During the first half of the Connecticut Whale’s inaugural season, one that has seen the club enjoy a sterling 7-0 start; there has been no shortage of players making their mark in franchise history. Among them is Kaleigh Fratkin, a 2014 graduate of Boston University who logged 66 career points with the Terriers while never missing a game in four years.
Named as a New England Division I All-Star and Hockey East First-Team All-Star in her senior season, along with the honor of serving as one of the team’s captains, the resident of Burnaby, BC added to her proud New England hockey career by helping the Boston Blades capture the 2015 Clarkson Cup. Equally impressive was the fact that Fratkin was the first female in British Columbia to compete on a major midget boy’s team, suiting up for the Vancouver North West Giants.
Before the NWHL’s inaugural puck drop, Fratkin would make history, adding another remarkable accomplishment to an outstanding career. Having signed as a free agent with the Connecticut Whale, the result was a blockbuster acquisition. Not only did she become the first Canadian player that the Whale signed to a player contract, she would subsequently become the first Canadian ever signed to a contract in NWHL history.
“I honestly did not even realize I was the first Canadian to sign when I signed with the Whale. I was just really happy to sign my first ever professional contract. Once I was aware that I was the first Canadian, it was pretty special just because hockey is such a huge part of Canadian sports history. I even signed on Canada day which made it a little more special.”
Fratkin’s acquisition set the tone for a remarkable group of Canadians to contribute to Whale franchise history. Montreal-raised Jaimie Leonoff became the goaltender credited with the first win in NWHL history, helping the Whale to a 4-1 victory against the New York Riveters in Chelsea Piers. Kelly Babstock, who Connecticut hockey fans remember for a sensational career with the Quinnipiac Bobcats not only became the first Canadian in Whale history to score a goal, she would score the first shootout goal in NWHL history on November 22.
Statistically, Fratkin has made her own contributions with the Whale. During the Whale’s first-ever game, she was one of eight players to log at least one point, earning the assist on Kelli Stack’s goal, the second goal in Whale history. With said assist, Fratkin became the second Canadian in the history of the NWHL to log a point.
In the Whale’s following game, a convincing 5-2 road win against the Buffalo Beauts, Fratkin logged three assists, becoming the first Canadian to log a three-point game in NWHL history. Earning her first goal as a member of the NWHL on October 25, a 3-1 triumph against the New York Riveters, she would be recognized as the First Star of the Game. During the Whale’s first six games, she would pace all Whale players in points, with 10, on the strength of six assists, subsequently leading all NWHL blueliners, respectively.
Among so many memorable highlights in her season with the Whale, Fratkin has also enjoyed the opportunity to play alongside a former teammate from Boston University. Fellow blueliner Shannon Doyle, a teammate from the 2012-13 season, also played alongside Fratkin with Canada’s U22/Development Team in a gold medal effort at the 2015 Nations Cup. The chance for Fratkin to continue her career with another Terrier in Doyle has added an element of fun,
“I have known Doyle for years now, playing with and against her at several levels. I only played with her at BU for one year but it has always been a pleasure. We have endured a lot of experiences together, so we can relate to things on and off the ice.”
Should the Whale end their season with the inaugural Isobel Cup championship, it would make Fratkin the first Canadian to win the Clarkson and the Isobel Cups in back-to-back seasons. Taking into account the remarkable times that she has already made history in her career, it may prove to be the ultimate pinnacle in her career.
Before such postseason ambitions can be realized, Fratkin remains focused on the regular season. While she has enjoyed many moments on the ice, especially the proud contributions to the Whale’s undefeated start, equally important are the chances for team building and making new friendships. Fratkin reflects on the aftermath of the team’s second game, a road trip in Buffalo which saw the Beauts don pink and black jerseys for breast cancer research. Taking into account that the trip from Buffalo to Chelsea Piers is the longest in the league, it proved to be a superlative opportunity for the players to bond, proving to be a cherished highlight for Fratkin,
”My favorite moment this season by far has actually been off the ice. Our first road trip back to Connecticut from Buffalo. The eight-hour bus ride really brought us together as a team. We got to hang out together all 8 hours and I got to know my teammates on a different level outside the hockey rink.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Action shot – Troy Parla, Opening Faceoff – NWHL images