Orr: New-look Whale “playing with passion” in first win

Perennial underdogs look promising in first game of bubble season

It took 15 games for the 2019–20 Connecticut Whale to earn their first win.

The 2021 Lake Placid Bubble Whale are not those Whale.

This Connecticut Whale team looks good.

When rookie Kayla Friesen streaked across the blueline and wired a hard wrister past Buffalo goaltender Carly Jackson for the first goal of a 2–1 shootout win, the Whale bench erupted. Captain Shannon Doyle grabbed Tori Howran on the bench and hopped up and down in jubilation. As if to say, Finally! After six years, a team that can actually score!

Down the bench, head coach Colton Orr triumphantly pumped his fist above his head. The second-year head coach was happy to see his team’s intensity from the locker room rewarded on the ice.

“That’s the way our team plays,” he commented after the game. “We play with passion. We play with excitement. We want to keep it high-energy, high-pace.”

Orr continued: “We came up here with a goal in mind. We think we can score more goals this year, we think we’ve added a lot more offense. Now it’s just getting comfortable with each other and starting to get some of those [chances] to go.”

This Connecticut Whale team deserves to have a little swagger to it. After all, they peppered Jackson with 44 shots on goal in regulation and overtime — when they only eclipsed the 40-shot mark once in all of 2019–20. They maneuvered through the neutral zone with speed and provided reinforcements on the rush to sustain zone pressure. Their defense held firm under pressure and was active in moving the puck up ice.

One would even venture to say this Whale team looked ... fun.

And that’s a breath of fresh air for Connecticut.

The Whale now shift their focus to the Metropolitan Riveters, whom they face Sunday at 4 p.m. Brooke Wolejko will make her 2021 debut between the pipes.