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Connecticut Whale Lose Tough Game To Pride

The Connecticut Whale hit stormy seas on Sunday afternoon falling to The Boston Pride 3-0 in NWHL action in Stamford. Despite a season of improvement, CT did not find the success it had against the Pride weeks ago in Boston. It was a game that featured changes in momentum throughout but the Pride prevailed.

“I wouldn’t say a single aspect of [the game] went the way we wanted it to go,” Whale Head Coach Ryan Equale said. “Simple answer, we didn’t show up the way we need to to be successful.”

Whale defender, Rachael Ade, who has had a major role on both sides of the ice, also saw two sides to her team’s performance:

“I think we had periods of time where we really dominated the game, and it showed that we are really a better team, and we can really take control,” Ade said. “but we also have lots of mental lapses, which is a little bit of attention to detail and consistency which we need to work on. So I think you saw both sides of it. You saw the team we can be if we don’t put our full effort in sometimes, and the team we can be when we do,”

Penalties, which have been Connecticut’s nemesis this season, again were critical in the loss. The Pride scored their last two tallies to put the game out of reach on the power play. CT has now surrendered two power play goals in each of the last two games. Even as the penalty kill has struggled, the bright spot has seemed to be the Whale’s attempts with a skater advantage.

“From a power play perspective, I actually thought our puck movement and chances were better this game, then they had been,” Equale said. “We feel like we’ve been progressing. We had a power play goal last game, felt like we were kind of taking steps in the right direction. But as that seems to be an improving part of our game, our penalty kill is regressing. We’re just giving up very easy goals on the kill. The back door plays, we talk about, we know it’s coming, yet it still is allowed, and it takes place. It really needs to be, us evaluating the personnel that we have in those situations, and that we have personnel that are really committed to the system.”

Whale forward Juana Baribeau, from her position on the front line agreed with the penalty concern among other issues:

“We obviously didn’t play a full sixty minutes,” Baribeau admitted. “Can’t really win a game at this time of a year, if we’re just going to play a half a minute at a time. We can’t afford taking penalties against any team in the league at this point if we want to get those W’s.”

Emily Field was the most dangerous player on the ice for the Pride, as she notched two goals including at even strength in the second, and by deflecting in an Alyssa Gagliardi point shot on the PP late in the third. Field had four of the Pride’s shots on the day, her usual linemate Jillian Dempsey had three, and defender Lexi Bender had three and Dempsey would have two assists on the day. Additionally, the Pride also saw several shots generated from Dana Trivigno, Mary Parker, Kaliya Johnson and Jordan Smelker.

The emerging threat that is Sydney Daniels, had three shots and earned her third goal of the season earlier in the third frame with a skater advantage. Whale goaltender Sydney Rossman was on the opposite side of the net dealing with the initial attack when Daniels got the puck on the other side and deposited it into the gap open to her. Daniels also assisted on Field’s first goal.

For the Whale, despite the lack of scoring, the offensive chances did come often. Amanda Boulier, Kelly Babstock, and Shannon Doyle had four shots apiece. Also, Kaycie Anderson and Cydney Roesler had three each. Fellow forward, Emily Fluke set off two, with others coming from players up and down the lineup.

The Whale forwards, as usual, were swiftly trying to create opportunities. Boulier, Babstock, Anderson, and Fluke were especially noticed in this effort, though weren’t alone. Several chances came about when it seemed the Pride had mitigated the threat, but stick handling from the Whale set up a shot.

Pride goalie Brittany Ott was on her game as she made saves on numerous hard shots. The All Star captain also gave up few rebound chances offered as she notched 25 saves. She did not seem unprepared for anything CT threw at her including when Sam Faber fed Anderson right in front. That being said, Connecticut did produce a few rebounds that would have been high quality chances if a teammate had been there. The Whale have been connecting more on passes and on setting up such chances as the season progresses. However, this game seemed more reminiscent of earlier season games when plays just didn’t work out.

It was another solid game for Rossman who made 23 saves as goaltending was not the issue tonight for Connecticut.:

“Syd’s always going to give us an opportunity to win,” Equale said. “I think the last one was probably one she wanted back, but at that point, it really wasn’t the difference maker in the game. Syd gives us the opportunity, we believe in her, we love having her as our starting goalie.”

Though he was quick to add the need to support the goalie’s effort in their pursuit of wins:

“We can’t be successful if we’re getting zero goals a game, one goal a game, two goals a game,” Equale added. We just have to find a way to mitigate some of the offensive opportunities we give up and we have to create more offensive chances of our own.”

Emma Greco’s signing continues to pay off as she had five blocked shots. Also, Jordan Brickner and Boulier had two, with Hanna Beattie and Faber adding one each. Dempsey had four blocks for Boston. The versatile Meagan Mangene had two. Plus, Gagliardi, Bender, Janine Weber, Field, and Kathryn Tomaselli all had one.

The Whale’s defense was still sound in giving up only the one even strength goal. Roesler, Brickner, Greco, Doyle, Ade, and Elena Orlando continued to play well overall.

“I think we’ve progressed to a much more puck possession team on the defensive side,” Ade said. “And I think you can see that if you watch our first couple games compared to now, I also think we have a lot more chemistry, we’re gelling a lot more, even though we have some changing of tools, or people or whatever else…again, we had some points in times, where I think we had some lapses, but overall when we’re peaking, you saw our top performance, the game.”

Boston’s Field, Dempsey, Weber, Gagliardi, and both Mary and Elizabeth Parker were noted for the defensive zone exits and creating zone entries as well. Mangene and Kaleigh Fratkin’s plays to stymie the Whale and move the puck away from danger were also notable.

The Whale drop with the loss to fourth in the league with eight points . Meanwhile, the Pride rise to third with 10 points, but the two teams will be at it again next week in Boston. The Whale will need to continue to try to fix the issues that have been facing them throughout the year. Ade suspects the team will be working on “bringing it back to the basics. Focusing on making the simple play, keep it a little more calm and cool. I think sometimes with us gelling so well, we get a little bit too focused on doing those stretch plays, or doing a little bit of a more fancy play. Bringing it back a little bit and resetting will be our purpose.”

Baribeau had thoughts on what the team needs to do as well:

“We’ve come a long way. Just gotta make sure we focus on that,” Baribeau said. “For all the other games, we can’t afford going back to our first part of the season. We gotta focus on connecting on those passes, getting tape to tape passes, focusing on our game.”

With the season entering its final stages, two potential wild cards are the mix with the U.S. National Team members finishing their Olympics service and might be willing to sign with a team. Also college seniors are possibly available for signing as recent seniors Kelsey Koelzer and Hayley Scamurra were last year. Equale spoke generally about those options:

“Our job is to put the most competitive team on the ice that we can. We’re always exploring options,” Equale said. “At the same time, we have to balance that with the culture that we’ve created. Although the result wasn’t what we wanted to have today, we believe in the core of the team that we have. We believe that the A-game they’re capable of putting together is a very competitive level of hockey.”

Post game interviews:

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