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Surging Connecticut Whale emerge as major Isobel Cup contenders

By Rick Menning

In a state which hasn't been a bastion in terms of major league sports juggernauts, the Connecticut Whale of the Premier Hockey Federation are changing the landscape and supercharging the atmosphere.

Over the past decade, only the Connecticut Sun of the Women's National Basketball Association have taken their talents to the heights that this state's professional women skaters are at heading into the 2022 phase of the PHF schedule.

Wrapping up their second straight series sweep -- this time at the Northtown Center in Buffalo -- on Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 outcome just like Saturday, the Whale ice brigade is now clearly in the hunt for the Isobel Cup championship.

Connecticut Whale captain Shannon Turner-Doyle hits the ice for pre-game warm-ups in Buffalo. Turner-Doyle appeared in her 99th league game on Sunday and was able to celebrate a weekend sweep. (Photo credit: Connecticut Whale.)

After a "bye" weekend and coming off back-to-back victories against the Minnesota Whitecaps at the Danbury Ice Arena, the Whale transitioned into road warriors in upstate New York and improved their outstanding record to 6-3-1 good for 19 points.

That showing to close out 2021 places the Whale in second place in the PHF standings and, more importantly, enables them to swim confidently through an ocean filled with momentum.

Not only has Connecticut rocketed past its win totals of the past five seasons (2-2-2-3-5), but they have also eclipsed their previous high-water mark of two straight triumphs at any point in any season.

This year's skaters have doubled that with four consecutive 'Ws' as they break for the holidays before their next action in the middle of January.

Memorable play

Whale forward Kennedy Marchment extended her point streak to nine straight games with a goal both Saturday and Sunday in Buffalo, and captain Shannon Turner-Doyle was skating in the 99th game of her professional career.

Her near-milestone contest was made even better by the fact that she notched two assists to help the Danbury dynamos get out the brooms.

After Turner-Doyle blasted an initial shot from the point, Marchment was right there to knock home the deflection and seal the deal for Connecticut after her goal on Saturday wound up being the game-winner. Marchment now has 13 points in 10 games.

Janine Weber and Catherine Crawley also scored for the Whale in the second of the back-to-backs in Buffalo, while Amanda Conway (unassisted) and Emily Fluke lit the lamp along with Marchment in Saturday's prime-time attraction.

Unsung hero: twice

Allie Munroe came up huge defensively not once but twice as the Connecticut Whale continue to get important contributions which might not appear on the scoresheet but are critical to the end result.

With Beauts' forward Kennedy Ganser streaking in toward goaltender Abbie Ives in the second period, Munroe slid all the way from the right circle while on her stomach and while fully extended managed to poke the puck off Ganser's stick for a highlight-reel play that can be seen on the Whale's Twitter post.

Then, in the third period with Buffalo off to a 2-on-1 charge inside the blue line, Munroe provided another defensive gem with a super poke check. Munroe also produced at the offensive end with an assist on the Whale's third goal on Saturday.

Special-teams effort

Head Coach Colton Orr did not want his team playing with any complacency at all against the Beauts, and it showed in their quality work on both the power play and the penalty kill all weekend.

"I think special teams are a huge part of our game, and you're definitely seeing that," Crawley said during an ESPN + interview between the second and third periods of Sunday's matinee. "We're just trying to move our feet and find each other ... we're just trying to have fun and put some pucks in the back of the net."

Buffalo had tons of trouble accomplishing that against Ives on Sunday and Mariah Fujimagari on Saturday. Ives turned back 19 of 20 shots, while former Beauts netminder Fujimagari made 24 saves in 25 attempts.

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