BROAD, WOLEJKO SHINE IN WHALE'S OT WIN OVER RIVETERS
By Dan Rice
The Connecticut Whale may have been winless this season heading into their game against the Metropolitan Riveters on Saturday night in New Jersey, but after a gritty, gutsy performance the Whale improved to 1-0 in 2020 when they won a thrilling 4-3 game in overtime.
Kendra Broad was the scoring star with the game-winning goal, her second of the game and her first two in the NWHL, and Brooke Wolejko was lights-out again in goal for the Whale and made 37 saves to pick up her first NWHL win.
“They make it look effortless. All three of our goalies we have confidence that they are going to make saves for us,” said Connecticut captain Shannon Doyle.
“Our team played so well, I’m so proud of us,” said Wolejko minutes after the game. We showed heart and it feels so good to get this win. It just shows how hard we’ve all been working to win like this.”
The win was Connecticut’s first in 25 games, dating back to December of 2018… when they beat the Riveters in a neutral site game in Pittsburgh. “We had a big team meeting coming into this year,” said an elated Doyle. “It’s a new year so let’s figure out who we want to be. It didn’t matter if we were ahead or behind in that game, the whole time we kept telling each other. ‘We’re winning.’ That’s a mindset we haven’t had yet.”
Riveters All-Star Kendall Cornine scored the first of her two goals on the night to open the scoring late in the first period, ripping a shot past Wolejko. Connecticut didn’t flinch and responded 2:45 into the second period when Sarah Schwenzfeier converted a nifty pass from Kaycie Anderson.
The game would stay tied until Broad netted her first NWHL goal with 55.5 seconds left in the period. On the goal, Brinna Dochniak, who signed a PTO with the Whale on Friday, picked up an assist.
The Riveters started their pushback in the third period and after a few longs shifts in the offensive zone, they finally capitalized when Cornine converted on her second of the night, and 12th of the season, at 12:04.
We appeared to be heading for overtime tied at two, but Brooke Avery found a loose puck atop Wolejko’s crease and stuffed home her third goal of the season. Connecticut pulled their goalie shortly thereafter and after a mad net mouth scramble New Jersey native Hanna Beattie was able to get the puck past Sam Walther with 1:19 left in regulation.
“It’s great to see a player like Kendra get rewarded because she, and all of the new players, have worked so hard,” said Doyle. “Also veterans like Hanna! She’s been working so hard for years and it’s finally paying dividends for her. It’s awesome to see.”
With less than three seconds left in regulation, Riveters forward Mallory Rushton was assessed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for hitting Whale defender Taylor Marchin from behind and into the boards. It proved to be a costly mistake. Connecticut converted on a 4-on-3 power play 2:27 into overtime when Broad skated along the right wall with speed and then absolutely wired a shot from almost along the goal line into the tiniest sliver of space above Walther’s shoulders.
“Sarah made a nice pass out of the zone and I realized I was on my own and had a one-on-one against their defender,” Broad said describing the winning play. “I took it wide and I kinda saw that top corner…I went for it and I guess I’m lucky it went in."
“She had an incredible game, I’m so proud of her,” said Wolejko of Broad’s performance.
Would she have taken that tough of a shot if she hadn’t scored earlier in the night? “It’s hard to tell," said Broad. "But it definitely was a huge weight off my shoulders getting that first one out of the way. It’s been a long time coming. I was definitely playing with more confidence after that.”
Next up for the Whale is a test against the Pride in Boston tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. Fans can watch that game on the NWHL on Twitch.
Game Notes: Beattie now has goals in three straight games, the first three of her NWHL career. Cornine led all players with nine shots on goal and All-Star Grace Klienbach led the Whale with five to go along with her assist on the tying goal. Dochniak and Laurel Hill played defense for Connecticut on PTOs with defenders Erin Hall and Jordan Brickner out with injuries. After the game, the Whale announced they had signed forward Janine Weber to a PTO for Sunday’s game in Boston.
My 3 Stars of the Game
1) Kendra Broad (CT): 2 goals (2), GWG
2) Brooke Wolejko (CT): 37 saves, win (1)
3) Kendall Cornine (Rivs): 2 goals (12)
Photo Credit: Ashley Intile