CAMBRIDGE, MA- The Connecticut Whale remained undefeated and atop the NWHL by defeating The Boston Pride 4-3 Sunday afternoon at Harvard.
In one sense the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated as the Pride’s last goal was on a desperate power play with an empty net. However, as it is the NWHL, the Whale’s lead was far from secure in the face of a dangerous Pride team which came up with scoring opportunities up until the buzzer sounded.
The Whale’s Jaimie Leonoff, a former Yale netminder, made 39 saves against the offensive juggernauts. On the offensive side for Connecticut, Shiann Darkangelo, recently of Quinnipiac, scored two goals on the night including in the first minute of the game when she rocketed a shot past Boston stalwart Brittany Ott. Darkangelo would score again midway through the second, skating through the zone and lofting it past the keeper to give the team a 3-0 advantage.
Whale defender Shannon Doyle picked up the team’s second goal back in the first when she teed up a shot from the point for her first score of the season. An assist went to Kate Buesser at 9:34.
The fourth Whale goal came at 14:18 in the second when Molly Engstrom launched a shot from the point past Lauren Slebodnick who had come into relieve Ott.
Rachel Llanes of the Boston Pride gave the fans some hope when a Whale defender slipped leaving the puck for her taking. She swept in alone on Leonoff and slipped it through the pads with one second left in the second period. Kelly Cooke also snagged an assist on the goal. Llanes had earlier in the period stolen a puck during a Whale power play and broken in on Leonoff then as well, only to be stopped by the keeper. In the process though the Whale had gotten penalized setting up a penalty shot. Llanes skated in but Leonoff saw her coming and came up with the save.
In period 3, the Pride continued to try to claw back. On the power play as Amanda Pelkey came in from Leonoff’s left and rocketed the puck over the goaltender’s right arm at 3:23 assisted by Kacey Bellamy. The Whale would hold off the Pride efforts for most of the period until Slebodnick got pulled. With an extra attacker Boston went at it, and Bellamy finally scored one at 18:35 to cut the lead. The Pride kept fighting, and Leonoff had to make some more stops to hold the lead in the frenzied final moments but when all was said and done the Whale won. The Connecticut Whale are now 6-0. The Boston Pride suffered their third straight loss and fall to 3-3.
Leonoff is now 4-0 on the season. She was challenged often beyond the three golden opportunities Llanes had. Her saves included against credible tries from Gigi Marvin, Corinne Buie trying from the doorstep, and the persistent Decker among others. On the penalty to Kelli Stack, she had to make four saves in rapid succession, and late in the game had major threats flying at her which she dispatched. Ott made 10 saves on 13 shots, and Slebodnick made 5 saves on 6 shots
Leonoff and Doyle spoke to the press afterward.
Ott gave her assessment of the game as well.
Additional observations: (This is not an exhaustive list, just what was observed. Surely much more happened.)
The Whale scored a lot out of nowhere, but their usual high scorers were lurking throughout the game. Whale Captain Jessica Koizumi, an Assistant Coach at Yale, and Jordan Brickner had a break at one point only to have to Ott thwart it. Stack and Buesser took their chances in a power play. In a persistence moment Kelly Babstock headed up ice but slipped only to manage to whack a pass to a teammate.
Doyle, in addition to scoring, intercepted several passes to disrupt the Pride’s setup. Koizumi blocked a shot and skated out into the zone. During a penalty, she cleared it out of the Whale end as well and cleared it again on another penalty. Engstrom and Kaleigh Fratkin had blocked shots as well. The team overall had a ton of blocks.
Jillian Dempsey was effective at clearing the puck including in the first when she cleared it out of the zone three times on a penalty, and went on a short handed try.
The ultra dangerous pair of Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker were held scoreless but they did have their share of breaks in on net, only to be foiled by the defense or Leonoff. Decker, would at one point during a power play, swiftly skate in between four Whale defenders to head in on net. At a later time, it didn’t lead to points but she used a nasty spin move to avoid the defenders. Bellamy had a few other chances throughout the game before she ultimately scored.
Ott despite the three goals given up still stopped plenty of Whale chances including from Stack, and Buesser, as well as the aforementioned Koizumi led break. Slebodnick had a stop on Fratkin and Faber among her saves.
A few defensive notes among what was likely dozens. Marissa Gedman cleared the puck during a penalty, Pelkey had at least one steal, and Zoe Hickel intercepted a pass. Llanes blocked a shot as did Gigi Marvin.
Video Playlist of Game Action
The Whale are at home Sunday, December 6th to face the Buffalo Beauts.