With today’s signing of Meeri Räisänen, the Connecticut Whale have made a huge splash just before the opening weekend of the 2018-19 NWHL season.
The Whale now have an impressive trio of goaltenders in Räisänen, Mariya Sorokina, and D-III star Sam Walther.
Earlier this offseason, Räisänen was drafted by the Markham Thunder in the eighth round of the 2018 CWHL Draft. But it quickly became apparent that she would not be joining the Thunder for the upcoming season. Which, in turn, led many to wonder where she would be playing this year.
Two months ago, The Ice Garden’s own Meredith Foster wrote about Räisänen being a great fit for Connecticut. The Whale needed an elite starter to replace Sydney Rossman, who signed with the Minnesota Whitecaps, and Räisänen needed a place to play.
The Whale had a dismal 2017-18 campaign, finishing 3-11-2 with eight points. The Thunder took home the Clarkson Cup. The Whale aren’t in a position to challenge for a championship, but what they can’t offer in Isobel Cup contention that can offer in playing time, critical for Räisänen’s standing on Team Finland. They have nothing to lose by making her an offer. It’s late in the offseason, each has something the other wants, and a good goaltender can take a team to new heights, as Räisänen’s .941 SV% last year on a very young HPK team showed.
Last week, The Ice Garden’s own Erica Ayala got the scoop on today’s blockbuster signing. Today we saw that rumor become reality.
Hearing Meeri Räisänen to #NWHL could happen! Buzz connecting her to Whale. Talks are ongoing. Something to keep an eye on as the start of the regular season nears.— Erica L. Ayala (@elindsay08) September 25, 2018
Current Whale signings:
With Räisänen between the pipes and a new group of experienced forwards in the fold, the Whale could be real contenders this year.
In every NWHL season to date, we’ve seen just how important it is to have elite goaltending, especially during the single-game elimination style of playoffs and for back-to-back games when fatigue becomes a real factor.
For Räisänen, playing professional hockey in North America is a dream come true. She’s motivated and hungry to win. She has all the necessary skills to be a workhorse starting goaltender for Connecticut, which is just what the team needed.
“I have dreamed about living and playing in the States for the past few years and now I am very excited to join the NWHL and the Connecticut Whale,” Räisänen shared in the league’s press release. “The NWHL has many of the best players in the world and I am really looking forward to playing with against them. This will be a thrilling new challenge for me and I know I’m going to learn a lot more from my teammates and coaches. Every game will be good hockey and I am ready to give my all for the Whale.”
Räisänen, 28, has played with and against men in Finland, she’s made two Olympic rosters for Finland, and has had numerous outstanding performances in the Women’s World Championship over the years. It’s not easy to get noticed when you’re playing behind Noora Räty, but Räisänen has done just that. She’s the real deal and is one of the most underrated stars in the world of women’s hockey.
And now, after a very confusing offseason, Räisänen is the Connecticut Whale’s — and the NWHL’s — newest star.