NWHL Isobel Cup playoff preview 2021: Connecticut Whale

Michelle Jay

The single-elimination Isobel Cup Semifinals will be shown live on Friday, March. 26 at 5 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET. The winners of the semifinals will advance to the Isobel Cup Final on Saturday. March 27 at 7 p.m. ET. In addition to coverage on NBCSN, live coverage will stream exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

• Connecticut Whale: 2-2-0 in Lake Placid

Last time out: The Whale were supposed to face Minnesota on that fateful Monday, but they left the tournament. The last time they played was a loss to Toronto.

Leading players: Shannon Doyle, Abbie Ives: The Whale are led by an ensemble cast, but Doyle, set to retire after the postseason, has always been the leader of the Whale. She had nine blocked shots in four games in Lake Placid, and is traditionally a defensive stalwart.

Ives, a rookie goalie, took over the starting spot and impressed in her limited time. She posted a solid .936 save percentage and 2.01 goals against average in four games, three of them starts. She’s gone a bit under the radar but has stabilized the Whale in net.

Who to watch: Tori Howran, Alyssa Wohlfeiler: Howran was a standout rookie at Lake Placid, taking care of business on the Whale blueline. She had three points as a defender and pushes the pace in all three zones.

Wohlfieler made an NWHL comeback last season with Boston, but they didn’t re-sign her. She went to the Whale and ended Lake Placid with four assists, tied for the fourth most in the league.

Roster changes: Melissa Samoskevich; No Janine Weber: Connecticut gets a big shot in the arm with the arrival of Samoskevich, a former Team USA U18 product who is now an assistant coach at Penn State. She was the 2018 second overall draft pick.

Forward Janine Weber was injured in the last weekend at Lake Placid and isn’t on the roster for Boston.

[Isobel Cup previews: Toronto Six / Boston Pride / Minnesota Whitecaps]

Schedule

Friday, March 26

• No. 1 Toronto Six vs. No. 4 Boston Pride – 5 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)
• No. 2 Minnesota Whitecaps vs. No. 3 Connecticut Whale – 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)

Saturday, March 27

• Isobel Cup Final; higher seed is home team – 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)

Matchup history: The Whale were yet to face Minnesota in 2021, and last faced them on March 1, 2020, in a two-game series where they lost both contests. The Whale were 0-7 against the Whitecaps last season.

NWHL

Vibe check: The Whale were affected by the Lake Placid disaster more than just about anyone. More than half the team contracted Covid, which they found out after they had already elected to leave the environment due to concerns.

As they pulled out, it appeared Buffalo would be named to the semi finals, but after the postponement, the Whale were back in the picture.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat it’s a tough ask to go from not playing and unfortunately having Covid, trying to get back into shape now, but the biggest thing is finding a balance,” said Doyle. “We want to do everything we can, but we have to strike a balance to making sure we don’t get injured while training, that we’re actually recovering.”

That’s good news for a franchise that was playing the best hockey they ever had in Lake Placid. Now, they get a boost with Samoskevich too, who was projected to be a top offensive player for them.

The Whale were playing with more confidence than they’ve ever shown, though, in Lake Placid. Historically at the bottom of the league, and with just two regular season wins a year ago, they turned a corner with their play-in game win to even get to the postseason.

There’s been a shift.

“We really trust ourselves and what we have to do as a team,” said Doyle. “I think we match up really well. Hopefully we play our game and bring our best, and we know how much we have to produce in Boston.”

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Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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