We all know how the Connecticut Whale season ended but it’s important that we don’t forget how they ended up in the Isobel Cup Final. This was the best Whale team we’ve ever seen. They were worthy regular season champions and a team worth remembering and celebrating.
How they finished
Record: 15-3-2 (47 points)
PP% 15.3 (4th)
PK%: 93.7 (T-1st)
Tm Sv%: .906
What went right
There wasn’t much that went wrong for the Connecticut Whale in the regular season.
They hit the lottery with top pick Taylor Girard and had an amazingly deep and talented group of skaters. The Whale had one of the best top lines in the league and four lines that could score. Head coach Colton Orr excelled at finding lines and pairings that made the Whale greater than the sum of their parts throughout the season. Remember, this team lost just three times in regulation in the regular season and all of them happened in November.
That’s right. The Whale’s only regulation loss after November was in the Isobel Cup Final against the Boston Pride.
What went wrong
It felt like it took the Whale blue line a little bit of time to get settled. Kati Tabin joined the team and then left the team after making an impact, which caused some shuffling in the pairings in the first half of the year. Eventually, Connecticut’s defense settled in as evidenced by a stunning success rate on the penalty kill.
There were a few games where the Whale were let down by their goaltending. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to say that the Whale wanted more out of Abbie Ives than a .894 Sv% in 15 starts. With that said, she was much sharper in the last quarter of the season and was absolutely not responsible for the team falling short in the Isobel Cup Final. Generally speaking, Ives made all the saves she was supposed to make. Looking deeper, Ives faced an average workload of 23.04 SA60. Maybe she faced fewer low-danger saves and faced more high-danger chances because of the Whale’s puck possession and defensive structure. I’d love to have access to better data to give Ives’ season better analysis.
It’s also worth noting that Mariah Fujimagari was simply brilliant in her role as backup. She finished the season with a .938 Sv% in 5 starts.
Best Forward | Kennedy Marchment
Marchment rampaged through the rest of the PHF with 33 points in 20 GP in her first season playing pro in North America. She scored 4 game-winning goals, averaged over 4.0 SOG/GP, and still lead the league with 20 assists. In addition to everything she did in the offensive zone — which can really be summed up as “everything” — she was also an outstanding player off the puck and a nearly unstoppable puck-carrier.
What a snipe by Kennedy Marchment yesterday. Good grief. pic.twitter.com/y4soBNZk1w— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) November 22, 2021
Even with all of the stats and GIFs in the world, it is hard to illustrate just how good Marchment was this year. She had one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen from a PHF forward in the league’s seventh year of existence.
Best Defender | Shannon Turner
Let’s get this out of the way: Tori Howran and Allie Munroe were both also brilliant this year. But I’m giving the nod to Turner.
Turner came out of retirement and seamlessly fit into this new-look Whale. That is an eye-catching thing to do for a player who was celebrated and recognized for blocking shots and making big homerun passes out of her own zone to spark the little even-strength offense that the Whale had over the last few seasons. This year, on an entirely different Whale, Turner was even more valuable. She won puck battles in the defensive zone and moved the puck beautifully at the point in the offensive zone. She added snarl when it was needed and was the heart and soul of the team.
It's OG to OG, Shannon Turner sets up Janine Weber and the Whale deliver on the PP. Weber left all alone in front, great feed by Turner. It's 1-0, Connecticut. pic.twitter.com/IVrilnFPSq— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) December 19, 2021
Of course, the captain also led the team in blocked shots as half of the best d-pair in the league. Turner potted two goals of her own and picked up five helpers in 20 GP. Her offensive numbers weren’t nearly as flashy as Munroe’s but there is no overstating what Turner brought to the Whale this year. She did it all. It’s a shame that this campaign didn’t end with her carrying Isobel over to her team.
Best Rookie | Taylor Girard
Girard was an absolute monster in her debut PHF season. Her production was definitely influenced by Marchment but she created plenty of her own chances and plenty of chances for Marchment (and others). The 1st overall pick of the 2021 PHF Draft was in a league of her own among “true rookies” in regards to her production.
In 20 GP, Girard had 11 goals and 13 assists — good for second on the Whale and tied for third in the league in scoring. Girard was also second on Connecticut in shots (83) and level with Marchment in GWG (4). There were times when Girard looked truly dominant with her big 5-foot-10 wingspan protecting the puck in the neutral and offensive zones. She absorbed contact and pulled defenders to her and was still able to make plays.
Taylor Girard. Goodness gracious, what a finish. The pass was from (you guessed it) Kennedy Marchment. pic.twitter.com/R1DyaakCiQ— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) February 6, 2022
Just like everyone else, the Whale have an increased salary cap next season. Girard is definitely one of the players they should make a top priority. I can see her being one of the players who could make enough to live off of if she chooses not to pursue another career off the ice.
MVP | Kennedy Marchment
There’s no twist-ending at the end of this season recap. The Whale’s MVP was Kennedy Marchment.
Marchment may have been the difference between the Whale being a very good team and a great team this year. Five teams in the PHF knew they had to focus on shutting her down and, most of the time, they just couldn’t stop her from making her mark on a game. She was that special.
Marchment was the MVP of Connecticut and will likely get the nod as the league’s MVP. I know she has my vote (if I have one) for how she helped transform the Whale.