Instability and the penalty box.
Through the Connecticut Whale’s first seasons, those two things are perhaps the only constants for the team. Still, for the Whale leadership, they wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. For them, this season is perhaps the best it has ever been.
New team, new season, new goal
While the general public had no idea what the Whale would bring this year, fans were hoping that it would be different from their tumultuous second season. While the entire league faced off-ice issues, the Whale were the only ones to lose their captain when Molly Engstrom departed for the SDHL.
Alternate captain Shannon Doyle didn’t mince words when she described the difference between last season and this season.
“Year two, we had a lot of changes with coaching and with our management and where we played, and there was a lot of shifting. It was just grinding it out because we wanted to keep the league going and wanted to be role models for the young girls...it wasn't necessarily the outcome of our games for a lot of us.”
This season, it’s all about team chemistry for the Whale. New head coach Ryan Equale mentioned during the offseason that he cared most about the character of his team. Sam Faber, the third-year veteran and captain, feels that Equale succeeded: “There's no individuals on this team. Everybody's in it for each other.”
Alternate captain Juana Baribeau agrees that the chemistry this season has improved from last season.
“Having these new girls changed the group in itself, and their dynamics of wanting to be there and [understanding] the opportunity they have .... is a once in a lifetime deal... They want to be here, and we want to be there for them, and everyone cheers for one another. That makes a big difference.”
Highlights but not high sticks
To be honest, the answer of ‘great team chemistry’ from all three captains seemed like a typical, rehearsed answer. However, when asked about the highlight of the season thus far, Doyle proved that this season is truly about teammates supporting each other.
“The highlight, I can’t pick one, is when our new players score their first goal. It’s just so exciting when [Emily] Fluke got her first goal, and then Kaycie [Anderson] got her first goal. It’s just so thrilling to see their faces and give them that puck after the game - win or lose. Those are my favorite moments.”
From the beginning to the end of the interview, it was obvious that all three captains strived not only to play their best, but to be the best teammate they can be.
“I want to grow as a leader, but I want to be a person that people can look up to and come to if they need anything - on and off the ice,” says Faber, admitting that being a first-time captain is scary.
Still, they realize that the off-ice chemistry can only do so much for the outcome of games. The Whale know they take too many penalties and spend too much time in the box. They want to work on their breakout passes, sharpen their coverage, and continue winning the little battles.
They know that the wins will come, and when they do, it will be as a team.