PHF Playoff Preview: Isobel Cup Final
Previewing the 2023 Isobel Cup Final between the Premier Hockey Federation's Minnesota Whitecaps & Toronto Six.
The Premier Hockey Federation's Isobel Cup semifinal games are set, as the Boston Pride captured a decisive 6-0 win over the Buffalo Beauts and the Minnesota Whitecaps handily took care of the Metropolitan Riveters with a 4-1 victory.
Boston will now face the Toronto Six, while the Whale face the Whitecaps.
The Boston Pride easily handled the Buffalo Beauts in their preliminary round game on Friday afternoon with a 6-0 win.
Buffalo didn't start off badly and put up a decent effort in the first period. As the teams neared the midway point of the game, however, things started to fall apart. The Beauts had already struggled to maintain possession and zone time, and they allowed the Pride to just take control of the game.
Taylor Wenczkowski opened the scoring at 8:19, notching a goal from down low and beating Carly Jackson five-hole. Less than seven minutes later, Kali Flanagan doubled the lead with a power-play goal. Flanagan's shot from the point rolled around a bit in mid-air and found a pocket over the goalie's shoulder.
Although the Beauts called a timeout to attempt to settle things down, Boston kept coming hard. On the very next shift, captain Jillian Dempsey tipped a puck in front to make it 3-0 with under five to play in the second period.
As another example of just how dominant Boston was in that second period, they not only skated into intermission with a 3-0 lead; they outshot Buffalo 22-8 in the period. That's simply not sustainable for the Beauts, especially in a one-game playoff like this.
Christina Putigna added an insurance goal with 8:57 to play in regulation. She made it 4-0 as she brought the puck toward the corner, then fired a shot off around a Beauts defender and beat Jackson on her glove side.
From there – if it wasn't already evident – it was the Pride's game to lose. (Honestly, I'd argue that happened from the moment they scored the first goal, and their stranglehold just got tighter as the game went on.)
Tereza Vanišová made it 5-0 with 7:22 to play, connecting on a cross-ice pass from Putigna and snapping the puck in top-shelf. Mary Parker cleaned up a rebound late in the game to finish things off.
McKenna Brand was credited with three assists, while ten other Pride players registered at least a point. Katie Burt was perfect on 32 shots faced.
"Every line was firing," said Dempsey after the game. "That's the expectation for the Boston Pride and that's what we aim to bring every game."
Jackson allowed six goals on 36 shots as Buffalo's season came to an end.
The Minnesota Whitecaps' offense was simply too much for the Metropolitan Riveters to handle in a 4-1 win.
As expected, on paper it was a very even game. Each team recorded 33 shots on goal, but the Whitecaps just found the back of the net and used their lethal offensive power to oust the Riveters.
Taylor Turnquist opened the scoring at 7:54 of the first period, snapping a shot in off a quick pass from Audra Morrison in front of the net. There was a great pace to the game, and Baldwin eventually made it 2-0 in the opening minutes of the second period.
Morrison made a great play to keep the puck in at the line, and the Whitecaps cycled the puck around the zone. Once Baldwin got the puck, she threw a wrist shot toward the net and found a hole for the goal.
Minutes later, Kelly Babstock got the Riveters on the board, but that was all the offense they would muster.
Just 3:16 after Babstock's goal, Morrison regained the two-goal lead for the Whitecaps. Baldwin's pass from the point to Curtis down low; she threw it toward the net, and Morrison redirected it past the goaltender and the puck slowly trickled in.
Allie Thunstrom added an empty-netter with 42 seconds to play.
The biggest surprise in this game was the return of goaltender Amanda Leveille, who hadn't played since February 6. She didn't miss a beat despite the lengthy time away, stopping 32 of 33 shots faced and helping send her team to the semifinal.
Brooke Wolejko allowed three goals on 32 shots faced.
Both games will be broadcast on ESPN+ and TSN Direct.
Overall season record
Players to Watch
Kennedy Marchment has been the hottest player for Connecticut as of late. This season, in 20 games, she has 33 points, including 13 goals. Four of her goals were game-winning tallies, and four came on special teams.
Minnesota has so much offensive talent up front with the likes of Curtis, Thunstrom, and Morrison, but Taylor Turnquist has also been impressive from the blueline. She was a plus-15 on the regular season and had 15 takeaways; she also recorded 11 points and 33 shots on goal.
Likely Goaltending Matchup
Abbie Ives vs. Amanda Leveille. Although there's a small chance we could see Mariah Fujimagari get the start for the Whale, it really was Ives' net during the regular season. She played 885 minutes and put up a 2.44 GAA and .894 save percentage.
Minnesota's goaltending situation, like it was for the preliminary round game, is a little murky. We saw Leveille make her return after a month and a half away, and she looked superb. If I'm Jack Brodt, it's her net unless she indicates a need for rest.
The Whale have been so good all season, and I think they'll have the edge this afternoon against Minnesota. The Whitecaps have some lethal offense, but with how sharp Connecticut's been, I can't see that ending just yet. Leveille has historically been a great netminder, but there is that question of injury and recovery and what playing in her second game in three days will do after so much time away. Sorry Lev, but I'm giving this one to the Whale.
Overall season record
Players to Watch
It's hard to watch a Toronto Six game without noticing Mikyla Grant-Mentis. She's all over the ice, getting into the right spots to find goals, whether it's a shot or a tip or something else. In 19 games this season, she put up 30 points and 96 shots on goal. Oh, and she had six game-winning goals.
McKenna Brand has perhaps been a less prominent name for the Pride this season than in years past, but she's right up there on the offense and can't be left alone. Brand has 90 shots, including 83 shots on goal, and is tied for the team lead with 15 points.
Likely Goaltending Matchup
Elaine Chuli vs. Katie Burt. Chuli has been dominant in net for the Six this season, winning 16 games and notching an impressive 1.82 GAA and .930 save percentage. She was a big part of Toronto's success in the regular season and there's no doubt that she gets the start here in Florida.
Burt looked sharp in Friday's preliminary round game and there's no reason not to give her the start in the semifinal as a result.
For me, this game comes down to the goaltending. Chuli was incredible in the regular season and if she continues that kind of play, she's got this win in the bag. The Pride will need to hold off the likes of Grant-Mentis if they hope to succeed, but in my eyes: it's Toronto all the way.
(Photo: Michelle Jay/PHF)