Kayla Meneghin Taking Her Game to a New Level with Whale
The Connecticut Whale are winless through the first 12 games of the 2019-20 season, but there is a lot more to this team than the one point they have in the standings. The Whale are by far the most defense-first team in the league, which makes perfect sense considering that their veteran blue line is led by three original NWHLers and 2020 All-Stars in Elena Orlando, Jordan Brickner, and captain Shannon Doyle. However, they also have some skilled forwards who are making their mark and Kayla Meneghin is undoubtedly among them.
Last year, Meneghin played largely as a depth forward for Connecticut, which was surprising considering her production at SUNY-Plattsburgh where she was named the 2016 ECAC Women's West Player of the Year. She finished her first season in the NWHL with one point - an even strength goal - in 10 games, which was a far cry from the 188 points she piled up in 117 games of NCAA D-III hockey. This year, things have been much different for the Cardinal alumna.
In her first nine games of the 2019-20 season, it's clear that Meneghin has found her scoring touch again. She has six primary points - four of which are goals - and leads all Whale forwards in scoring. Her impact on the Whale's offense is further evidenced by her 3.0 SOG/GP, which stands out on a team with the second-lowest SOG/GP (27.75) in the NWHL. There's no doubt about it - she's taking her game to a new level this season.
"I feel that last year I was never fully given the opportunity to show what I'm capable of," Meneghin said. "This season I've just been focused on making the most of my opportunities and coming to compete and work hard whenever I'm on the ice and I think that's paying off so far."
Both head coach Colton Orr and assistant coach Laura Brennan have given Meneghin a chance to prove what she's capable of this season. "I enjoy Colton as a coach," Meneghin said. "He came in a bit late, but he got to work right away. He can see that we are working hard and that we're buying into the process. We show up to practice ready to do video to prepare us for what we need to work on, and you can see that it has helped our play. Colton and Laura do a really good job of focusing on the simple things and I feel that if we continue to buy into the process things can turn around for us."
The 5-foot-4 forward is never the biggest player on the ice, but she regularly wins battles for the Whale in all three zones. In addition to her team-leading six primary points, Meneghin has also blocked nine shots and earned seven takeaways this season. Her greatest strength as a player may stem from her attention to detail and her innate understanding of where she needs to be to make a play that can shift the momentum, create a scoring chance, or gets her team a much-needed line change.
Meneghin's high hockey IQ has also made her a great fit behind the bench at Saint Anselm, where she's been an assistant coach since the summer of 2018. She credits Saint Anselm head coach Kerstin Matthews with unlocking some of her potential as a player, "Kerstin has a different coaching style and runs different systems than I have played for," Meneghin said. "So, coaching with her has helped me adapt and do things differently on the ice as a player which is why I'm continuing to be successful on the ice.
"Balancing coaching and playing is tough," she continued. "Right now, coaching is my first priority because that's what I want to do in my future. I love playing hockey and even if I wasn't playing in the NWHL right now I know for sure that I would be skating every day just to be on the ice."
Meneghin is just one of those players who has hockey in her veins. Perhaps that's why she never backs down from a foot race for a loose puck or hesitates to dive into the corner regardless of the size of her opponent. Her ability to process the game at a high level and her relentless, infectious passion for the game are a potent combination. When you add her natural talent and quick first stride into the equation, it's easy to see why she's missed by the Whale when she's not in the lineup.
Meneghin and the Whale are at home this weekend in Danbury to play the Boston Pride on Saturday, Dec. 28 at 3:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets to both games are available now at whale.nwhl.zone/tickets! Fans can also watch the action streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch.
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National Women's Hockey League Stories from December 26, 2019
- Isobel Cup Winner Kelly Nash Returns to Riveters - Metropolitan Riveters
- Kayla Meneghin Taking Her Game to a New Level with Whale - Connecticut Whale
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