(Photo: Kate Frese/NWHL)

The National Women's Hockey League returned from its All-Star break this past weekend, with four of its five teams in action. The Boston Pride bested the Connecticut Whale, while the Buffalo Beauts and Metropolitan Riveters split their weekend series.

Here are the current NWHL standings:

  1. Boston Pride (21-1-0), 42 points – clinched 1st place
  2. Minnesota Whitecaps (13-5-2), 28 points – clinched 2nd place
  3. Metropolitan Riveters (9-9-2), 21 points
  4. Buffalo Beauts (7-12-1), 15 points
  5. Connecticut Whale (2-17-2), 6 points

Pride vs. Whale

The Pride remain a strong team as the NWHL season wears on. Boston received goals from four different players in a 4-1 victory over the Whale on Saturday; they also more than doubled Connecticut in shots, outshooting them by a 50-23 margin.

After a scoreless first period, Lexie Laing put Boston on the board with just under four minutes to play in the middle frame. The Whale were able to successfully kill off a penalty several minutes earlier, but it wasn't without a lot of offensive pressure from the dangerous Pride. After the advantage ended, the Whale were still unable to maintain control of the puck for too long. Eventually, the Pride got a bouncing shot on net and Laing pounced on the rebound to open the scoring.

Early in the third, Jillian Dempsey doubled her team's lead. Once again, the Pride were dangerous on the doorstep of the net, and the Whale couldn't keep Boston away. Kaycie Anderson scored the lone goal for Connecticut, halving Boston's lead and keeping the Whale alive in the game - at least for a while.

The Pride then scored twice in the final two minutes of play to snag the 4-1 win. Mallory Souliotis scored on the power play before Alyssa Wohlfeiler added an empty-netter to seal the victory.

Brooke Woljeko made 46 saves, while Lovisa Selander only had to make 22 stops.

Riveters vs. Beauts

The Beauts finally snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 6-5 shootout victory on Saturday over the Riveters, in a back-and-forth game that saw both teams come back from being down multiple times.

Buffalo started off strong, going up 2-0 before five minutes had slipped off the clock. Corinne Buie opened the scoring on a 3-on-1 opportunity before Kandice Sheriff notched her first NWHL goal a few minutes later.

Leila Kilduff dampened the Beauts' party late in the first period, scoring on the power-play with just three seconds left to put the Riveters on the board. Kilduff jumped on a rebound on the goaltender's left side and was able to jam it in within the dying seconds of the period.

Kim Brown regained the two-goal lead for Buffalo, but the Riveters scored the next three goals to eventually tie the game and take a 4-3 lead. Kiira Dosdall-Arena, Kelly Nash, and Kate Leary all scored for Metro, including Leary's go-ahead goal on a snipe from the slot.

Before the second period was over, however, the Beauts rallied back. Iveta Klimasova tied the game for Buffalo before Taylor Accursi put her team in the lead.

The lead didn't last long, however, as Brooke Avery tied the game early in the third period. Avery carried the puck into the zone and was left pretty much alone, save for one Beauts player who tried to dive in front of her, to score on the five-hole.

After a scoreless few minutes, the teams headed to overtime, then a shootout.

Accursi and Ana Orzechowski scored for Buffalo in the shootout, while only Kate Leary was able to get one past netminder Tiffany Hsu, giving the Beauts a much-needed win as they fight for third place in the playoff race. The victory was Hsu's first in the NWHL, as she recorded 34 saves. Sam Walther had 15 saves in the loss.

Late in the second period of Saturday's game, Madison Packer received a game misconduct, while Sara Bustad received a match penalty for "kicking a player" and a game ejection. She was not available for the Beauts in Sunday's rematch; her status going forward is uncertain but should be determined by this coming Friday, according to a league source.

When the teams rematched on Sunday, it would be the Riveters who came out of the gate strong. Leary scored twice in the first period to put Metro up by a pair of goals. On her first goal of the night, she was able to get the Beauts netminder moving and capitalized on the open side of the net. On her second goal, Leary blocked a pass and then broke out of the zone and beat a Buffalo player 1-on-1 before squeezing the puck into the net along the post.

Becki Bowering got Buffalo on the board late in the period, and her teammate Cassidy MacPherson then scored early in the middle frame to tie the game, but this time, the Beauts couldn't hold on.

Kilduff and Mallory Rushton added goals in the final five minutes of the second period, and the Riveters skated into the third period with a two-goal lead.

Although Kristin Lewicki – who signed a PTO with the Beauts for the weekend – was able to score in the third period on a power play, Buffalo was unable to complete the comeback this time. Lewicki capitalized off a cross-ice pass and took advantage of a wide-open net, but the goal came with under six minutes to play and the Beauts couldn't rally.

Hsu, in her second straight start, made 29 saves. At the other end of the ice, Dana Demartino recorded 21 saves. Zoe Zisis signed a late PTO as the Riveters' backup.

Playoff Picture

Things are starting to fall into place regarding the NWHL's playoff picture. Here's what we know so far:

  • The Boston Pride have clinched a first-place finish and will host an Isobel Cup Semifinal on Sunday, March 8 at 2:30 PM Eastern at Warrior Ice Arena. They will host the winner of the play-in game between seeds four and five. Tickets are available at a cost of $25 to $35 here.
  • The Minnesota Whitecaps have clinched second place in the league. They'll host an Isobel Cup Semifinal against the third-place team (TBD) on Sunday, March 8 at 12:30 PM Central at TRIA Rink. Tickets are available here.
  • The fourth- and fifth-place teams will participate in a play-in game to determine who faces the Pride. The date and location are still TBA.

Other News & Notes

  • In case you missed it, the NWHL reviewed the results of the Fastest Skater event at the Skills Challenge and determined that Allie Thunstrom was, indeed, the winner.
  • Several players signed PTOs this past weekend, including Kristin Lewicki (Beauts) and Zoe Zisis (Riveters). In years past, Lewicki previously played on both the Beauts and Riveters. Earlier this season, she participated in the PWHPA's Dunkin' Showcase in Hudson, New Hampshire.

Upcoming Action

All five teams are active this weekend in the NWHL. The Whitecaps visit the Beauts for a pair of games (2:30 PM Eastern Saturday, 1:00 PM Eastern Sunday). Elsewhere, the Whale host the Pride for 2:00 PM Eastern puck drop Saturday at Webster Bank Arena. The Riveters host the Pride Sunday at 4:30 PM Eastern.

This weekend's games in Connecticut are the last of the regular season for the Pride.

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