In the midst of discussing the transition to life in the PHF after spending three seasons in the Swedish Women’s League, Kennedy Marchment can’t help but make a couple offhanded references to a practice session here or there when, for one reason or another, she hasn’t quite had it.
Hey, it happens. Not every practice will be all crisp passes and perfectly placed shots, and as she adjusts to the Connecticut Whale’s systems after back-to-back campaigns with HV71, there are bound to be moments where she’s thinking rather than reacting. It comes with the territory.
But the funny thing about her insistence that she’s struggled in practice is that the same can’t be said for the games.
Coming out of the league’s holiday break, Marchment was riding a nine-game point streak. She was the league’s top sniper, with six tallies. And with 13 points, Marchment was second in the circuit in scoring and was pacing all rookie skaters. It’s a success she credits almost entirely to the comfort level she’s found among her new teammates. “Being nervous on a new team doesn’t help your performance, so a big part of it was coming to Connecticut and everyone being so welcoming and not making you feel super pressured,” Marchment said. “You can just go out there and play hockey and have fun. That’s a big thing for me because I’m having fun. There’s less pressure and you can just play your game how you’re supposed to play, and the success follows that.”
If that is indeed the secret to her success, then it would seem the welcome mat has been rolled out for Marchment wherever she’s laced up her skates. Because she sure has made a habit of hitting the ground running everywhere she’s been. In her initial campaign with the NCAA’s St. Lawrence University Saints, Marchment tied for second in team scoring and ranked ninth among all first-year collegiate players with 29 points. In 2018-19, her first season in Sweden, she racked up 52 points, good enough to top Linkoping’s attack and finish the campaign sixth in league. Thus, given her history of instant offensive output, her production through the early part of her PHF career shouldn’t be surprising.
Regardless of how she has met or exceeded expectations, though, Marchment’s play has been nothing short of transformative for a Connecticut club that has historically struggled to put pucks in the back of the net and keep pace with league foes. Barring the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, not since the 2016-17 campaign have the Whale managed to score at a rate greater than two goals per game, and they’ve been mired at the bottom of the league’s standings in each of the past four full campaigns.
But Marchment’s arrival has sparked a resurgence in Connecticut. The Whale exited the holiday break leading the league in scoring, averaging more than three goals per game and boasting the league’s second-best record. “At the beginning, you don’t really know what kind of team you’re going to have because there are a lot of new faces,” Marchment said. “But once we stepped on the ice and started to get in our groove, now I think people are like, ‘Oh, the Whale are going to be really good this year.’ As a team, it gives you that extra boost of confidence you need day in and day out to be better and the desire to be at the top of the league.”
Despite her offensive success and how that’s aided the Whale, Marchment maintains that much like those off-days in practice, not everything has been smooth sailing. Adapting back to the smaller ice has been one of the bigger challenges she’s faced since arriving in the PHF. She’d grown accustomed to the extra space to create, find lanes and make decisions from her three seasons in Europe. It’s a faster game with significantly less on-ice real estate stateside, and it took Marchment a couple of outings to condition herself to NHL-sized ice.
Certain elements of what she picked up throughout her European excursion have translated well to the North American game, however. “A lot of times over here on small ice, a lot of teams try to dump it, chase it and go get it,” Marchment said. “Even on such a small ice, what I try to take away is turning it back, regrouping, just trying to keep the puck because, obviously, that’s the best way to score goals. That’s one thing that I’ve taken from such a big ice and controlled game, that that can happen on the small ice as well.”
It’s those aspects of Marchment’s game, her puck-control and possession-based style of play, that Whale coach Colton Orr said has allowed her to slide into the Connecticut lineup so seamlessly. “She brings a sense of calmness to our game,” Orr said. “She’s got really great vision, she’s really good with the puck, her stickhandling skills are probably among the best in the league, and she just sees the ice really well. She’s able to kind of slow the game down. We play a possession-style game where we want to control the pace and the puck and dictate the play, and it fits right into her game.”
Yet Marchment isn’t satisfied. Though she’s stuffing the stat sheet, she understands the difference between the Whale being a powerhouse in the regular season and a team that wins when the games matter most will come down to shoring up her own-zone play. “Personally, being at center right now, focusing on the defensive side of things is a goal I have for myself in the second half of the season,” she said. “Plus-minus is an often underrated stat. That’s a goal I’ve set for myself, to fulfill my role and be the offensive player Colton trusts me to be, but to also be better in the ‘D’ zone and be more positionally sound as a center.”
And if she rounds out her game in that way, the sky will be the limit for both Marchment and the long-suffering Whale.