A year ago, the Connecticut Whale had a one-goal lead after two periods in the Isobel Cup final against the Boston Pride. Looking for their first Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) championship, the Whale were 14 minutes away from hoisting the cup
But the Boston Pride scored two goals in the span of 17 seconds early in the third period and held on to beat the Whale, 4-2 and win their second straight Isobel Cup championship.
It was a tough end for the Whale, who were in the Isobel Cup final for the first time in team history and had posted their best-ever record at 15-3-2 with a team-high 74 goals and a team-low 30 goals against.
The Whale will get to see the Pride lift their PHF championship banner into the air Saturday night at Warrior Arena, the practice facility for the NHL’s Boston Bruins, when the two teams meet at 7 p.m. (ESPN Plus) in Boston in the season opener for both teams.
It is the first of five games that the Whale will play before their debut in their new home at the International Skating Center in Simsbury on Friday, Dec. 9 against the Minnesota Whitecaps at 7 p.m.
Connecticut will play a pair against Buffalo in Milford the weekend of Nov. 19-20 and two games in Montreal on Dec. 3-4 before making their debut in Simsbury against the Whitecaps.
But first comes a game in Boston against the two-time defending league champions on Saturday.
“There will be a lot of emotion in that game,” said Connecticut’s Kennedy Marchment. “We just have to keep our emotions in check and come out and play Whale hockey. We lost that (PHF final) in two minutes.”
Playing Whale hockey is playing hard and fast. Connecticut scored the most goals in the league a year ago and allowed the fewest.
The Whale return the reigning league MVP in Marchment, who scored 13 goals with 20 assists for a league-leading 33 points along with forwards Taylor Girard (11-13, 24), Amanda Conway (12-9, 21) and Alyssa Wohlfeiler (8-8, 16). Girard was the league’s newcomer of the year.
The Whale added Pride forward Tori Sullivan and Katerina Mrazova, who helped Czechoslovakia finish third at the recent world championships. Connecticut also added goalie Meeri Räisänen, who played for Finland at the world championships.
The 32-year-old Olympian played in 12 games for the Whale in 2018-19, posting a .908 save percentage. Räisänen will be playing with second-year keeper Abbie Ives, the former Quinnipiac University starter, who was 12-4 with a 2.37 GAA in her first professional season for the Whale.
The defense is anchored by veteran Shannon Turner, the last remaining player from Connecticut’s debut season in the National Women’s Hockey League 2015-16..
“It is a privilege to get everyone’s best every weekend,” Turner said. “Last year, it was are they really that good? A little underdog mentality for us. This year everyone knows we’re going to be good so every weekend we’re going to get everyone’s best.”
2021-22 Premier Hockey Federation (PHF)
|Points: Three points for a win, one for an OT loss.|
|RW: Regulation win, OT: win in overtime; SOW: win in a shootout|
2022 playoffs (single-elimination)
First round, March 25
(5) Minnesota 4, (4) Metropolitan 1
(3) Boston 6, (6) Buffalo 0
Semifinals, March 28
(1) Connecticut 4, Minnesota 2
Boston 5, (2) Toronto 1
Isobel Cup final, March 28
Boston 4, Connecticut 2
Upcoming Whale schedule
Sat. Nov. 5: @Boston, 7 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 19: vs. Buffalo at Milford, 6 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 20 vs. Buffalo at Milford, noon
Sat. Dec. 3: @Montreal, 1 p.m.
Sun. Dec. 4: @Montreal, 1 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 9: MINNESOTA, 7 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 10: MINNESOTA, 2 p.m.