Fluke propels Whale into third place
With a week until the NWHL All-Star Break, the Whale look to maintain their hold on the top of the division
Last week, a pass narrowly missed Connecticut Whale forward Emily Fluke’s stick as she lined up in excellent position to score on the Metropolitan Riveters in overtime. Friday night in Boston, Fluke potted the shootout winning goal, defeating The Boston Pride’s Brittany Ott for a 3-2 victory. Fluke, whose name fits her team well and who hails from Bourne, Massachusetts, had her own cheering section as she skated up to center ice to take the deciding shot. The two teams had traded goals an earlier round before Fluke’s round five clincher.
It was a dramatic end to a close contest. These two NWHL teams are fighting for third and fourth place, respectively. With the Buffalo Beauts likely to gain the second seed in the upcoming playoffs, home team advantage may be out of sight for either Boston or Connecticut. What is on the line is having to face either the league-leading Riveters or face a trip out to Buffalo to take on the current Isobel Cup Champion Beauts. Both scenarios come with advantages and disadvantages.
Ott had an otherwise stellar evening in which she held the Whale to two regulation goals. Her effort still resulted in another shootout loss, as the Pride faced a similar fate earlier in the season in CT. Her counterpart Sydney Rossman not only held the Pride to two goals, but stopped all but one of their shootout attempts. It was indeed another solid game for the Whale rookie.
Early on, the attention was on rarely seen Pride player Sydney Daniels. Daniels was a high scoring player for Harvard, but had played little in the NWHL so far. She would have both of the Pride’s goals this evening thanks to snatching the puck in the Whale zone and flinging it over Rossman early in the first. When the second period began it was not long before she repeated a top shelf shot over the netminder. Kaleigh Fratkin had helped set up the play earning the only Pride assist of the night.
The Whale responded to the Pride goals frame by frame. In period one, Jordan Brickner gained possession in the Pride zone and slapped it past Ott at high speed. The shot was assisted by Fluke. In the second, Jamie Goldsmith caught Boston during a line change and raced down the ice at the net. She scored on the keeper to tie it up with Kaycie Anderson notching the lone assist.
Each side had to contend with penalty kills at critical times. The Pride had to kill off a Fratkin double minor late in the second and early in the third. They also lost one of their key offensive weapons, Dana Trivigno, when she was given a ten minute misconduct for much of the last half of the third period. Both teams remained five-on-five however. Her absence may have affected the Pride’s chances. One more penalty would put the Pride a skater down late in the third. The team would survive, though their offensive production was clearly disrupted.
The Whale had to kill off two minutes in overtime and managed to avoid disaster as well. A Connecticut team that often takes a lot of penalties were able to keep their time in the box low. Head Coach Ryan Equale had made it a major goal to decrease the Whale’s penalties. This game followed a Riveters game last weekend where the Whale surrendered two power play goals.
The matchup had been fairly even, with momentum swings, but no team gaining the upper hand. In addition to the breakout performance from Daniels, Boston’s primary threats of Emily Field, Jillian Dempsey and Trivigno had their opportunities. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to much success. Dempsey even managed a quality short handed effort but was stopped. Defensively, the veteran Jordan Smelker and former Whale member Meagan Mangene both disrupted CT shots on the penalty kill at critical points.
For Connecticut, the depth of the team was on display with offensive stalwarts Kelly Babstock and Amanda Boulier not in the lineup. The Whale sent attacks in from the recently returned Meghan Huertas, a great break from Anderson, numerous key plays from converted defender and relative newcomer Hanna Beattie, as well Captain Sam Faber and fellow speedsters Juana Baribeau, Grace Klienbach, and Rachel Ade.
Defensively, Emma Greco, in her second game out of Quinnipiac, has fit in with the squad well. The newly-minted rookie teamed up with fellow QU alum Cydney Roesler. The pair of Bobcats showed their effectiveness on both sides of the ice. Whale founding member Shannon Doyle played a major role on the power play and defensively.
The NWHL All-Star break is next week. The Whale, with their 3-7-2 record, now occupy third place as the Pride drop to 2-7-3 and fourth. With the playoffs in late March, there is still a lot of hockey left.