It’s the year of the whale. After 5 years of the NWSL, the only original team without an Isobel Cup is the Connecticut Whale. The 2021 season was announced last week: 2 weeks in Lake Placid (don’t get me started). The last 3 seasons in CT have been disturbingly terrible, with only a combined 7 wins and 100 GA in 2019-20 alone (somehow not the most in the league, though). But clearly, 2021 is going to be different. My optimistic side is ready to believe, and here’s why.
She’s definitely not the girl with the same name I went to high school with. Doyle has been in the NWHL since its inception and has only ever played professionally for the Whale. Prior to going pro, she played for 2 legendary college programs: Colgate and Boston University. While at BU, the team won 4 consecutive Hockey East championships and fell in the national tournament finals in 2013. She played in the NWHL’s first-ever outdoor game (as a loan with the Boston Pride) and both the 2019 and 2020 NWHL All-Star Games. Last season, she led the Whale in points as defense.
What I’m trying to say here is that she’s pretty good. She has experience and clearly has shown great leadership, as she was named Captain in 2019. Doyle has been the foundation for the team for the last 5 years. She’s talented and, as evidenced by her point production, strives for the success of her team. What makes her a real factor in the 2 weeks at the end of January is that this 2021 season is likely to be her last season of professional hockey. With that in mind, I have no doubt that she’s going to do everything she can to bring the Cup to Connecticut for the first time.
She was a midseason addition last year who spent less than half a season with the Whale. She’s played in 3 different professional hockey leagues plus a year in the NCAA. In the last 5 years, she’s split her time between the NWHL and Team Austria. Weber has shown in the past that she is capable of averaging a point per game. In 2016-17, she had 22 points in 17 games with the then New York Riveters. Since then, her production has fallen some.
What could make a difference for the Whale is that Weber spent only 8 games in Connecticut last year. Though the upcoming season is going to be a whirlwind, there’s hope that Weber has established a better relationship with her teammates. There’s hope that she has chemistry with her linemates she may not have established last year.
She captained Yale’s women’s hockey team in 2017-18 and played her rookie season with the Whale last year. She had 9 goals last season and 3 playoff points in 2 games. Vlasic is young, talented, and hockey is in her blood. With a cousin on the Sharks you may have heard of, and a brother who is a Blackhawks prospect, you could say she comes from a hockey family. And while genetics doesn’t always mean a player is great, Vlasic has demonstrated in just one season that she is capable of big things. Having been a captain in college, she clearly has leadership qualities. Vlasic is the future of the Whale, but hopefully, she can start making a difference this coming January.
On to Lake Placid
As a Connecticut sports fan, I’m not exactly holding my breath for their success. Nevertheless, I want nothing more than for them to bring home the title. There are many things going right for the team, the difficulty will be putting those pieces together. It’s going to be a very strange 2 weeks, especially considering their regular season will be 5 games and their playoffs just a couple of days long. Hopefully, this will soon be just a memory of sacrifices in women’s hockey and the players will be able to play the number of regular season and playoff games they deserve.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)
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