Janine Weber returns for third season with Whale

Connecticut re-signs key veteran presence for 2021–22 campaign

Janine Weber has not yet spent a ton of time in Whale Green and Blue. That is, on the ice anyway.

She was added to the squad midway through the 2019–20 season, playing in eight regular season games and two playoff matchups. She then added just four more in Lake Placid this past January before COVID (and an untimely injury) ended her year.

Despite just 14 total games with the team over two seasons, Weber’s impact on the ice and in the locker room has proven to be vital to the Whale’s operation.

Which is what makes her reunion with the team all the more exciting.

Small minutes, big difference

Weber joined an offensively barren team in 2019–20 and immediately began pushing the tempo and creating chances. She collected four assists in eight regular season games, adding a helper in a historic 5–3 playoff win over Buffalo that postseason.

While she did not register a point in Lake Placid, her motor and strength helped drive possession up ice alongside a new-look top six. There’s been an infusion of speed in the Pod with the arrival of Kayla Friesen, Amanda Conway, and Alyssa Wohlfeiler, but it’s the experience and savvy of Weber that brings the Whale’s attack to the next level.

Weber and Wohlfeiler tied for the team lead in iSCF (individual scoring chances-for per game) in Lake Placid with four per game. She also ranked fifth on the team in shots on goal per game with 3.8 — all while only finishing 10th in average time on ice (16:56 TOI/gm). Translation: Janine Weber is incredibly efficient.

She’s been that way her whole career. Weber is tied for 16th all-time in league scoring with 42 points, 28 of them primaries. Depending on who returns for the 2021–22 NWHL campaign, she very well could find herself in the top 10 when all is said and done. Corinne Buie, for example, sits ninth all-time with 49 points. Between Weber and Buie on the leaderboard are a number of players who range from questionable to certainly not returning to the league again — like Rebecca Russo, Gigi Marvin, Haley Skarupa, and Hilary Knight.

Making an impact off the scoresheet

Though the Whale have lost some key figures in the lineup (captain Shannon Doyle, speedy Grace Klienbach, and veteran Elena Orlando to name a few) Weber remains a constant. She provides the team with a consistent depth contributor, a heady player, and a vocal leader. Though she could not play in the Isobel Cup Playoffs due to an injury suffered at Lake Placid, she made her presence felt as an assistant coach behind the bench — a duty with heightened importance, given head coach Colton Orr’s absence from that game due to COVID exposure.

It’s the kind of subtle yet significant contribution one would expect from a captain. Weber wore an “A” on her sweater last season, the first time she’s held that honor in her lengthy NWHL career. It stands to reason that she and Emma Vlasic are the odds-on favorites to replace Doyle as captain this season.

“[Janine’s] ability to be vocal and lead by example is a great value to our team and younger players,” commented assistant coach Laura Brennan in a team press release. “She is truly a role model for everyone around her, and we could not be happier to have her back this year!”

Connecticut has now inked eight forwards for the 2021–22 season, including returners Vlasic and Wohlfeiler, former Riveter Cailey Hutchinson, and top draft picks Taylor Girard and Emma Polaski. Some major names from last year’s roster could still fill up the remaining spots, including but not limited to Conway, Friesen, Melissa Samoskevich, Katelynn Russ, Kaycie Anderson, and Sarah Schwenzfeier. That’s a lot of talent to play with.

Even with all the talent around, Weber’s signing is one of the most important to check off the list.