like an NHL player. You’re at the hotel or you’re at the rink. You hang out with your teammates at the hotel, you hang out with your teammates at the rink, you practice, you play games, that’s all you do. I had a lot of fun” she laughed. “I thought the food was pretty good actually, Especially being athletes that’s what we were worried about: What kind of food are we getting? We had different options, and they gave us plenty of food! "she laughed again. "A lot of us were like: Ugh, we can’t eat anymore! So I don’t have any complaints, I thought the food was pretty good. And the hotel was very, very accommodating. They really went above and beyond to help us out. So I have no complaints.” 

We wondered if Alyssa’s mental preparation was different due there being relatively a lot of games in a short time span, and she explained

"Probably not too different. I just loved it because you didn’t even know what day of the week it was. It was just game day or practice day and that was it. It’s a lot of fun. It kind of happens in college too, depending on the school. Like at Northeastern over winter break. We would come back to school after Christmas, but we wouldn’t have classes for like the next three weeks. But we would be playing games, so it was kind of the same thing. The best time of the season.”

Cetacean Nation thought the Pod were really ready to play entering the bubble. And we wondered how hard is it to re-start after the season seemed to have ended. We asked what that was like for Alyssa. She revealed 

"We always kind of knew that the season wasn’t for sure done. I don’t know how many people actually believed it would be finished,, but for me I was pretty optimistic that it would finish. I didn’t think there was any way the league would go two years in a row without giving out a Championship. And I figured it’s just three games we have left, the two semi’s and the final. So I was pretty confident that the league would figure out a way to finish. So I took two weeks off after the bubble, and then I was going to start training again, because I figured it was going to happen. And then we got the info (regarding the playoffs) about two weeks before it was released to the public. So we had known a couple of weeks before. But I also figured that if this was going to finish, it wasn’t going to be like a two week notice. I knew we were going to have time to prepare for it. And it’s fun just going to practice, and I’m glad we’re going to have the whole team back to make a run at this.”

Alyssa celebrating a goal in Lake Placid. Photo courtesy of the Connecticut Whale

And as we know, the rink where the Season Six Isobel Cup Playoffs will be contested is a rink very familiar to her from Season Five with the Pride. We asked Alyssa about Warrior Ice Rink, and she told us

"It's  a beautiful rink, a top end facility. So for me it’s kind of like home ice advantage. Because playing for the Pride last year, I played at Warrior, most of my games were at Warrior. Because when I got hurt last year, it was during our long road stretch. I played like two road games last year, the rest were at Warrior. it’ll feel like home to me.But I didn’t really have a preference one way or the other where the playoffs would be held. I think they were able to pick Warrior because we’re not having fans. I don’t know if they would have picked it if we were having fans because they wouldn’t want to give one team an advantage over another, having home ice and home fans. So I think that was part of it. But it’s an easy drive a beautiful rink, so I have no complaints, but I really had no preference either way.”


And speaking about rinks, we asked Alyssa what is was like playing in an essentially empty arena, in front of cut-outs, and she gave us a classic Alyssa response “Well, being a female hockey player, it’s nothing new”
she laughed "It's the norm so it wasn’t really very different, I gotta be honest." Alyssa also added this about the cut-outs: "A  lot of the girl’s took the cut-outs home. They had their dogs, or their siblings or their parents, so if the girls remember to bring them back they may have them. I did here that the Rangers auctioned theirs off too. But also with the camera, Warrior only has seating on one side. So it might not make sense to have the cutouts, because the camera won’t catch it. But I’m sure since they are on NBC sports, they’ll have more camera angles"

Note: the league has subsequently announced that the Fan Face Cut-outs (those surviving we assume) would actually make the journey from Lake Placid to Warrior.

Cetacean Nation thought that the Whale were really ready to play in the Lake Placid games and makde a statement. We wondered how hard is it to get back on the roller coaster after the season seemed over? Alyssa replied

"We always kind of knew that the season whasn’t for sure done. I don’t know how many people actually believed it would be finished, she laughed, but for me I was pretty optimistic that it would finish. I didn’t think there was any way the league would go years in a row without giving out a Championship. And I figured it’s just three games we have left, the two semi’s and the final. So I was pretty confident that the league would figure out a way to finish. So Intook two weeks off after the bubble, and then I was going to start training again, because I figured it was going to happen. And then we got the info about two weeks before it was released to the public. So we had known a couple of weeks before. But I also figured that if this was going to finish, it wasn’t going to be like a two week notice. I knew we were going to have time to prepare for it. I’m really, really excited to have the team back together. And it’s fun just going to practice, and I’m glad we’re going to have the whole team back to make a run at this. It’s exciting. I mean,  we all feel pretty good and we have confidence in each other so we’ll see if we can do it! Hopefully the broadcast exposure (NBC Sports) can help set the league up for the future."

And in terms of who she plays with on her line, she told us "I actually don’t have a problem if lines get changed up throughout the course of the game. Sometimes it kind of keeps you on your toes playing with different players. Just kind of building chemistry with them gives you a new energy almost so I’m pretty adaptable when it comes to that but I think some players are not that way and they just want to play with the same people they know how to play with but me personally I have no problem playing with any new set of players at any time" 

Alyssa in Lake Placid Photo courtesy of the Connecticut Whale

We also talked with Alyssa about how huge a factor a hot goalie can be in a short series, and asked her if there was a way to combat that. She stated emphatically

"Well, I think we have the best goaltending in the league, both of our goalies. So I think one of them can definitely get on a hot streak and take us all the way. As far as an opposing goalie, I guess you’ve got to keep badgering them. Don’t let them get in your head, and just keep attacking them. Maybe fatigue them physically, and maybe even mentally. I don’t chirp goalies ever, but I’m sure if someone was a Brad Marchand type of player that could do that. But I don’t. Actually, unless it’s my own goalie in practice."“ Hearing that we asked about the preseason Zoom meeting, when the Pod were asked who had the best chirps on the team. They all said Alyssa!  “I was actually really surprised, I was like: Whoa! she laughed, I guess I just don’t realize how much I don’t shut up in practice. Because it’s just normal for me, I don’t really like think about it. I don’t have a filter, so stuff just comes flying out of my mouth! But when I do chirp the goalies, it’s usually like a self-loathing chirp, where they’re always stopping me and I’m like: Ugghh! You’re always in the way, why are you always in the way? They are like: Well, it’s my job, so…” I like to say our goalies are just that good."

We also mentioned to Alyssa that we had enjoyed her recent video interview put out by the mothership. (https://twitter.com/ctwhale_nwhl/status/1371155414407086082?s=21)  She remarked " I heard that one, I didn’t know it was going on social media, they just asked for them, I didn’t know where that was going. That’s run by Juliana (Nikac) and she was actually the Boston Pride social media person last year. So I know her, we both kind of came over to the Whale the same time. So she went to Boston University unfortunately, those stupid Terriers" she laughed (Alyssa showing her true Northeastern Huskies colors there)  "But she‘s awesome, she’s really, really great at it. I don’t have social media (you can read about Alyssa's reasoning for that in her first interview)  but my parents have Instagram, so the’re always sending me screen shots of stuff she’s posting. So yeah, she’s amazing and we’re lucky to have her, we’re very grateful"

in her video, Alyssa spoke of the Importance of kids being multi sport athletes. And in fact, when we interviewed her Dad, he mentioned basketball was her second favorite sport.. she added 

"It actually still is now. I love playing golf with my Dad and my brother, but I don’t know, I always loved basketball. And I really wanted to try out for the high school team. The coach said: Well, if you miss a practice, you have to sit in the a game. And I said: Well, I’m going to miss at least one practice a week for hockey. So I didn’t even try out. I probably should have tried out anyway, and just let the coach make that decision. But I think nowadays kids specialize sooo early! And they just get burned out, and they get injured more often. They’re playing hockey  year round and it’s just not healthy physically, it’s not healthy mentally. So I’m not a fan of it. When you’re young, just go run around and play every sport possible. Especially with hockey, you don’t want to be locked in an ice box year round, in the summer go play an outdoor sport. So I don’t think it’s the kids fault, the problem is the parents, The parents are trying to get their kid to the NHL or something.when really the percentage (of those who make it) is like 0.11 % I think."

She continued "I especially see it coaching young kids. Some kids come out to me and ask: Can I go home yet, when is this over? Holy cow! My parents had to drag me off the ice! I actually wish I had played more sports for longer when I was growing up. But it had nothing to do with my parents. They never forced me into anything. But I loved Hockey so much, it was all I wanted to do year round, So kind of on the opposite side. I wish my parents had forced me to play more sports. But playing golf in high school really helped, it just made me realize how much I loved hockey. If I was on the golf course and I wasn’t having a great round, I’d be like: ‘ Ahh, I wish I was playing hockey right now!" she laughed. We thought , that in golf you can’t get your frustrations out as easily as in hockey, to which Alyssa responded "No you can’t, that’s so hard! In hockey  you can just go play harder. But in golf, if you play harder, you play worse!"

In closing Cetacean Nation wondered how a Whale hoops squad led by Alyssa would do? She replied

"I think I was just a point guard, and I only played one YMCA season. I wouldn’t trust anyone on the team playing any other sport except hockey" she laughed "I don’t know about my team, I don’t know how athletic everyone is. For most hockey players, I think it’s a lot of lacrosse or field hockey. I hadn’t even heard about field hockey until Inwas in college. I think a lot of hockey players also played soccer. But you don’t see a lot of hockey/basketball players." What about softball we asked? "That would be fun, that’s actually a good idea" she replied.  We thoght maybe some former players might come back for something like that, even her old teammate Lindsay Berman. "Lindsay for sure", she said, "she grew up playing softball. She was a catcher. An alumni game Definitely, couldn’t call it an old timers game Especially since I would older than some of the “old timers” she laughed. Can’t call it that!" 

We had one more question for Alyssa before we wished her good luck in the playoffs. We asked if she would chat with us again after the Isobel Cup was awarded and give us an insiders look at the playoffs. Alyssa agreed, and in her next interview on the list,  this conversation continues, with some more great content from our Amazing #8 Alyssa Wohlfeiler. Fins Up to that!