Jessica Koizumi, Jamie Leonoff, Connecticut Whale Make History

Jessica Koizumi, forward for the Connecticut Whale, made history this weekend by scoring the first official goal in Whale history, and in NWHL history, during a 4-1 win over the New York Riveters. Kelly Babstock, Shiann Darkangelo and Kelli Stack also added tallies for the Whale, while Brooke Ammerman enters the record books as the first goal scorer for the New York Riveters. Jaimie Leonoff stopped 35 of 36 shots to lead the Whale to their first ever victory, while Nana Fujimoto of the Riveters stopped 25 of 29.

Koizumi opened the scoring with a beautiful snappy wrister 2:28 into the game, but after that the period descended into a quick trade off of penalties, each team racking up three minors as the Whale took the lead into the second period.

Ammerman tied the game at one four minutes into the second period, but after that, it was all Whale as Stack, Darkangelo and Babstock scored their own record goals to make it 4-1 by the time the final whistle blew.

The Riveters played well, end-stopped by Team Japan star Nana Fujimoto in-goal, but the Whale’s talented group of forwards overwhelmed the defence, and at times left Fujimoto stranded and helpless, despite the Riveters outshooting the Whale 36-29.

The Whale take the ice again next Sunday against the Buffalo Beauts, and you can stream the game live with the NWHL’s Cross Ice Pass.

 

My Three Stars of the Game

  1. Jessica Koizumi (Whale)

Koizumi impressed on the Blades, and looks like she’s going to continue to do so in the NWHL, scoring the opening goal, and looking dangerous for much of the game on a line with Olympian Kelli Stack.

  1. Jaimie Leonoff (Whale)

On paper, Fujimoto seems to be the better goalie, with more international experience, and at 5’4, has a much more difficult job. In her most recent outing with Team Japan at the IIHF World Championships, she recorded 128 saves and a save percentage of .937, in addition to being selected as Goaltender of the Tournament. But on this occasion, occasionally patchy defence on the part of the Riveters, and facing shots from players like Kelli Stack (1G, 2A), meant that Leonoff earned the victory, finishing with 35 saves and official first star honours from the league.

  1. Kelli Stack (Whale)

Two time silver medalist Kelli Stack scored the game winning goal and added two primary assists to the scoresheet on Sunday night. At times it felt like she was all over the ice, and Fujimoto and the Riveters defence definitely struggled to contain her for much of the game. She’s my pick to watch for the rest of the season.

Final Four Signings For The Connecticut Whale

Free agent frenzy entered stage two this week, as the eleven under-wraps NWHL contracts were released to the media, and though Hilary Knight going to the Pride was probably the biggest, the Connecticut Whale signed four outstanding players of their own, including Knight’s national team teammate, Kelli Stack.

Kelli Stack (Boston College)

Two time Olympian Stack is probably the biggest name on this list. She broke countless records during her time at BC, scoring 209 points in only 140 games played, and finishing as a top three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award. In her senior year alone she had 59 points, including a career high 34 goals, and she was the first player ever to become a three-time Hockey East Player of the Year. In her time with the USWNT, she has two Olympic silver medals from 2010 and 2014, and three World Championship golds, as well as skating in five Four Nations Cups, leading the tournament in scoring in 2011 and 2013. She was also named Player of the Game in the gold medal game against the Canadians in the 2011 World Championships. In a team already stacked with players like Molly Engstrom, Jessica Koizumi and Yekaterina Smolentseva, Stack is going to fit right in.

Lindsay Berman (Northeastern)

Yet another Blades alumni, Berman was signed after unforeseen visa problems with free agent Tara Tomimoto. While at Northeastern, she registered 62 points in 135 games played for the Huskies, and in her sophomore year led all Hockey East defencewomen in power play points with 12. Unlike most players, Berman switched between forward and defence for most of her hockey career, and can easily give the Whale some roster flexibility. She played for the Blades between 2010 and 2014, winning the Clarkson Cup with them in 2013, and she also coached during that time at U-Mass and Brown University.

Alyssa Wohlfeiler (Northeastern)

A teammate of Berman’s from 2007-2010, Wohlfeiler registered 71 points in 132 games for the Huskies, led the team in game winning goals her junior year, and was second on the team in rookie scoring in her freshman year. In 2006-07, the California native captained the California Select U-19 team, where she scored 38 points in 34 games.

Jordan Brickner (Wisconsin)

Brickner actually split her NCAA time between Colgate and Wisconsin, collecting a total of 43 points in 140 games with the two teams. In her senior year with the Badgers, she had the third highest shooting percentage, and during her whole Wisconsin career, she accumulated 0 PIMs. Before college, Brickner played for the Connecticut Stars, where she helped them win a New England District title, and a third place finish at the USA Hockey National Championships.

Connecticut Whale Free-Agency Recap

The NWHL free agency period finished last month! While there are still 11 contracts under wraps because of contract issues with former teams, there are fifteen known players signed with the Connecticut Whale as of mid-September. The roster includes Olympians like Chelsea Laden, and ex-CWHLers like Jessica Koizumi (formerly of the Boston Blades), adding up to eight forwards, four defence, and three goalies.

Forwards

Shiann Darkangelo (Quinnipac)

Darkangelo, one of the three inaugural Connecticut Whale contract signings, led the Bobcats in goals in her junior year, and finished her NCAA career with 102 points in 144 games. She also has a silver medal from her time with the US Team at the 2014 Four Nations Cup.

Sam Faber (New Hampshire)

Faber has already had a taste of pro hockey, cutting her teeth in the CWHL with the Boston Blades in their inaugural season in 2010-11. She amassed 189 points in 143 games at New Hampshire, and finished top ten in Patty Kazmaier voting in 2007-08.

Jessica Koizumi (Minnesota Duluth)

As captain of the Bulldogs for two years, Koizumi finished her college career with 155 points in 132 games. As a member of the CWHL’s Boston Blades, she won the Clarkson Cup in 2013 and 2015, and a silver medal in 2007 as part of Team USA at the Four Nations Cup.

Danielle Ward (Maine)

Ward spent her NCAA career with two different teams, totalling 114 points in 117 games with Maine and the University of Southern Maine, and at USM, was named a recipient of the Husky Athletic Academic Achievement Award.

Michala Long (New Hampshire)

Long is another Boston Blades alumni, playing for them in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, collecting 25 points in 38 games. At New Hampshire, she played in four consecutive NCAA tournaments, three conference regular season championships, and two Hockey East tournament titles. She finished her college career with 126 points (without missing a single game) and a Patty Kazmaier nomination.

Kelly Babstock (Quinnipac)

Babstock is the all time scoring leader for Quinnipac University. As a freshman, she finished fifth in the nation in scoring, and didn’t slow down until her senior year, where she finished her college career with 203 points in 147 games, and four straight New England Division I All-Star bid. She was also the first Quinnipac player to finish top ten in Patty Kazmaier voting.

Brittany Dougherty (Maine)

Dougherty finished her NCAA career with 100 points in 128 games, and in her sophomore year led the team in scoring and points, repeating the feat again in her junior year, garnering Hockey Easy Honourable Mentions honours in 2012-13, and being named a Hockey East Second Team All Star.

Yekaterina Smolentseva (Russia)

Four-time Olympian Smolentseva is potentially the highest profile Whale signing of the summer. She’s played for the Russian National Team since 1999, has 35 points in 8 Women’s Worlds appearances, and led the team in scoring for three consecutive years (2007, 2008, 2009). She’s also competed in 4 straight Olympic games, with 14 points across those tournaments and was named captain for the squad during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Defence

Kaleigh Fratkin (Boston University)

Fratkin has the honour of being the first defencewoman signed by the Whale. During her senior season at college, she served as assistant captain and helped to lead BU to a Hockey East conference championship before finishing her NCAA career with 66 points in 151 games. Prior to this, she was the first woman to play in the BC Provincial league, winning the championship in 2010 with the Vancouver North West Giants. Yet another Boston Blades alumni, she won the Clarkson Cup with them in 2015, and also has a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2015 Four Nations Cup.

Tara Tomimoto (Yale)

Tomimoto graduated in 2014, after captaining the Bulldogs in her senior season and leading her team in assists in her junior season (second in points). She graduated with 46 points in 105 games over four years, and was named to the ECAC All-Academic Team for three years running.

Shannon Doyle (Boston University)

Doyle started her college career at Colgate, but played out of BU for her final two years, and totalled 78 points in 137 games with both the Raiders and the Terriers. With the Terriers, she was named a Hockey East First Team All Star and a New England Division I All Star, and in her senior season was one of only three players to block more than 100 shots, blocking a total of 106 shots all season.

Molly Engstrom (University of Wisconsin)

Engstrom is a two-time Olympian, winning silver in 2010 with Team USA, and bronze in 2006, becoming one of the two first Wisconsin players to represent Team USA. She has played over 100 games for Team USA, and has won four World Championship gold medals (2005, 2008, 2009, 2011) and two silver (2004, 2007). Engstrom has also played for the CWHL, playing with the Brampton Thunder in its first CWHL season in 2008, before playing for the Minnesota Whitecaps, returning to the Thunder, and ending her CWHL career with the Boston Blades in 2013, after winning the Clarkson Cup.

Goaltenders

Chelsea Laden (Quinnipac)

Laden has made history as the first player to ever sign with the Connecticut Whale, and is probably the smartest bet for their starting goaltender. She finished college with a .926 save percentage, a 1.56 GAA, and an incredible 26 shutouts in 88 games. Because of her performance this past season (.930 SV%, 1.16 GAA and 16 shutouts), she was named Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year by the ECAC.

Nicole Stock (Brown)

At Brown, Stock played 91 games, and finished her career with a 2.75 GAA and a .921 save percentage after facing over 3000 shots on goal. In her freshman year she split time in goal, but shone with a 1.60 GAA and a .938 save percentage to steal the starting gig her sophomore year, which she kept until graduation.

Jaimie Leonoff (Yale)

Leonoff played 99 games for the Bulldogs in total from 2011 to 2015, and had the starting gig from the 2012-13 season onwards. By graduation, she held records in save percentage (.918), GAA (2.96), saves (3107) and wins (26), and was selected team MVP in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

 

There are still four forwards and two defencewomen whose details haven’t officially been released, but as soon as they are, this post will be updated with their names and details. If you want to read more about the Whale, Kate Cimini wrote about their first practice/media day over at Today’s Slapshot!

Draft Recap: Connecticut Whale, and Free Agent Signings!

Last week, the Connecticut Whale joined three other teams in history, by taking part in the first ever NWHL entry draft. They took an interesting approach to the draft, taking three defence out of their five picks, and not a single goalie, and followed up an excellent draft by signing three free agents in the same week.

Junior Entry Draft

Round 1, 2nd overall: Hannah Brandt, Forward

Hannah Brandt plays for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, and is a force to be reckoned with whenever she is on the ice. In 122 games with the Gophers, she has tallied 221 points, giving her a points per game of 1.8 so far in her college career. It will be no shock to anyone that she has been named the WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association)  player of the year for the past two seasons. In her freshman year, she was named the WCHA rookie of the year, and in 2015, she was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2015 NCAA tournament. She is also a two-time Patty Kazmaier top-three finalist. The Patty Kaz is given to the best Division I women’s college hockey player in the country.

Round 2, 6th overall: Michelle Picard, Defence

Picard has a wealth of experience, not only from her time with the Harvard University Crimson. She has an Olympic silver medal with Team USA in Sochi (2014), 2 IIHF gold medals (2013, 2015) and a silver IIHF silver medal (2012). In 97 games with the Crimson, Picard has 41 points and a +/- rating of +86.

Round 3, 10th overall: Milica McMillan, Defence

In 111 games with the Gophers, Brandt’s teammate has 92 points, an outstanding number for a defensive player. In her freshman year, she was named to the NCAA All Tournament team. She followed this up in her sophomore year by being named the WHCA Defensive Player of the Week twice in the 2013-2014 season, tied for ninth all time for points by a Gopher defensive player, and was named to the AHCA/CCM Second Team All-America and All-WCHA First Team. In her junior season, she was named to the All-WHCA Second Team.

Round 4, 14th overall, Maryanne Meneffee, Forward

Meneffe was the third Gopher drafted by the Whale, tallying 122 points in 113 games over three seasons. In her Junior year, she was ranked twelfth in the NCAA in points per game, with 1.21, and led the team with a shooting percentage of just over 22%, before assisting on the National Championship game winning goal against Harvard, and being named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team.

Round 5, 18th overall, Cassandra Poudrier, Defence

The Whale rounded out their draft by taking Poudrier, an incredibly consistent defensive player for the Cornell University Big Red. In 93 games, she’s tallied 60 points, but isn’t afraid to get involved in her own end. She was the highest scoring Cornell Freshman in her first year on the team, and was named to the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week. In her sophomore year, she was named ECAC Hockey Player of the Week (March 11, 2014), named on the 3rd Team All-ECAC Hockey Honors, and earned an Ivy League Honorable Mention. In her junior year, she was named to the ECAC All-Tournament Team.

Free Agents

In the week after the draft, the Whale balanced out their drafted skaters by signing two forwards and their first goalie to one year contracts.

Sam Faber played for the University of New Hampshire from 2005 to 2009, playing 143 games and tallying 189 points for the Wildcats. In her junior year she set an NCAA record for most game winning goals in a season, with 13.

Faber has also played on the international stage, taking home a gold medal in 2008 with the rest of Team USA in the IIHF World Championships.

Shiann Darkangelo is another Team USA alumni, playing with them in the 2014 Four Nations Tournament, taking home a silver medal. In 144 games with the Quinnipiac Bobcats, she has 113 points.

Chelsea Laden is another Bobcats alumni, graduating with a .923 save percentage, and a 1.56 GAA, adding an impressive 26 shutouts in 88 games with Quinnipiac. In her senior year, she gave the Bobcats a .930 save percentage, a 1.16 GAA, and 16 shutouts, absolutely earning her the Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year award.

A Guide to the CWHL & NWHL Drafts: When, Where, and How to Follow

This summer, we have not one, but two drafts for women’s hockey; the 2015 CWHL draft, and the first ever entry draft for the NWHL. The two events are very similar, but there are a few key differences.

2015 NWHL Entry Draft LogoThe inaugural NWHL entry draft will be held on June 20th, with the pre-draft lottery to determine order happening in Buffalo on June 8th. The first overall pick went to the New York Riveters, then the Connecticut Whale, the Boston Pride, and the Buffalo Beauts. (In subsequent drafts, the order will be determined by win-loss record of the organizations.) You can check out a video of the lottery on the NWHL website.

 It’s open to college players from four-year colleges who have just completed their junior year. A player who is drafted but does not sign with the organization that selected her, may enter into free-agency after completing her senior year. A player who is eligible to be selected and is not drafted becomes a free agent after completing her senior year. Currently, the NWHL is releasing a list of the top twenty prospects here.

The NWHL will announce each draft pick live on social media starting at 12 p.m. EST. Those interested in live updates should follow @NWHL_ on Twitter, as well as each of the four teams: @TheBostonPride, @BuffaloBeauts, @CTWhale_NWHL, @NYRiveters. We’re told that information will also be available on Facebook, Instagram, and NWHL.co, which will host a Draft Live page on June 20.

CWHL 2015 Draft Logo

The CWHL draft will be held on August 23rd. The team that finished last in the standings (this year, the Brampton Thunder) will pick first. Last year, they posted the prospect pool to their website, and there was a live draft ticker that tracked who’d been taken by which teams, making it relatively easy to follow along. Some teams also live-tweeted their picks; a good bet is to follow @CWHL_insider, the league’s official Twitter account.

This draft is open to players who are over the age of twenty, who have not previously signed a contract with any CWHL club or professional league, who are not listed as reserves on any team roster, who are not committed to any NCAA or CIS program, and who have not previously been drafted by any CWHL team. The players can choose up to three teams that are in a city they live or can live close to (Toronto and Brampton count as one choice, because they’re both in the GTA). This somewhat limits the CWHL teams during the draft, as they can’t draft someone who is unable to relocate to that city, for whatever reason.

The two drafts are very similar, however where the NWHL can draft basically anyone, the CWHL is limited by the players’ geographical preference. For example, Marie Philip Poulin has entered the draft, but if she only provides Montreal as a geographic preference, she can only be drafted by the Montreal Stars, because she is only able to live or work in Montreal. The NWHL draft has a very similar approach to the NHL in terms of free agency; if a player doesn’t sign with a team, they’re eligible to become a free agent (similar to what’s currently happening with Mike Reilly, originally a Columbus draft pick, he is now meeting with eight teams after graduating to decide where to sign.)