When the Connecticut Whale left for Lake Placid, one of their best players had to stay behind.
With the restart slated for Boston at the end of the month, the Whale have new life; they originally departed the Lake Placid season due to concerns of Covid exposure, and before the season was postponed, it appeared they were out of the mix.
Instead, the new structure has the Whale in the semi-finals, and they’ll get a boost in the form of the long-awaited debut of Melissa Samoskevich.
“My goal is to help the team however I need to,” said the 23-year-old forward. “Whatever that’s like, if they need me as a scorer or a playmaker, I just want to do what I can and be the best teammate and hockey player I can be.”
Samoskevich was the second overall pick in 2018, but she went to Sweden before a brief stint in the PWHPA. After deeming neither of those were a fit, she signed with the Whale in June with every intention of playing.
Then, Penn State came calling, and it was impossible to pass up.
The Whale would wait a little longer.
“This great opportunity just popped up,” she said. “I ended up getting this job and taking it so it was unfortunate I had to move away from my commitment with the Whale. It was a tough situation because I did make a commitment, so now I feel like I can play so it’s my duty to hold up my end of the bargain.”
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With the season revived, Samoskevich said she felt a duty to be there for the Whale. Her Nittany Lions weren’t advancing to the NCAA tournament, and even if they went all the way, she said she felt she’d find a way to make it work.
So now she plans on being at the practices for the next couple of weeks until the Whale will hit the ice in Boston looking for their first ever Isobel Cup.
“I’ve been doing what I can, it’s tough with Covid,” said Samoskevich. “I was able to get on the ice with (Penn State) and sometimes be an extra skater at practice, which has been fun. It’s helped me as a coach, too, to be on the ice with them. I’ve been doing that and in the gym and will get some ice team with the team soon.”
Samoskevich has been all over, from starring as a 50-goal scorer in high school with Shattuck St. Mary’s to being an offensive threat at Quinnipiac with her now-Whale teammates Abbie Ives and Mckenzie Lancaster, then she went to Sweden for eight games before returning home.
Once overseas, Samoskevich, who has spent time with Team USA during the Four Nations Cup as well, realized she wanted to be home. She finished up her season with the PWHPA before wanting to give the NWHL a shot.
Having already been drafted by the Whale, they welcomed her, looking for a spark to their offense. Without her at Lake Placid, the Whale had some of the most success they ever have as a franchise, earning a semi-final berth before all the madness ensued there.
Adding a scorer of Samoskevich’s caliber is just more firepower for when the Whale deal with the Minnesota Whitecaps in the semi-finals, and she’s all in and ready to contribute.
“I’m just really excited to see everybody,” she said. “I’m ready to compete again.”
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Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.