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The Whale make some moves in the wake of Räisänen’s injury

Connecticut has made some moves with a play-in game for the 2019 Isobel Cup Playoffs just around the corner

Al Saniuk

The Connecticut Whale signed five players, including two veterans who played with the team in the NWHL’s inaugural season.

As first reported by Erica Ayala, the Whale have added forwards Jessica Koizumi and Vanessa Gagnon to their roster in addition to signing goaltenders Shenae Lundberg and Erin O’Neil.

Koizumi was the Whale’s first captain back in the 2015-16 NWHL season. Now 33, she will bring a lot of experience to a young Whale roster which includes a gold medal victory with Team USA at the 2005 IIHF Women’s World Championship. Koizumi is currently the associate head coach at the University of Vermont.

USA Hockey National Women’s Festival Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Another familiar face returning to the Whale is Shenae Lundberg. Lundberg agreed to a PTO with the Whale in early February after Meeri Räisänen was knocked out of the Whale’s lineup with a lower-body injury. Unfortunately, that injury has put an end to Räisänen’s outstanding season, which in turn created an alarming void in Connecticut’s lineup. The news of Lundberg’s signing comes after she turned in a solid performance on Feb. 2 in the Whale’s 3-1 loss to the Boston Pride.

Joining Lundberg in Connecticut’s goal crease will be Boston University alumna Erin O’Neil. O’Neil posted a career-best .922 save percentage and a 2.61 GAA last season with the Terriers. Before her collegiate career began, the Minnesota-native won silver with Team USA at the 2014 U18 Women’s World Championship.

Vanessa Gagnon, 28, last played hockey at Clarkson University in the 2013-14 season. She scored 33 points — including 18 goals — in 36 games with the Golden Knights in her senior season. She was second on Clarkson in goals that season, behind only Jamie Lee Rattray.

Ayala also reported that Tess Adams, a forward who played this season at Suffolk University (NCAA D-III) after three seasons at SUNY-Canton (NCAA D-III), has joined the team and could be making her NWHL debut on Sunday. However, the NWHL could not confirm Adams’ signing. Her addition would put the Whale over their roster limit of 25 players, so we should expect to hear news that the Whale have released a previously signed player. The Ice Garden has also learned that the Whale released Räisänen to make room for their newcomers. She’ll return to Finland to prepare for the upcoming IIHF World Championships.

It’s worth noting that the Whale have two player-coaches on the roster in Cydney Roesler and goaltender Laura Brennan, who was added to the roster in January after the Whale traded Sorokina to the Metropolitan Riveters. One has to imagine that they would be strong candidates to be released to make room for Adams on the active roster.

The Whale have three regular season games remaining on their schedule, including a tilt against the Boston Pride on Feb. 24. After the regular season concludes, the Whale will cross sticks with the Metropolitan Riveters in a play-in game to determine which team will play the regular season champions in the semifinals of the 2019 Isobel Cup Playoffs.