Updated: Dec 3, 2021
By Rick Menning
In a season consisting of only 20 games, critical times can come quickly and that's just the situation facing the Premier Hockey Federation's Connecticut Whale as the calendar moves into December.
This weekend's series against the Minnesota Whitecaps at the Danbury Ice Arena Dec. 4-5 will not only register games seven and eight into the books but provide a key barometer of how Head Coach Colton Orr's squad is likely to measure up as the race for the Isobel Cup comes into even greater focus.
After an overall encouraging series against the defending champion Boston Pride over the second weekend of the 2021-22 campaign, the Whale traveled to Toronto and were swept in a pair of close encounters with the Six prior to the Thanksgiving break.
Now, in the middle of the PHF standings with a 2-3-1 record and seven points, the Connecticut skaters find themselves already at a pivotal juncture as they hope to surge and not slide in the coming weekends.
First things first, though, with a tough Whitecaps opponent visiting Danbury for games on Saturday (Dec. 4) at 3 p.m. and Sunday (Dec. 5) at 1 p.m.
Key playmakers emerging
Through the first six games, the Whale's identity on the ice is still a work in progress although there are some great signs in terms of personal aspirations to be difference makers.
Team captain Shannon Turner-Doyle, who in the Toronto series became only the fourth defender in PHF history to reach 40 career points with her assist on Kennedy Marchment's goal, has combined with Allie Munroe to achieve 35 takeaways thus far this season. Monroe has 18 to Turner-Doyle's 17 as the duo headlines that important statistic.
Marchment, meanwhile, continues to be pesky around the paint and as was the case bigtime in the Boston series made her presence felt in traffic around the crease. Her 28 total shots are tops on the Whale squad.
That effort has resulted in four goals and three assists for a team-leading seven points. Marchment's total tallies ties her with another hard-worker in the offensive zone -- Alyssa Wohlfeiler -- who has an assist to go along with her four lamp-lighters.
Getting back to shots, Taylor Girard has likewise emerged as a threat near opposing goaltenders with 22 zingers toward the net while Emma Vlasic and Wohlfeiler have 12 apiece.
Pickles has provided two goals and three assists to also join Wohlfeiler in points with five, while Emily Fluke is another weapon in the attack zone with two goals and two assists for four points in her five games heading into the Minnesota match-up.
And in another often-overlooked yet vitally important stat, Vlasic and Catherine Crawley have showed their proficiency in the faceoff circle as they have teamed up to win 118 draws.
The trio of Marchment, Turner-Doyle and Monroe have also joined forces to block 15 shots through the season's first six contests.
Next Whale sightings
The Connecticut Whale are back at the Danbury Ice Arena this Saturday and Sunday to take on the Minnesota Whitecaps. Puck drop is at 3 p.m. on Dec. 4 and 1 p.m. on Dec. 5.
For complete ticket information and other details including pandemic requirements to attend the games, visit the Whale's team site at premierhockeyfederation.com.