The NWHL and the Connecticut Whale are showing signs toward growth in the future

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Cydney Roesler is the first player/coach in the NWHL history. She played collegiately at Quinnipiac. Photo by Matthew Raney/NWHL

Since the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) began in 2015 with four teams, they have already added a fifth team (Minnesota Whitecaps). Connecticut has its very own squad, the Whale, which pays homage to the Whalers by sharing similar colors and, obviously, a similar name.

While the team is 0-3, they have been able to keep their morale high, thanks to the leadership of player/assistant coach Cydney Roesler. You may find the fact that she is a player and a coach out of the ordinary. Well, that is because it is. If you look at the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and the WNBA, there is currently no player/coach combination.

“I don’t think it’s been awkward at all,” forward Emily Fluke said. “She does a really good job to separate herself as a player and a coach. When she’s playing, she’s a player and when she’s coaching, she’s a coach.”

Roesler has been the complete package for the Whale. Not only is she the first ever player/coach in the NWHL, but she is one of the team’s top defenders. Being a coach in addition to a player was something that she didn’t think was possible until head coach Ryan Equale (former UConn hockey All-American) asked her about it.

“It has definitely been a challenge, but a new and exciting challenge for me,” Roesler said. “I think that being in the locker room with the team helps me as I’m coaching because I know how they handle things and how they learn best.”

She played collegiately at Quinnipiac and finished her career there with 52 points, named the team’s top defenseman and was selected to the Nutmeg Classic All-Tournament Team. But most importantly, she was the team’s captain for her senior year and she credits that experience with helping her transition into coaching for the Whale.

“Good leadership is something I’ve always strived for and worked toward,” Roesler said. “So, I think having been captain has allowed me to be an effective coach.”

Taking on another role as a coach is not the only adjustment that Roesler has had to face. She had to say goodbye to her good friend, college teammate and roommate Kelly Babstock, who joined the Buffalo Beauts this year. Babstock was tied with Fluke last season for the most goals (4) on the team.

“Our first two games were against Buffalo and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I haven’t played against Kelly since high school.’” Roesler said. “But we were able to shut her down, which I was pretty happy about.”

A typical day for Roesler begins at about 8:30 a.m. when she gets up, eats breakfast and heads to the Quinnipiac training facility for 9:30 a.m. She will typically talk to Equale about the previous games, go over film, and make a plan for the week and practices.

Emily Fluke has been one of the best players for the Whale while balancing a busy work schedule. Photo by Matthew Raney/NWHL

For some players like Fluke, playing in the NWHL is all about the love of the game, as Roesler described it. Fluke works in private wealth management at First Republic Bank everyday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. When the team practices on Tuesday and Thursday nights, she has to commute to Norwich from Boston, where she resides.

Prior to the game, the team will do warm-ups together, then disperse for dynamic workouts, stretches and taping up their sticks. Then, just before the game, the team will meet in the locker room, relax and listen to music on their collective speaker. However, Roesler is always willing to go over strategies related to power plays and penalty kills in the locker room.

With all teams making the playoffs, the most important thing for Fluke is that the team continues to trend upward.

“That’s something you always strive for as a team,” Fluke said of finding ways to improve. “Be a team that is hard to play against and be a team that isn’t willing to give up whether you are winning 5-0 or losing 5-0.”

Roesler said that the team is trying to take away the positives that they have seen in each game as a way to find that they are improving each and every day.

“The mood in the locker room has never wavered, which is pretty special,” Roesler said. “I think it’s because with each game we have progressed a lot and we know that we are getting better with every game we play.”

The Whale will continue a five-game road trip against the Metropolitan Riveters on Nov. 18 at 2:00 p.m. Their next home game at the Terry Conners Ice Rink will be against the Boston Pride on Dec. 30 at 3:00 p.m.


Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.logan@uconn.edu.

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