The Connecticut Whale have found their new goaltender in Abbie Ives, who we have gotten to see a glimpse of what is to come from the 22-year-old backstop. Through three games, she’s put up a 2-0 record with a 0.89 goals-against average and has basically led the Whale to both of their wins so far this season. It came as a shock that Ives got the opening night start over Brooke Wolejko, but head coach Colton Orr must’ve known something we didn’t because it proved to be the right decision.
Prior to signing with the Whale, Ives spent four seasons playing with the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the NCAA. There, she’s now ranked in third with a career .926 save percentage and fifth with a 1.79 goals-against average. She finished her collegiate hockey career with a 46-41-13 record with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
Woljeko also had a strong career playing college hockey, going 22-6-2 with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. She combined these totals at SUNY Plattsburg while also playing with the St. Lawerence Saints. But as I’ll mention she struggled in her first year of pro hockey.
Last Season Woes
Let’s look at the goaltenders from last season with the Connecticut Whale. Brooke Wolejko had an okay season with a 3.62 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and a 2-8-1 record. This is coming off of a year where the backstop didn’t play pro hockey in order to graduate from SUNY Plattsburg. Sonjia Shelly was the other goalie for the Whale last season, where she went 0-12 with a 3.62 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage.
This season with the Riveters, she’s currently leading the NWHL in all goaltending categories, so I guess the change in scenery helped Shelly out to turn things around. The Whale may miss Shelly, seeing how good she’s playing, however, her leaving the team has opened the door for Abbie Ives.
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the NWHL is having a condensed season crammed into two weeks at Herb Brooks Arena. Yes, it’s a condensed season and players are going to get hot and could possibly stay hot throughout the season. Wolejko has gotten one start this season and that came against the Metropolitan Riveters.
The South Windsor native allowed four goals on 20 shots in her only appearance thus far in the tournament. Due to the Metropolitan Riveters pulling out due to COVID-19 and positive tests coming back from the Whale, the schedule has been adjusted. The Whale now play back-to-back games, facing the Toronto Six on Sunday Sunday evening and the Minnesota Whitecaps on Monday evening. Those two games will determine seeding. I would expect Ives to take the back end of that back-to-back.
Looking At The Future
The Whale have fixed one of their biggest problems from last season, which was goaltending. If the Whale can convince Wolejko to stay on as a backup, that would be fantastic, and if she finds her game, it could turn into a very solid one-two punch for the Whale in net. This would mean that Connecticut wouldn’t have to search for a goaltender moving forward and could work at continuing to improve their blue-line, with captain Shannon Doyle retiring at the end of the tournament. The 2019-20 Whale team will certainly be one to forget, as they will be a strong team not only this year, but for years to come and they will be led by Abbie Ives.