It should be quite a challenge for the Connecticut Whale when the Whale host the New York Riveters at 2:30 p.m., on Sunday at the Northford Ice Pavilion in the final National Women’s Hockey League contest of 2016.
Connecticut will be without four of their better players. Kelli Stack, Haley Skarupa and Dana Trivigno are playing with the U.S. women’s national team this weekend in a two-game series with Canada.
Connecticut’s leading scorer Kelly Babstock, who leads the league with 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) has been suspended one game after the league’s Player Safety Committee determined that her hit on New York’s Bray Ketchum last week was illegal. Babstock had two goals in last Sunday’s 4-2 win over New York.
The Whale (4-4) were missing Stack, Skarupa and Trivigno last Sunday when the three were at a U.S. national team training camp.
Fortunately, Nicole Kosta (8 points, 3 goals, 5 assists) and Nicole Connery (9 points, 3 goals, 6 assists) have been on a roll for Connecticut. Kosta has scored three goals in the last two games while Connery has a goal and two assists in the same stretch. They’ll need to continue play well if Connecticut hopes to win their third straight game.
After Sunday’s game, the league is off until January 7 for a holiday break.
At the Team USA Winter Champions Series Saturday, the Americans had a 3-1 lead over Canada in Plymouth, Michigan, but the Canadians rallied with three unanswered goals to earn a 4-3 victory. The two teams play in the two-game series finale on Monday night at 7 p.m. in Sarnia, Ontario.
“We learned a lot of things tonight,” said Robb Stauber, head coach of the U.S. women’s national team. “We can carry some things into the next game, and we will. When you’re up 3-1 and you have them on the hook, we have to figure out how to get the job done because we were right there.”
Canada took a 1-0 lead just 6:37 into the game on a power play goal on a breakaway by Rebecca Johnson. Just 30 seconds earlier, Stack had been called for a cross-checking penalty. Brianna Decker had two goals for the United States while Hilary Knight scored a goal. Alex Rigsby had 17 saves in net for the Americans.
The Americans outshot Canada, 37-22 and were 2-for-10 on the power play. The U.S. is 7-4 against Canada since the 2014 Olympic Winter Games when Canada beat the Americans in overtime in the gold medal contest. Go to http://www.usahockey.com/ for more in the U.S. women’s national team.
NWHL All-Star Game: Fan voting for participants in the second annual National Women’s Hockey League All-Star game is open now through Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 10 a.m. Fans can vote for four players to be added to the All-Star rosters. Fans can vote at the NWHL’s website at http://www.nwhl.zone/Allstar
The NWHL All-Star game will be Sunday, Feb. 12, at 3 p.m. at the Lemieux Sports Complex, the state-of-the-art practice facility of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After the fan’s selections are announced, a select group of NWHL reporters will select two players.
All-Star captains Amanda Kessel of the New York Riveters and Kelley Steadman of the Buffalo Beauts will meet during the week of Jan. 9 to select eight players each and begin to build their team rosters.
The final four All-Star choices will be made by the league’s four head coaches: Bobby Jay (Boston), Heather Linstad (Connecticut), Ric Seiling (Buffalo) and Chad Wiseman (New York). The All-Stars chosen by the coaches and complete rosters will be announced during the week of Jan. 9.
Saturday, Dec. 10
Connecticut 6, Buffalo 1
Sunday, Dec. 11
Connecticut 4, New York 2
Sunday, Dec. 18
New York at Connecticut, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 7
Boston at New York, TBD
Buffalo at Connecticut, 7 p.m.