Playoffs: Knocked out in semifinal by Riveters, 5-0
The Connecticut Whale finished the 2017-18 season with a 3-11-2 record and got blown out by the Metropolitan Riveters 5-0 in the semifinals of the playoffs. With a new coach and a move back to an old rink, the Whale earned their three wins against Boston and had a couple of heartbreaking losses to the Beauts and Rivs.
What went wrong?
Put bluntly, the Whale could never seem to compose more than a single strong line to compete against the other teams. The total number of their core group of forwards always hovered around... four. To make matters worse, when the Whale’s first line was on the ice, led by Kelly Babstock, the opposition knew exactly who to stifle and the numbers showed it. She dropped from 26 points in the 2015-16 season to 19 points in 2016-17 to just nine points this past season. Granted, the players around her were different, but it is still a steep decline.
The eventual Isobel Cup champions also gave the Whale a fair share of problems. Over the course of five games against the Riveters, the Whale ended up with a 16-goal deficit. They just couldn’t get goals in the back of the net, finishing the season with a -29 goal differential.
Game of the year
On Nov. 19, the Whale faced off against the Boston Pride for the second time that season. It was a high-scoring game that they won in a shootout, but — more importantly — it was a game that reminded fans of the Whale of season one.
Down two goals late in the third, the Whale regained their identity as the comeback kids. The veterans Babstock and Sam Faber took charge, each scoring, and each assisting on the other’s goal, with less than three minutes left to play. As overtime wound down in a tense back-and-forth, the shootout would be the Whale’s saving grace. In the skills competition, the Whale went with the tried and true, and sure enough, Babstock netted the lone shootout goal to win the game: Whale 4-Boston 3.
Team MVP(s) - Sydney Rossman and Kelly Babstock
The Whale stayed afloat because of their rookie goalie and veteran forward. Sydney Rossman and Babstock deserve accolades for their hard work this season.
Rossman played in all 16 regular season games as well as the playoff game for the Whale. Despite having only a 0.885 save percentage, Rossman was the backbone of the team’s defense, making ridiculous saves that bailed out the Whale from disaster. The one-goal games that the team lost were only one-goal games because of Rossman.
Babstock carried the team on her back during their games. Whether it was winning faceoffs or scoring timely goals or making slick passes, the veteran tried her best to give fans a Whale win. Despite being the top focus of the opposition, Babstock still scored a team-high four goals and ended the season as the Whale’s all-time leading scorer.
Standout rookies - Emily Fluke and Amanda Boulier
Since we already mentioned Rossman in the prior section, let us talk about two more rookies: Emily Fluke and Amanda Boulier.
Forward Fluke led the Whale in scoring with four goals and seven assists. From the very first game of the season, Fluke came off the bench flying. She was quick and slippery and a perfect linemate to Babstock.
Boulier had a great season as well, potting three goals and adding five assists. Though she may be tiny at 5’ 1”, Boulier always looked like she was everywhere on the ice, disrupting the opponent and creating scoring chances.
Despite the Whale’s struggles this season, the performance of their rookies should bring comfort and hope for next season. The Whale will come back stronger.