Rookie Stars Sydney Baldwin, Nicole Schammel Lead Whitecaps to W over Whale
By Dan Rice
After three straight losses, the Minnesota Whitecaps rebounded and defeated the Connecticut Whale by a resounding 7-2 score in Danbury on Saturday afternoon. It was all former U. of Minnesota Gophers all the time as rookie defender Sydney Baldwin (4 points) and rookie forward Nicole Schammel (3 points) led the scoring attack and veteran Amanda Leveille made 23 saves in the Whitecaps' first road win of the season.
The final score was a tad misleading as the Whale were tied or within one goal for the majority of the first forty minutes, but Minnesota pulled away with four goals during the final 21 minutes.
“We know that wasn’t a 7-2 game,” said Leveille. “The Whale competed extremely hard and played well. We know coming out of the gates tomorrow that it is not going to be an easy game.”
Minnesota beat the Metropolitan Riveters by a 9-2 score in the season opener and then fell the next day, so the Whitecaps goalie believes her team won’t fall into the same trap again after a blowout win.
“Right after the game today, our coaches were on us about that,” Leveille said. “We learned our lesson. That’s the great thing about this season — it’s pretty long, and these first games, while we want to win them, we want to be playing our best hockey at the end of the year.”
The Whitecaps opened the scoring with 7.7 seconds left in the opening period when another former Golden Gopher, Meghan Lorence, found the puck after a goalmouth scramble and shoved it past Sonjia Shelly. On the play, Audra Richards picked up her first NWHL assist.
“Boo (Amanda Boulier) shot it, I tipped it, and Lorence shoved it in,” said Richards with an ear-to-ear grin. “I made sure they knew I tipped it because it didn’t look like I tipped it! Since college…22 games without an assist,” she added when it was brought up that it was a long time coming.
The lead held until 5:47 of the second period when rookie Emma Vlasic scored her second goal in as many games for the Whale. Schammel then took over and netted two goals in just under two minutes and she could have had a third as well on a chance that just skittered wide.
“We saw today that they have good shooters, and tomorrow we can’t give them the kind of respect we were giving them,” said Vlasic.
Kaycie Anderson sliced Minnesota’s lead to 3-2 with five minutes left in the period on a sweet breakaway goal and it seemed that the Whale had gained some momentum to carry into the third period.
But Haylea Schmid scored with 22.2 seconds left in the period (her first goal as a pro) and Baldwin tallied just 30 seconds into the final stanza. Those mistakes are things that the young Whale group has to work on, starting with the rematch on Sunday afternoon.
“We have a lot of grit. Our team is not afraid to go to the front of the net, battle for pucks in corners,” said Elena Orlando when asked why this incarnation of the Whale is different than the previous ones. “Everyone is fearless, which is awesome to see.”
Brooke White-Lancette (first NWHL goal) and Jonna Curtis also tallied in the final period as Minnesota pulled away in the final minutes. Eleven players for the Whitecaps registered at least one point.
“We should have a chip on our shoulders tomorrow,” said Orlando. “We’re obviously not happy with the result.”
Game Notes: Schmid led all players with five shots on goal and six players had three shots apiece for the Whale. Former Golden Gophers players in the Whitecaps lineup on Saturday accounted for 10 of the 19 points recorded in the afternoon. “I’ve had the pleasure of playing with a lot of these players before,” said Baldwin. “That helps make the learning curve a bit smaller.” Connecticut is still looking for their franchise’s first win against Minnesota.
Dan's 3 Stars of the Game:
1) Sydney Baldwin (Minn): goal (3), 3 assists (4)
2) Nicole Schammel (Minn): 2 goals (4), assist (4)
3) Emma Vlasic (CT): goal (2), 12-9 face-offs (.571%)