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Whale explodes for five goals to beat Riveters and clinch playoff berth

Connecticut captain Shannon Turner played her final home game for the Whale Sunday in Simsbury. The Whale beat Metropolitan, 5-1. Turner battles with Fanni Garat-Gasparics for position at the ISCC.

SIMSBURY, Feb. 26, 2023 – The Connecticut Whale went to the locker room between the second and third period of Sunday’s Premier Hockey Federation contest against the visiting Metropolitan Riveters and had a talk.

The Riveters led by a goal and the Whale was letting Metropolitan dictate the pace and hang around.

Connecticut took charge in the third period, scoring five goals in the span of five minutes to beat Riveters, 6-3 at the International Skating Center of Connecticut in Simsbury and clinch a spot in the upcoming PHF playoffs.

Rookie Justine Reyes had her first professional hat trick with three goals in the third period as Connecticut improved to 10-8-2 in their final home game of the season at the ISCC. The Whale play their two final series of the regular season on the road in Buffalo and Minnesota. Boston and Toronto have already clinched home ice advantage for the best-of-3 semifinal series.

“We talked about how we need to battle back,” Connecticut forward Taylor Girard said. “This is where we play Whale hockey and we showed that five goals in that third period. That is how we need to play every game and this (offensive outburst) really opened up our eyes to that.”

What was the difference, Girard was asked.

“We just battled harder,” she said. “Those little wall battles (for the puck), we won everyone of those. We won faceoffs. We trusted each other. That is how we get pucks into the back of the net.”

Alysaa Wohlfeider drives to the net in Sunday’s PHF game in Simsbury. The Whale prevailed, 6-3.

Reyes scored two goals in the span of 2:02 to put the Whale in front, 3-2 in the third period. Cutting across the front of the crease, she took a feed from Alyssa Wohlfeiler to tie the game at 2-2. Two minutes later, she popped a power play goal into the net off the pass from Lenka Serdar for a 3-2 lead.

Her third goal was a wrap around goal when she carried the puck behind the net and stuffed into the net near the post for a 5-2 lead.

The St. Lawrence graduate couldn’t recall the last time she had three goals in a game. Perhaps, it was in youth hockey, she said.

“It was fun,” she admitted. “The team is gathering momentum in the last few games. We take wins and losses as they come but we’re building in the right direction.”

Buffalo and Metropolitan were eliminated from playoff contention with Connecticut’s win.

In partnership with the New Haven Pride Center, the Whale hosted their annual Pride game on Sunday in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and doned specialty jerseys to commemorate the event.

The Whale also celebrated and commemorated captain Shannon Turner’s career in honor of her final home game with the team. She is set to retire at the end of the season.

Turner has not only played an integral role on the Pod’s blue line, but has been an invaluable leader on and off the ice for the team, for the franchise, and for the community in her eight years in Connecticut. Since joining the league in its inaugural season in 2015-16, Turner has set a variety of franchise records, including career assists, penalty minutes, and games played.

Connecticut played nine of their 12 home games this season in Simsbury and plan to move full-time to the facility for the next season, including hosting practices at the facility.

Connecticut 6, Metropolitan 3
At Simsbury
Metropolitan (7-13)        2  0  1  — 3
Connecticut (10-8-2)      1  0  5  — 6
First period
Connecticut 1, Taylor Girard (Caitrin Longeran), 1:08, Metropolitan 1, Madison Packer (Sarah Bujold), 4:10 (pp); Metropolitan 2, Minttu Tuominen (Packer, Ebba Berglund), 9:09; Penalties — Janka Hlinka (CT) hooking, 3:08; Kelly Babstock (M) tripping, 12:31; Reagan Rust (M) body checking, 15:42; Taylor Girard (CT) roughing, 19:25
Second period
No scoring; Penalties — Tori Howran (CT) tripping, 1:07
Third period
Connecticut 2, Justine Reyes (Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Kennedy Marchment), 2:36; Connecticut 3, Reyes (Lenka Serdar), 4:38 (pp), Connecticut 4, Lonergan (Girard, Melissa Samoskevich), 6:46; Connecticut 5, Reyes (Tori Howran), 7:46; Connecticut 6, Girard, 8:33; Metropolitan 3, Emilie Harley (Amanda Pelkey, Tuominen), 19:32 (pp); Penalties — Sarah Bujold (M) slashing, 2:45; Alyssa Wohlfeiler (CT) roughing 18:16, Emma Keenan (CT) boarding, major, 18:16; Kelly Babstock (M) elbowing, 19:34
Goalies: Connecticut – Abbie Ives (W, 7-6) 23 saves; Metropolitan – Rachel McQuigge (L, 2-4); 24 saves: Shots: Metropolitan 26 (9-9-8), Connecticut 30 (11-6-13); Power plays – Metropolitan 2-5, Connecticut 1-4

PHF standings, Feb. 26, 2023

x-Toronto 16-4-2 48 14 1 1 80-55
x-Boston 16-3-1 46 13 3 0 76-40
x-Connecticut 10-8-2 32 10 0 0 71-62
x-Minnesota 10-8-2 32 10 0 0 52-51
Montreal 8-13-1 22 5 1 2 52-64
Metropolitan 7-13 19 5 0 2 50-71
Buffalo 5-13-2 17 5 0 0 43-81
x- clinched playoff berth
Sunday’s results

Toronto 7, Minnesota 1
Connecticut 6, Metropolitan 3
Montreal 6, Buffalo 2
Saturday’s results
Toronto 1, Minnesota 0
Buffalo 3, Montreal 1
Friday’s result
Metropolitan 6, Boston 2
Friday, March 3
Minnesota at Boston, 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 4
Minnesota at Boston, 1 p.m.
Montreal at Metropolitan, 7 p.m.
Connecticut at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 5
Connecticut at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Montreal at Metropolitan, 2 p.m.
Teams earn three points for win in regulation and two points for a win in OT or the shootout. Teams earn one point for a loss in OT or the shootout.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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