The Connecticut Whale held their second free agent camp Sunday afternoon bringing together a wide variety of players under the eyes of new Whale GM Alexis Moed and under the direction of Whale Head Coach Colton Orr.
As Moed explained the reason for the second camp was that “we have a lot of players that were interested in getting a second look or couldn’t make it to the first one and I know that Colton was unable to go to the first one so we felt there was good opportunity to host a second camp and get a look at a couple of strong players.”
There were only a pair of netminders this time around in camp as former Riveters and Yale goalie Tera Hoffman and PWHPA alum Jessica Strack manned the pipes. Early on they faced one on zero, two on zero, and even three on zero drills, and responded well. Hoffman barely let any puck past her, and Strack did not match Hoffman’s success but did stop a lot in the offensive drills.
One player that stood out immediately was potential draft pick out of Syracuse, forward Emma Polaski. Polaski was moving the puck well, skating swiftly, fighting for pucks hard, and set up a goal in a four on four scrimmage. It will be interesting to see if she gets picked and where she goes on draft day June 29th.
Defender Samantha Benoit out of Norwich was also on hand, draft eligible, at 6 feet she definitely brought a height advantage to the ice. In the whirlwind of action, getting a read was tougher. Though she did demonstrate some good stickwork during a 3 on 3 scrimmage. For a potential breakdown of her you can read this piece.
Rebecca Morse and Cailey Hutchinson, previously of the Riveters were at camp as well raising questions over whether they would be returning to tri-state based club or needing to find a new team, hence their appearance here. One noticed play from Morse was when she blocked a Taylor Marchin slapper and paid for it in a drill. An unsurprising act though.
Speaking of Marchin, the past Whale player looked good on the ice, and was blasting pucks from deep with great power. During the 3 on 3 scrimmage where the goals were close together and scoring was extremely difficult due the closeness of the players, she still managed to get a puck into the net as well.
Courtney Turner, previously of the PWHPA, and before that the Blades of Worcester and Boston, picked up a goal in a four on four scrimmage roofing it by Hoffman no less. She was another player noticed in the scrimmages for her puck movement.
Late in the four on four scrimmage Stephanie Mock, who played for the Whale in 2018, fought to set up Emma Gualtieri, also of late of the Whale, who scored. Gualtieri had also picked up a tally during a three on three scrimmage variation drill earlier.
After the camp Moed shared some thoughts as she has hit the ground running quickly in her first few days on the job. Though admitted as new with regard to the draft “I’m talking a lot with Laura and Colton about the player prospects and whose signed and whose being looked at. So coming here today was a great chance to kinda gauge talent and see where everyone falls and then use some players as a point of comparison to what’s coming through.”
Moed also delved into her philosophy on the team she wants to run when asked about philosophy she led with that she was “big on being an organized organization. And obviously improving communication within the club, and then the communication up through to the league, through the player, really all aspects of the business and the team.”
As for audience to target Moed’s current and continued role as president of the New York Islanders Girls Elite Organization shaped her thinking: “Our focus needs to be on the youth players…attracting more youth fans. Really utilizing all the girls in the league, but obviously specifically the Whale to serve as inspiration to build that fanbase and build hockey at the grassroots level. I would say that my philosophy is really just bringing all aspect of the games together right from youth all the way up through high school, prep, college, all the way up to pro.”
With inclusion as a relevant issue in the world and the NWHL, when asked about it, Moed admitted she was new and was still learning about the Whale’s current partnership with the CT Pride Center, but also added that “the Whale’s involvement in the LGBTQ community has always been a staple from my understanding of the organization. And we’re going to continue to bring in all aspects of inclusion and continue to work with all these community based groups. Really just have the Whale again serve as that team that’s going to be the leader and at the forefront of interacting with all aspects of community.”
Free agency continues, and the draft is Tuesday, June 29th.
Full attendees list at camp:
Forwards: Maeve Reilly. Grace Kleinbach. Emma Vlasic. Emma Gualtieri. Catherine Crawley. Nora MacLaine. Iveta Klimasova. Alexa Aramburu. Courtney Turner. Emma Polaski. Cailey Hutchinson. Stephanie Mock. Alyssa Hulst. Sarah Schwenzfeier.
Defense: Taylor Marchin. Elena Orlando Rebecca Morse. Carrie Atkinson. Samantha Benoit.
Goalies: Jessica Strack. Tera Hoffman.
Note: Vlasic is already under contract.
D.F. Pendrys is a trans non-binary freelance reporter and editor of DFPSports.net.
TXHT will continue to provide NWHL coverage as more signings and news are announced.