PHF Playoff Preview: Isobel Cup Final
Previewing the 2023 Isobel Cup Final between the Premier Hockey Federation's Minnesota Whitecaps & Toronto Six.
This past weekend, Kunlun split the series with Calgary and Vanke swept with Toronto. Les Canadiennes earned a sweep with a couple of one-goal wins. Les Canadiennes and Markham are tied for the league lead with eight points, while Calgary sits below with seven. All CWHL teams have won at least one game -- except for the Blades.
The opening game between the two teams was a thriller. Kunlun took a 3-0 lead in the second period, thanks to three tallies in less than 10 minutes. Iya Gavrilova put Calgary on the board before the period ended, and the Inferno scored twice in the third to tie the game. But Kunlun's Annina Rajahuhta, who scored in the second, potted the shorthanded, game-winning goal with just one second left. Noora Raty made 39 saves in the win, while Lindsey Post stopped 30 shots.
The Inferno scored late in the first period on Sunday and tacked on three more goals before Kelli Stack scored for Kunlun in the third. Delyane Brian made 26 saves in the 4-1 win, and Raty stopped 22 shots.
"Our biggest strength last weekend was the resiliency and relentless to come back," Calgary head coach Tomas Pacina said. "We fell down or we fell back three nothing in the second period and we came back, and I think (Kunlun) has been faster and they were a little bit stronger in the battles to start the game. I think we recovered really well."
Saturday's game was scoreless until Cathy Chartrand potted one in overtime. Emerance Maschmeyer made 33 saves in the shutout, while Erica Howe made 35.
Chartrand kept up her scoring streak by tallying the first goal on Sunday. Jamie Lee Rattray tied it in the first, but Sarah Lefort gave Les Canadiennes the laed in the second. Laura McIntosh tied the game with just over a minute left, but Lefore scored the game winner in overtime. Maschmeyer made 34 saves and Liz Knox made 26.
Vanke blanked Toronto 3-0 on Saturday. Hanna Bunton scored in the first and Cayley Mercer and Brooke Webster scored in the second. Elaine Chuli made 23 stops in the shutout win, while Sonja van der Bliek made 36 saves.
Shannon Moulson scored first on Sunday to put Toronto on the board, but Bunton tied it in the second. The Furies took the lead in the third, thanks to goals from Jenna Dingeldein and Cassidy Delainey. Mercer brought Vanke closer, but the Rays were unable to tie it. Chuli made 28 saves in the loss and Sami Jo Small stopped 36 pucks.
↑ Cathy Chartrand: Chartrand was named the CWHL Player of the Month after posting three goals and three assists in four games.
↑ Parity: It's still early in the season and October games rarely foretell how good a team is or isn't. However, there's been a lot of parity in the league so far, which is a byproduct of talent being disseminated due to the Olympics and more teams in the league. A couple years ago, a team not named Les Canadiennes splitting with Calgary would be unheard of...but Kunlun just pulled it off, and it wouldn't be suprising to see the recent top-tier teams suffer a few more losses this season.
↑ Expansion Teams: Both Vanke and Kunlun picked up their first CWHL wins this weekend.
"We were very happy with taking three points home against a really good team," Pacina said.
↓ Les Canadiennes Offense: They're missing their best player in Marie-Philip Poulin. Their offense hasn't entirely struggled, as they put up 10 goals on Boston a couple weeks ago. But, only scoring four goals in a weekend against Markham -- and playing in two super-close games -- is uncharacteristic of Les Canadiennes.
↓ Markham's Defense: This goes hand in hand with the comment above, but the Thunder did a great job of limiting the Les Canadiennes offense, especially by limiting them to just a single goal on Saturday.
Calgary Inferno vs. Markham Thunder: November 4 at 6 PM (Mountain Time); November 5 at 12:15 PM (Mountain Time) at Winsport B Joan Snyder and WinSport Arena A
Boston Blades vs. Vanke Rays: November 4 at 8 PM (Eastern Time); November 5 at 2:00 PM (Eastern Time) at Larsen Skating Rink at Eruzione Center