The Connecticut Whale recently re-signed forward Sam Faber, a University of New Hampshire graduate, former CWHLer and 2008 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Top 10 Finalist, for only $13,000. Faber’s first season with the league was truncated by an upper-body injury she suffered in a Jan. 3 game against the New York Riveters; without that break, her season might have turned out quite differently.
Today’s Slapshot spoke with Faber about her past season, what kind of role she hopes to play on and off the ice next season, and a surprising connection she has with a new Whale signee.
Kate Cimini for Today’s Slapshot: You were on a real upswing last season in January when you got knocked out with an injury. You earned half your points in the month before the game at Yale’s Ingalls rink and were making a real difference on the ice when it came to puck possession. How did that injury impact you, mentally?
Sam Faber, Connecticut Whale: Yeah, it was frustrating to break my hand. I mean, I finally felt like I was getting my stride back after taking five years off of hockey in general. The two or three games before that I was kind of creating opportunities that I wasn’t in the first couple games. It was frustrating but at the same time the team was still doing well so it was good to be there with them but I’m not going to lie, it was definitely a frustrating time. But hand’s all better now, 100%, so hopefully I’ll be ready to go at the start of the season and I just started training again, so that’s exciting.
I did want to touch upon the beginning of your season, because speaking with Micaela Long, who was in a similar spot to you, she said it was at times frustrating experience. Looking at the NCAA records of players who signed with the Whale last season, you were one of the best players. Having been away from the game for so long, did you find it hard to get back in step at the start of the season?
It was different. I went into the start of last year knowing that it was going to take me a couple games to get back to where I was. I wasn’t planning on it taking the first five games, really. It definitely really was frustrating.
I didn’t feel out of place, but like Micaela, at UNH so we were just used to point production: not doing that, you feel like you’re doing something wrong. And that’s why, when I broke my hand, it was kind of tough because I was just starting to get my game going. It was frustrating, but we both know now after that turning point, our fourth or fifth game where we were playing our game that it was fine, we fit in well and we could contribute in this league up to our potential.
When you re-signed with the Whale, what did you and coach Heather Linstad talk about as your role on the team? In the last few games she had you not work the perimeter, but rather go to the net, which I know is not your favorite assignment. Is that something you’ll reprise next season?
When Linstad came in and I got my first game under my belt she pulled me over and she said, “We’re going to throw you in front on the power play.”
My first instinct was “What is she thinking?” I’m not the strongest player on this team so it’s going to be kind of easy to push me out of the way.
Obviously I’m not the biggest (author’s note: Faber stands at 5-foot-4) so I’m not really the best screener. But she told me my hand-eye coordination and my ability to find the back of the net is what she wanted me there for. It ended up working out pretty well in the first game of the playoffs. My game is more – I see the ice well, so I move the puck well. I prefer to play [on the outside] but she’s the coach and she knows what’s best for the team.
I’m sure when you re-signed with the team you probably wanted to talk about what kind of style of play they had in mind, what kind of team they were aiming for. What feedback did you get and where do you fit in?
When I talked to Juvie [general manager and assistant coach Lisa Giovanelli] it was more about me rather than the whole team but she did mention that we are going to be extremely talented this year, which I’m very excited about. I mean, we were last year, too, but I’m definitely going to bring my leadership. Obviously I’m going to be one of the older players. We just signed a few girls out of college. I’ll bring my leadership, my style of game, which is fast puck movement and creative offensive skills. Put up some points this season, that’s mainly what I’m looking to do.
With your new teammates, many of whom are aggressive in the points-production department but very young, where do you see your role with them?
I’ve been through it all, obviously the first year but also went through the U.S. program a bit. I played in the CWHL. I’m just going to be a good locker room leader, lead by example on the ice, hopefully teach them a few things about resiliency and this league, and what it takes to play in it. I’ll probably learn some stuff from them, too.
I have coached against Kaliya Johnson, though. Back in the day. She must have been, maybe a senior in high school? I was coaching with the Boston Shamrocks.
What was your impression of her?
She was great. I knew she was going to [Boston College]. She was tough to coach against. She was a good, puck-moving defenseman, just like we need. I haven’t seen her play in college so I can’t tell you how she’s progressed, but I’m sure she’s progressed a ton and I’m looking forward to playing with her.
Looking at your team’s strengths and weaknesses last year, where do you think the Whale needed to shore itself up?
Consistency. I thought we had depth last year, but more depth on the blue line and the offense, scoring throughout the lineup [was needed]. We had big moments from all the lines, which was great, but we didn’t have it all at the same time. I think that’s where it hurt us.
Defensively we had a pretty strong group last year but a puck-moving defenseman would be great. Last year we were more of a transition team, which I hope we can be again this year because I like to play that quick pace. We just need someone [on defense] to get the puck up to us a little bit faster.