The Connecticut Whale will have the advantage of playing their final three regular-season games at home. However, those three games happen to be against the league’s top three teams, as the Whale jockey for fourth place with the Metropolitan Riveters.
“We’re sitting pretty even with the Riveters right now,” said Whale rookie Kayla Meneghin. “So we’ll need close games or a win or two to get the advantage on them.”
The Whale and Riveters are sitting so close right now, in fact, that they’re tied in every single one of the league’s tiebreakers heading into this weekend, including goal differential. The Whale, however, have a game in hand on the Rivs. Connecticut will play its first of its final three games on Sunday, hosting the Boston Pride at 3 pm at Terry Conners Rink. The game will serve as the Whale’s You Can Play Game, supporting inclusion in sports. Tickets are available at NWHL.zone/tickets, and the game will be streamed live on Twitter.com/NWHL.
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The last time the Pride visited Stamford, Boston escaped with a 2-1 overtime victory. All three of the previous meetings between the teams this season were decided by two goals or fewer.
“Coach [Ryan Equale] has been stressing our D zone play,” said Meneghin, on how Connecticut has been preparing for Boston. “Defense is how you win hockey games, and playing D first is how you generate your opportunities.”
For both Meneghin and the Whale, this season has been a bit of an evolution. Meneghin, who graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh last spring, works as an assistant coach of the women’s hockey team at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire and admits that it’s taken some adjustment learning to juggle coaching and playing.
“At the beginning it was hard because I didn’t know how much I could do,” said Meneghin, “but I’ve been able to go to almost all of the [Whale] practices and games, so I’m happy about that.”
In fact, Meneghin has played 10 of the Whale’s 13 games in her rookie season, scoring her first professional goal on Nov. 25 against the Riveters.
As for her team, Meneghin marks the trip to Pittsburgh in December as a turning point for the Whale. On the ice, that trip included a 4-0 rout of those same Riveters, the first regular-season shutout in Whale history. Off the ice, the team, laden with new faces, built their bond.
“In the beginning, we didn’t know each other very well,” said Meneghin. “We really started clicking in Pittsburgh. Now we’re really close and we all hang out and we’ve built a team chemistry.”
And now, after doing some quality bonding on the road, Connecticut gets home ice advantage for arguably the most important stretch of their season, as the Pride, Buffalo Beauts and Minnesota Whitecaps are all scheduled to make the trip to Terry Conners over the next two weeks.
“We’re definitely more comfortable at home, and it’s exciting to get to play in front of our fans,” said Meneghin.
And she and the Whale are eagerly awaiting the challenge ahead as the season winds down.
“We’re focused on winning and that you can beat any team in the league if you’re playing the systems and outworking the opponent.”