By David F. Pendrys
NORTHFORD, CT- Team Russia closed out their series with the NWHL edging the Connecticut Whale 3-2 Thursday night at the Red Rink.
It was two former NWHLers, Liudmila Belyakova and Yekaterina Smolentseva who struck first. As Belyakova was open in front of the Whale’s Nicole Stock and hammered it home 28 seconds in. Smolentseva and Olga Sosina had assists on the setup.
Smolentseva got on the board herself intercepting a Whale pass at the top of her own blue line and going all the way down unchallenged to defeat the keeper at 11:03. Fanuza Kadirova also picked up an assist.
The Whale took advantage of a power play to get on the board at 1:21 in the second when Kelli Stack maneuvered ahead of the defense for a wide open shot past Nadezhda Morozova assisted by Haley Skarupa and Ivana Bilic.
Russia utilized a power play to obtain their game winning goal late in the 2nd as Angelina Goncharenko slapped it through the screen from the point past the Whale’s Shenae Lundberg at 18:51. Assists went to Sosina and Prugova.
The Whale got back within range of tying it at 16:51 of the third again utilizing a power play. Nicole Connery got the puck behind the Russian net and fed it across the goal mouth to where Kelly Babstock could pounce on it getting it into the net before Morozova could slide into it’s path.
Connecticut would empty the net in the waning moments of the period but was unable to get a shot in the back of the net despite several tries.
The Whale’s regular season starts in a week in Buffalo as all four NWHL teams will be out at Harbor Center for opening weekend.
The Whale took 26 shots on net, and Russia took 25. Morozova naturally made 24 saves. Lundberg faced 10 shots and made 9 saves. Stock faced 15 shots and made 13 saves.
The Whale’s Kelli Stack talked post game about the exhibition.
Whale newcomer Kaliya Johnson shared her experience on her new team and talked defense.
Noticed Plays (A non-exhaustive list of noticed plays that might not make the score sheet. This can never be seen as complete. Just what is noticed during the chaos of game play.)
On a Russian attack in zone the puck got lost in scrum of people and Nicole Kosta got to it and fed it up the ice. On another play after a big back and forth in the Russian zone, Kosta acquired it and skated in close for a shot.
Shannon Doyle skated to a Russian attempt to bank the puck out of their zone and kept it in so the offense could keep trying. She later dived to a block a shot.
Meagan Mangene intercepted a Russia clearing pass to keep it within the blue line and keep the offensive strike continuing. At a later time defensively Mangene cleared the puck forcing Russia to reset.
Celeste Brown got a rebound that bounced off her keeper’s pads and brought it out feeding it to a teammate to continue. She also snagged the puck after a give and take with Russia and ended up with a shot. During a penalty kill she at least one clear.
Elena Orlando blocked a shot at one point she also stole it in her zone and fed it to Mangene who sent it over to Celeste Brown to bring it down to the other end.
Babstock intercepted a centering pass and fed it out to teammates who brought it all the way into the opposing zone. She also had a block, and later at least one clear on the penalty kill.
Haley Skarupa skated in and unleashed a solid shot at one point and at another initiated the offensive rush. Though this is often the case.
Dana Trivigno got it around net and fed it to Juana Baribeau for a shot in the center. She also retrieved it from behind the Connecticut net and swept down the ice.
Anya Battagino acquired the puck during a conflict for the puck in Whale zone and extricated it beyond the blue line. Later Russia dumped it in but she scooped it up and cleared it.
Jordan Brickner blocked a Russian shot which let a teammate get to it and clear it out. She later collected an errant Russian shot and sent a long pass out to Trivigno.
Cydney Roesler’s steal in the Whale zone disrupted a Russian setup. She also intercepted a Russia pass as they tried to enter.
Micaela Long chipped away a Russian pass to regain control of it in the home end.
Stack disrupted a zone entry forcing the Russians to dump it in to little avail. She also reached a Russian pass near the blue line and pushed the biscuit back out.
Angelina Goncharenko got in front of a Whale pass leading to Elena Dergacheva arriving at the loose puck and commencing the offense. Later she got to a loose puck in her zone and conveyed it out. She also had a clear on the penalty kill.
Mariia Batalova got it behind her net and fed it to Fanuza Kadirova who took it into the offensive zone. Batalova later got a rebound of Whale shot and flung it out during a penalty kill. She grabbed the puck at edge of the blue line to keep the offense moving. At another point she blocked a shot immediately after a teammate had another block.
Belyakova deflected a centering pass and got in the way of another much later.
Iya Gavrilova had a clear, she also got it in her own zone and whisked it out to Anna Shokhina. She also stole it near her blue line as Connecticut attempted to enter and rushed it back the other way.
Smolentseva stole the puck in her zone and fed it to Anna Shibanova to skate out. She also kept the puck in the Whale zone passing it over to Belyakova who shot it twice.
Mariia Pechnikova and Olga Sosina got it clear at one point.
Elena Dergacheva snatched a clearing pass and shot it. Later she was sent the puck and swept in for a shot. She also blocked a shot and stole it from a Whale player in their zone.
Nina Pirogova disrupted a Whale entry allowing a teammate to snatch the puck and bring it up. She also stole it as Whale tried a zone entry and fed it to Dergacheva who broke in for a reasonable shot.
Lidiia Maliavko stole it on a CTW zone entry and chipped it out. She also intercepted a centering pass from the goal mouth and dis-invited it from the area. Later she deflected a zone entry right to a teammate. Ever later she blocked a shot.
Olga Sosina cleared the puck from the middle of the surface during a penalty kill. She also knocked it away from an opponent on a Whale zone entry.
Ekaterina Nikolaeva disrupted the Whale at mid ice allowing Sosina to take it in for a shot during a penalty kill.
Elena Podkamennaia brought it down to Whale end during a penalty kill. Later she brought it out of her zone after a Whale effort, passed it off, got it back and shot it. During a penalty kill she had a kill. She also got between two Whale players and chipped the round rubber out on a kill as well. She slid to block a shot during a penalty kill which lead to a short handed break and also chipped it away on blue line while down a skater too.
Fanuza Kadirova smacked it away from a Whale player near the blue line forcing them to clear the zone and later blocked a shot.
Anna Shibanova had a clear on the penalty kill and also a steal in her zone which helped her team gradually clear it.
Anna Shokhina snatched the puck from Connecticut in her zone ending their attempt.
Nina Pirogova stole the puck in her zone eventually passed it along and out. This puck was fed to Dergacheva who slid it to Iya Gavrilova for a shot.