By Erica Ayala
Three of the founding four NWHL teams hit the ice at the Danbury Ice Arena this weekend. The Connecticut Whale host the Buffalo Beauts once again on Saturday, then square-off against the Metropolitan Riveters Sunday.
On Saturday, the pod looks to gain their first win against a familiar foe in their fifth and final matchup against the Buffalo Beauts of the 2019-20 regular season. Connecticut knows this Beauts team well and will be prepared to battle the second-place team.
Staying out of the penalty box will be key on Saturday. The Beauts are tied with the undefeated Pride in power play opportunities (38) and convert on the advantage at a 26.3% clip which has resulted in a league-leading 10 power play goals (tied with the Minnesota Whitecaps). The Beauts also lead the league in penalties taken (58) but have a league-leading 88.5% penalty kill. Connecticut, on the other hand, has the least successful power play in the league (8.1%) If the Whale can find some extra magic on the advantage, they can definitely stay competitive with Buffalo at even strength.
On Sunday, it’s a new month and a new opponent. The Riveters and the Whale are both looking for their first regulation win. The Riveters have an edge on special teams with one more power play goal (4) on 12 fewer opportunities than Connecticut. The Riveters also come into the weekend with 70% success rate on the penalty kill, which gives them plenty of room for improvement. With the Riveters traveling to Boston and Danbury this weekend, it will be interesting to see if the lineup changes by the time they face the Whale. Either way, fans of both these teams are ready for a Tri-State Rivalry renewed in season five.
Beauts alternate captain Taylor Acursi posted a hat trick Sunday to lead the Beauts’ surge over the Minnesota Whitecaps. Her five-goal weekend earned her VEDA Player of the Week honors. She leads the league with four power play goals heading into Week 7. Brooke Stacey has been quiet since returning from the November break, she was scratched from Saturday’s lineup, but picked up an assist in her return Sunday. Despite her recent goal drought, she remains a dangerous scoring threat.
For Connecticut, Sonjia Shelly in net and Shannon Doyle on defense continue to stand out. In her last appearance Shelley made 40 saves in just over 47 minutes of play in Boston. Doyle added five blocked shots to her tally against the Pride last weekend. The Whale were without leading goal scorer Kayla Meneghin in Boston, but hopefully she will rejoin the pod this weekend in Connecticut.
The puck drops on the conclusion of the Beauts vs Whale regular season series at 4:30 pm EST Saturday evening. The Riveters and Whale face-off at 4:10 p.m. Sunday. Both games will be held at Danbury Ice Arena. The action will also be streamed live on Twitch TV at twitch.tv/nwhl where viewers can interact with the Whale broadcast team and enjoy commentary from the Goalie Guild in the live chat. Tickets for both games and all Whale home games are available at whale.nwhl.zone/tickets.
Photo Credit: Bryan Johnson