The Connecticut Whale are coming off of an abysmal 2019-20 season, where they finished with a 2-20-2 record, however, they are looking like one of the stronger teams ahead of season six, which will be played in Lake Placid. Before we get to the roster, Colton Orr is entering his second year as head coach of the Whale and he wasn’t with the team for much of the season, as he was competing in Battle of the Blades in Toronto. Over the offseason, the Whale have gone out and restructured their roster, which will be a huge part of their success in the NWHL Bubble.
The Draft Picks
The Whale signed five of their six picks from the 2020 NWHL Draft, including Kayla Friesen, Amanda Conway, Nicole Guagliardo, Victoria Howran and Maddy Bishop. This comes as a part of an overhaul they had upfront after finishing last.
When the NWHL Draft arrived, there wasn’t much question who was going number one, as the Boston Pride decided to take Sammy Davis with the first overall pick following a trade with Toronto. With the second pick in the draft, the Whale took Kayla Friesen, a Canadian forward from Clarkson University. Friesen, a Winnipeg native, spent three seasons playing with the St. Cloud Huskies before making the move for her senior year. In 131 NCAA games, Friesen racked up 80 points, scoring 26 goals along with 54 assists.
Conway was a fourth-round selection of the Whale coming out of Norwich University, based in Northfield, Vermont. She’s the first member of the Cadets to be drafted by a franchise in the NWHL. In her four years of college hockey, Conway scored 116 goals along with 72 assists for 188 points.
While she did so in 111 games, Conway ranks third all-time in goals and fourth in assists in Division III history. In her final three seasons at Norwich, she was named as Player of the Year while being a member of four NEHC championship winning teams.
When you look at a player like Conway, there’s no question that she’s going to be a huge part of the Whale offence heading into season six. Last season, the Whale only had two players who tallied five goals or more. Conway will be accompanied by two former Cadets in Sarah Schwenzfeier and Kycie Anderson.
Maddie Bishop remains in her home state after being chosen by the Whale in round five (27th overall) in the 2020 NWHL Draft. Previously, she spent four years playing with the Sacred Heart Pioneers in the NCAA. There, she in her senior season, she was named as the team’s co-captain. Playing in 126 games, Bishop tallied 88 points, scoring 32 goals along with 56 assists.
In her last two years with the Pioneers, Bishop racked up double-digit goal totals, scoring 10 in her junior year followed by 11 in her senior year. The fact that she’s staying with her hometown team should make the transition period an easy one and allow her to be another solid piece on Connecticut’s offence.
The Whale needed to add some offence on the blue-line after getting only six goals from hockey clubs defenders; half of those goals came from Hannah Beattie, who also saw time playing upfront. They filled that need by picking Tori Howran in round two (seventh overall) in the 2020 NWHL Draft.
Howran spent four seasons playing with the New Hampshire Wildcats in the NCAA. Playing in 140 games, the native of Bancroft tallied 55 points, racking up seven goals along with 48 assists. Six of those seven goals came in both her junior and senior seasons. I expect her and veteran Shannon Doyle to be the top two defensemen for the Whale this season.
Nicole Guagliardo was the second of two fifth-round picks by the Connecticut Whale in the 2020 NWHL Draft. Guagliardo spent her colligate hockey career with three different schools before making the jump pro. She started with the Mercyhurst Lakers before spending a year with the Lindenwood Lions. Following that, she would finish up with the Adrian Bulldogs in Division III Hockey.
During those crazy four years, Guagliardo tallied 63 points, scoring 31 goals along with 32 assists. She did so in 112 games. The forward had a solid senior year, recording 16 goals through 28 games played.
Notable Free Agent Signings
It comes as no surprise that the Connecticut Whale added another goaltender after Sonja Shelly signed with the Metropolitan Riveters. Before Ives was signed by the hockey club, she played four seasons at college in the NCAA with the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Appearing in 102 games, Ives recorded a GAA of 1.91 and a .927 save percentage. While also adding on three shutouts, she amassed a record of 17-3-13.
The second of two big additions is Maggie Lague, who joins the Whale after spending four years at Robert Morris University. Lague spent 2019-20 as an active member of the PWHPA. In the four years she spent with the Colonials, Lague put up 92 points, scoring 13 goals along with 79 assists.
She did so in 141 games. Adding a player of her skill on the backend will not only competent players like Doyle and Howran, but will be a huge boost to the hockey club’s blue-line. Bringing that year of PWHPA experience is gonna be important on a team with so many new faces to professional hockey.
MacKenzie Lancaster joins the Connecticut Whale after accepting a coaching job at Connecticut College. Last year, the Camels hockey program went 13-8-4. Prior to her two years of coaching, Lancaster spent four years with the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the NCAA.
During those four seasons, the forward tallied 66 points, scoring 22 goals along with 44 assists. She did so in 133 games. In her final year with the Bobcats, the righty served as the team’s assistant captain. Lancaster signs with the Whale in replacement of forward Melissa Samoskevich.