At just 25-years-old, Connecticut Whale forward Emma Vlasic is just scratching the surface of her potential in the PHF. Since joining the team/NWHL prior to Season 5, Vlasic hasn’t missed a game - playing in 35 straight games (including three playoff games) - and this season not only is she tied for the PHF lead in points with five (2g-3a) after just two weeks but she’s already surpassed her point total of four from the previous, shortened season.
I joked with Vlasic during her rookie season that she was a bit too selfish and didn’t pass enough after posting nine goals and zero assists in 24 regular-season games. So all she did was show me up by dishing out three assists in the biggest game of the season - a 5-3 playoff win in Buffalo.
From day one with the Whale she has been their face-off ace, consistently winning nearly six out of every ten face-offs she takes (.579 winning percentage for her career). Not only that but Vlasic can play in any situation, and well. She’s a great passer and a shifty, smart player who consistently finds the open or soft areas on the ice in the attacking zone.
After a three-point weekend against the defending champion Boston Pride - that also saw her register her first pro-game-winning goal - we were able to catch up with ‘Pickles’ for five (or six) questions in five minutes, and here’s how it went.
After earning three primary assists, Emma Vlasic makes it a four-point game with a goal. Talk about having a GAME. pic.twitter.com/m7kG3FTmUp— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) January 28, 2021
The Ice Garden: Yesterday’s game was disappointing I’m sure, despite your team picking up a point in overtime, but how important was it to pick up the win today in a game that you led from start to finish?
Emma Vlasic: It was important, especially after yesterday, we wanted to come back and be even better. Once we got that second goal early in the third period we knew we had to shut it down and make sure to finish the game strong, which we did.
TIG: How valuable has it been to have another quality center like Cailey Hutchison on the roster? It seemed like today if you’re weren’t on the ice to take a draw she was, and vice versa.
EV: It definitely takes some of the pressure off of me, Hutch has been great and is a great addition to this team. It’s so important to start with possession of the puck and that starts in the face-off circles. Especially in this league, everybody is so fast and so good, the more times you can start with possession - the better. Hutch has been great, Kennedy (Marchment) has been great too, taking some draws on my line. We really have a lot of different pieces that can take face-offs and that is a big asset for us.
TIG: Okay, so I have to ask - yourself and Marchment have been dynamite over these first four games here. What has been the secret sauce or the recipe for success that has made the two of you such a dynamic duo?
EV: She’s such a smart player and it’s fun to play alongside players like that. She sees the ice so well, so strong on her stick, and she’s able to dig pucks out of the corners - I just try to get open for her and vice versa. It’s been really fun.
Kennedy Marchment just earned a primary assist from behind the goal line by flicking the puck over Selander's leg to Emma Vlasic. A beautiful play somewhat lost in the scramble in the goal crease. It's 2-0 Whale. pic.twitter.com/UbuoXRlxuU— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) November 14, 2021
TIG: Is there a different vibe around the rink this year, with what feels like the deepest team this franchise has had since maybe Season 1?
EV: Definitely a different feel around here for sure. Coming to the rink every day is fun and we know we have to put in the work. Our identity is still there I think, we’re still that hardworking team. We obviously added a lot of really good pieces this offseason, and I think you’re starting to see that on the ice as we are really starting to come together as a team. The more we practice, the more games we play you’ll see that chemistry developing even more with our linemates. I feel really good about this group and we’ve really just barely scratched the surface of what we are capable of down the line. It will be exciting to see what we can do down the road.
TIG: It has to be encouraging to come away with two wins and an OT loss in your first four games to start Season 7 - without a few players available to the team, right?
EV: Yeah, it’s a big deal. We certainly miss having Janine (Weber) and Janka (Hlinka) here, and it will be great to have them back next weekend. It says a lot about the team we have that without those two forwards we were able to pull out a win we did today against the best team in the league. It’s exciting.
TIG: We have a little extra time here, let’s squeeze in one more bonus question. I’ve heard that you are a hockey junkie - that you live it, breathe it - all day every day. True or False?
EV: Hah yes, true. I do love the game. Whether it's off or on the ice - I love going to the gym, anything that helps towards the on-ice product. I love the process, love the grind, it’s just such a big part of my life. It’s always fun being with my teammates, and I really enjoy it here. I take that as a compliment, haha!