The penultimate weekend of regular season action in the Premier Hockey Federation saw the Toronto Six maintain their perfect home record with wins over the Boston Pride; the Connecticut Whale extended their streak with victories against the Buffalo Beauts; and the Minnesota Whitecaps & Metropolitan Riveters split.
Six vs. Pride
The Six swept their home series against the Pride, winning both games in overtime by scores of 2-1 and 4-3, respectively.
Christina Putigna had Boston's lone goal on Saturday. She scored midway through the first period, going short-side to get the puck into the net, and the Pride held onto that lead for the remainder of the opening frame.
It took until nearly the midway point of the game – 8:38 of the second period – for Toronto to find the equalizer. Mikyla Grant-Mentis tallied her 12th of the season, beating Katie Burt as she came to the net with speed and backhanded a pass in.
Teams exchanged chances as the game went on, but the score remained tied after regulation. Breanne Wilson-Bennett played the hero, recording the game-winning goal 3:57 into overtime.
Shiann Darkangelo took the initial shot, which went five-hole but hit the far post. Wilson-Bennett was waiting on the other side and jumped on the easy tap-in.
Elaine Chuli had 26 saves, while Burt had 37.
Sunday's game saw much more offense, with seven goals scored between the two teams. McKenna Brand put Boston up 1-0 off a great pass from Evelina Raselli, beating Chuli five-hole just 3:28 into the game as the Pride really controlled play.
Teams would exchange goals over the course of the game. Darkangelo tied it just over three minutes later on a redirect in front of the net, but it took only 20 seconds for the Pride to respond.
Taylor Wenczkowski quickly regained the lead for Boston, deflecting a shot from Paige Capistran in the slot. As the teams settled more into the game, Brooke Boquist tied it with 3:58 left in the first, cleaning up the play in front.
The Pride had a strong second period, outshooting Toronto 11-3 and scoring the lone goal. Brand tallied her second of the game to again regain the Pride's lead; she did it all on her own, keeping the puck in the zone at the blue line, skating closer in and beating Chuli top-shelf.
That would be the last lead of the game for Boston. Although they held onto it for most of the rest of the game, a late goal ended up costing them big. Wilson-Bennett tied it at three with 2:52 to play, capitalizing on a rebound on the advantage after great pressure.
Darkangelo gave her team the win 2:11 into overtime, picking up a drop pass from Emma Woods and ripping it past under the left pad of Victoria Hanson.
Chuli stopped 29 of 32 shots. At the other end of the ice, Hanson stopped 21 shots. Toronto was without Grant-Mentis for Sunday's win.
Riveters vs. Whitecaps
The Riveters & Whitecaps split their weekend series. Minnesota won Saturday's game 4-2, but Metropolitan rallied back for a 4-3 victory Sunday.
The Riveters came out blazing on Saturday, outshooting the Whitecaps by a whopping 17-7 margin in the first period. Breanna Blesi stood tall and kept them off the board, and that helped charge her team going into the second period.
Allie Thunstrom opened the scoring just 1:26 into the middle frame on a beautiful shot from inside the faceoff circle to the goaltender's left. Thunstrom's speed was on full display as she raced down the ice, deked out one Riveters player and beat another for the goal.
Less than five minutes later, Audra Morrison doubled the lead. Lexie Laing slid a cross-ice pass to Morrison on the doorstep, and she was easily able to poke it in as Brooke Wolejko couldn't get across in time.
As the Riveters tried to claw their way back, Kelly Babstock and Rebecca Russo scored in the opening four minutes of the third period to tie the game.
Despite the attempt, they were unable to complete the comeback. Minnesota outshot them 12-8 in the the third period, finishing the game strong with another goal from Morrison on a 3-on-2 opportunity at 11:15.
Thunstrom added the empty-netter with under 20 seconds to play for the win. Blesi recorded 34 saves, while Wolejko stopped 31 of 34 shots.
Sunday's rematch started off the same in some sense, in that the Riveters came out strong from the beginning. This time, it made a difference. They scored the first four goals of the game and withstood a Minnesota rally to snag the victory.
Brooke Avery and Kristen Barbara scored within four minutes of each other past the midway point of the first period to quickly make it 2-0. Nora Maclaine set up a great outlet pass to Haley Frade, who slipped it up to Avery on a breakaway. She was easily able to tuck it in the bottom corner. Barbara snuck the puck under Blesi's left arm and into the net from down low on her tally.
Madison Packer scored shorthanded just 2:46 into the second period to increase the lead. Blesi played the puck along the boards right to Packer's stick; she was quickly able to to throw it down the ice and into the empty net as Blesi tried to get back and jump in front of it.
Mallory Rushton made it a four-goal game as the teams neared the midway point of the game. Amid a crowd in front, and possibly some contact with the goalie, Rushton got the last touch on the puck before it came off the goalie and went into the net.
The Whitecaps did their part to come back scoring three goals in a span of 3:15 over the end of the second period and beginning of the third. Morrison scored five-hole before Sydney Baldwin capitalized on a bouncing puck. Thunstrom quickly tallied on a backhand from in front to make it a one-goal game.
Metropolitan managed to hang on for the win, despite being outshot 44-38 over the course of the game. Blesi again had 34 saves, while Wolejko had 41 saves. Emly Janiga led all skaters with two points, both assists.
Whale vs. Beauts
The Whale have now won 12 in a row after outscoring the Beauts 9-3 in two games over the weekend. Connecticut beat Buffalo 5-3 on Saturday before shutting them out 4-0 Sunday.
Unfortunately, there were technical difficulties on Saturday. Parts of the game weren't broadcast, and the ESPN+ archived broadcast begins midway through the second period.
The Whale won 5-3 on goals from Cailey Hutchison, Emily Fluke, Shannon Turner, Kennedy Marchment & Amanda Conway. Buffalo's Emma Keenan opened the scoring just 20 seconds in, but the Whale rallied back with three goals in just over four minutes of play.
The Beauts tried to claw their way back on a goal from Kennedy Ganser, but couldn't quite get there. Taylor Accursi also scored late in the game.
Carly Jackson allowed two goals on 10 shots faced, while Lovisa Berndtsson allowed three goals on 24 shots. Abbie Ives stopped 17 of 20 shots faced.
Connecticut's strong starts continued on Sunday, when Emily Fluke opened the scoring just 5:31 in. Fluke picked up a pass from Kennedy Marchment, made her way to the front of the net ahead of two Buffalo players & beat Carly Jackson glove side.
Just over three minutes later, Connecticut went up 2-0 on a power play goal. Amanda Conway scooped up a rebound to the right of the goalie and slid it in behind her.
The Beauts continued to make small mistakes all across the ice over the rest of the first period and opening half of the second. The Whale capitalized midway through the game on a goal from Allie Munroe, who scored from the high slot as Buffalo struggled to get out of their own zone.
Hanna Beattie added a goal early in the third period. The Beauts simply didn't have a response and were shut out for the second time this season. Jackson had 28 saves, while Mariah Fujimagari stopped all 18 shots faced.
News & Notes
Teams have until March 14 to add any final players to their rosters ahead of the last bit of the regular season & Isobel Cup Playoffs. Here are the recent signings:
- Buffalo: Dana Trivigno (3/9)
- Connecticut: Jessica Strack (3/11)
- Minnesota: Sydney Baldwin, Breanna Blesi (3/10)
In addition, the PHF announced that Bryan Koop will serve as a strategic advisor on facilities and infrastructure, heading a new facilities advisory committee. Kopp is a Boston-based real estate executive and will be expected to lead the project of finding or creating larger, enhanced facilities to improve player experience.
The PHF has also formed a strategic development partnership with Octagon, a talent management, marketing, and creative agency. They will work with the PHF "to chart the strategic direction of the league, as well as advise on overall growth, sponsorship sales, marketing & other platform development."
Finally, Willie O'Ree has joined the Boston Pride as a minority owner. O'Ree became the first Black player in the National Hockey League when he suited up for the Boston Bruins between 1957 and 1961.
Standings & Playoff Outlook
- Toronto Six (15-2-1, 44 points)
- Connecticut Whale (14-3-1, 42 points)
- Boston Pride (10-5-3, 30 points)
- Metropolitan Riveters (7-12-1, 21 points)
- Minnesota Whitecaps (6-13-1, 19 points)
- Buffalo Beauts (4-14-0, 11 points)
Heading into the final weekend of regular-season action, most of the teams are locked into their positions. The only room for movement is Toronto & Connecticut; depending on how that series goes, either could finish first.
With the rest of the seeds locked, here are the preliminary round matchups:
- Boston (3) vs. Buffalo
- Metropolitan (4) vs. Minnesota (5)
This year in the playoffs, the bottom four teams will play a preliminary round matchup in order to advance to the semifinals. The top two teams (Toronto and Connecticut) will match up against the winners of the preliminary round.
The Riveters and Whitecaps have completed their regular seasons. The PHF will wrap up its regular-season schedule with four games this upcoming weekend:
- Toronto @ Connecticut, Saturday at 3:00 PM and Sunday at 1:00 PM Eastern – This series will determine who finishes the season #1 and #2 in the standings. Regardless, both teams will get a bye to the semifinal, so it's all about bragging rights.
- Boston @ Buffalo, Saturday 7:00 PM and Sunday 1:00 PM Eastern – While neither team can budge in the standings, this will certainly be a good series to watch with an eye for detail since it's a preview of the upcoming preliminary round game.
(Photo: Kaylin Markart/Metropolitan Riveters)