By Erica Ayala
The Connecticut Whale are rested up and ready to return to action in season 5. The pod will look to record their first win of the of the 2019-20 season when the Buffalo Beauts come stomping into Danbury Ice Arena Sunday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Sunday marks the fourth meeting between the Whale and the Beauts. Thus far, Buffalo leads the season series 3-0. However, Connecticut scored eight goals in their last two meetings with Buffalo and earned their first point of the season in an overtime loss against the Beauts on Oct. 19. The next day, the Beauts held on to best the Whale by a score of 6-4.
Players to Watch
Starting goalies Mariah Fujimagari and Sonjia Shelly are both coming off of strong performances. Fujimagari stopped 45 of the 51 shots she faced against the Whale on the weekend of Oct. 19; Shelly posted a .933 save percentage against the Whitecaps on Oct. 27.
Whale captain and original NWHLer Shannon Doyle was named a star of the game and each of the last two meetings between her team and the Beauts. She’s picked up three of her six points this season against Buffalo. For the Beauts, newcomer Brooke Stacey tallied three of her team-leading six goals against the Whale in week three. She was named a VEDA Player of the Week for her performance.
What to Expect
The Beauts had a bye going into the International break, but they are playing the Pride on Saturday before they travel into Connecticut. Buffalo has relied on Fujimagari and backup goaltender Kelsey Neumann for much of the season. Success for the Beauts will depend on playing team defense in their own end and in the neutral zone.
Connecticut is looking to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Whitecaps before the break. The Isobel Cup champions scored two goals in the last two minutes of the third period to earn a 3-2 victory, propelling them into second place with a 3-2-1 record through six games.
Narrowly missing out on their first win of the season will have Connecticut motivated come Sunday. To find the win column, the power play will need to improve. Connecticut is 3-21 with the skater advantage heading into Sunday’s game. They are sub-.500 on the penalty kill (11-21) as well. Improved special teams play needs to be a priority for the home team.
NEW TO THE POD
The Whale have signed Connecticut College forward Elena Gualtieri. She’s expected to make her NWHL debut this weekend.
Gualtieri, a native of Troy, New York, is fifth all-time in assists (31) and sixth all-time in goals (29) in Connecticut College program history. She was named to NESCAC’s All-Conference Second Team in her junior season in 2017-18 after leading the Camels in scoring with 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 26 games. As a captain in her senior season, Gualtieri led the Camels in assists (8) and finished second on the team in scoring (13).
How to Watch
The puck drops on the Beauts vs Whale rematch at 12:30 pm Sunday afternoon at Danbury Ice Arena. Fans can purchase tickets at whale.nwhl.zone/tickets.
The action will also be streamed live on twitch.tv/nwhl where viewers can interact with the Whale broadcast team and enjoy commentary from the Goalie Guild in the live chat.
Photo Credit: Bryan Johnson