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Whale signs Söderberg, Sweden’s Olympic goalie, and three skaters

Connecticut has signed defender Tori Howran (5) to a two-year deal, the PHF team has announced.

The Connecticut Whale women’s hockey team continues to add new players to join the Premier Hockey Federation squad this fall.

The Whale signed Swedish Olympic goalie Emma Söderberg to a two-year deal, the team announced on Thursday. The University of Minnesota-Duluth graduate is a finalist for the IIHF Female Player of the Year.

The Whale signed defender Tori Howran to a two-year deal and added former Metropolitan Riveter Kendall Cornine with a two-year contract. Connecticut signed defender Maude Poulin-Labelle to a one-year contract.

Caitlin Lonergan, who played her rookie year in Connecticut, left and signed a one-year deal with the Boston Pride.

Söderberg was the goalie on Swedish Olympic team and was the WCHA Goalie of the Year at Minnesota-Duluth. At the recent world championships, Söderberg made 51 saves on 54 saves in a quarterfinal loss to Canada in overtime.

“Emma was a top prospect coming out of the NCAA, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her join our organization,” Whale head coach Colton Orr said. “Emma is quick, athletic, and a fierce competitor in the net. She has a ton of experience and has played at all levels, and her performance at worlds was impressive to watch.”

Söderberg, 25, set a career record for shutouts (23) this winter at Minnesota-Duluth along with a new single-season mark (12) during the 2022-23 campaign. She posted a goals-against-average of 1.39 and save percentage of .938 in 33 games and was named an All-USCHO First Team All-American and All-WCHA First Team selection.

“I felt right away that this is an organization that is very professional, and that it will be the right place for me to keep growing my game,” Söderberg said. “I hope to bring my competitiveness to all practices and games, so that I can help the team in the journey towards a championship.”

Contract terms were not disclosed. PHF players have the option of making their salaries public or keeping them confidential.

Howran, from Bancroft, Ontario, signed a new two-year deal to remain with Connecticut.

Howran, 24, has skated in 47 regular season games for the Whale, tallying 18 points (two goals, 16 assists). The seventh overall pick in the 2020 PHF draft has become a staple on the Whale’s starting defensive line, having been frequently paired up with recently-retired captain Shannon Turner. She had a goal and six assists in 24 games a year ago.

“Her ability to shut down opposing offenses and move the puck up the ice is invaluable to our team, and we are excited to have her continue to be a part of our organization,” Orr said.

Howran is part of a strong pod of defenders already signed for the 2023-24 season, including Kacey Bellamy, Allie Munroe and Poulin-Labelle.

Contract terms were not disclosed.

Cornine joins Connecticut after spending her entire four-year professional career with the Riveters. The 26-year-old Kinnelon, New Jersey native accumulated 48 points (27 goals, 21 assists) across 71 games through four seasons with the Riveters. Cornine made a splash in first season in 2019-20 with 24 points and 13 goals in 24 games.

“There is no denying how skilled Kendall is as a player, they don’t call her Score-nine for nothing,” Orr said. “But we are most excited about the passion and work ethic she brings to every game. Speaking with Kendall this summer, she knows she had a slower season productions-wise, and she is working hard for a bounce-back year.”

“My goal for the year is to bring my experience in the league, scoring ability, and work ethic to the team next season,” Cornine said. While at Rochester Institute of Technology, Cornine was the school’s all-time leader in points with 64 points (38 goals, 26 assists) in 140 games.

Contract terms were not disclosed.

Connecticut signed Poulin-Labelle, the Sherbrooke, Québec, native to a one-year deal valued at a total of $69,000 which includes a signing bonus of $4,000.

The 23-year-old will take the ice for the Whale this fall in her first professional season after five years in the NCAA, including four with the University of Vermont and one with Northeastern University.

“Maude is a highly-talented player with a bright future ahead of her in the PHF,” Orr said. “Her exceptional skating ability, strong defensive play, and offensive contributions make her a valuable asset to the Whale.”

At Vermont, Poulin-Labelle had 79 points in 113 games, a record for a defender. Last winter, she was at Northeastern, where she had 22 points to help the Huskies (34-2-1) win a sixth straight Hockey East championship.

Lonergan, 25, is returning home to Massachusetts. She grew up in Roslindale, Massachusetts. Lonergan played 23 games for the Whale last year and had 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points in her rookie season.

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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