The Connecticut Whale scored zero goals in their last game. And the game before that. This from the same team that scored fifteen goals in the first three games of the season. But perhaps their latest results shouldn’t come as a surprise: even in those three barnburners, the glimpses of promise shown by the Whale were followed by complete unraveling.
A focus on consistency
Coach Heather Linstad wants her team to play for a full sixty minutes.
“One of the things we have to do better as a group is we have to play for sixty minutes. We’ve had dips in our play where we’re not consistent. … We have great spurts of offense, and we’re playing well, but then we have breakdowns.”
For Linstad, the Whale will show who they are when they show up for a full sixty minutes. The talent is there, and she thinks all they need to do is come together as a team and build momentum.
“I always talk about how momentum is built line-by-line, shift-by-shift. We’ve had those breakdowns where a group goes out and builds the momentum, and the next line goes out there and folds. … We’re not building the momentum for each other, and I think we were doing that early on in the season, and we’ve gotten away from that a little.”
Nonetheless, the team chemistry is there. GM Lisa Giovanelli and Linstad were meticulous when they chose the roster for this season. Each player was selected because they brought something different to the table and fit into the team in a particular way.
“Our goal was to have a balanced roster of different abilities and build the best chemistry that we could. … All of the new players have done a really fantastic job. They’re well-prepared for every game. They have a focus, and they go hard.”
The Pride ready to prey
The Whale will need their younger players to play as hard as they can if they hope to move back to the win column. Unfortunately for the Whale, their next goal will not come easy. Pride goalie Brittany Ott leads the league with five wins and two shutouts. Still, Linstad believes her team can get it done.
“We need to go out as fast and as hard as we can and make things happen. … It’s going to be hard work and a gritty performance — taking care of business in our defensive zone and going after it defensively.”
The Whale only need one goal to break their scoring drought.
“It probably won’t be the prettiest goal, and it doesn’t have to be because it still counts. … We can say we’re snake-bitten because we have a lot of opportunities to score, but it’s really coming down to focus.”
Focus on the game and on the product
With all the talk of focus, there is still the elephant in the room. How are the players still supposed to focus when they lost the rest of their salary?
Linstad preaches team mentality in all things hockey, and the issue of salary cuts does not alter her approach.
“We all have to unite and push through the roadblocks and make the best product that we can. … I can’t tell anybody how to feel and what to do, but our message has been that you hit roadblocks and you have to go around them. Find a way. I think the League and every team will find a way to make the League stronger. If we stay united and know what the focus is and enjoy the opportunity to be a professional league, we’re going to find a way to make it right for the players. The players have to do their part and play and put the best product out on the ice. The people will eventually see it.”
She refers to the other professional women’s leagues that have crumbled before finding their footing.
“This isn’t unheard of — [we want to show] that we don’t have to shut the doors and that this can work.”