For the first time in franchise history, the Premier Hockey Federation's Connecticut Whale will play for the Isobel Cup. With a win over the Minnesota Whitecaps on Sunday afternoon the Whale clinched their spot in Monday's finale.
They'll face the Boston Pride, who will look to secure their third Cup in team history after surprising the Toronto Six with a 5-1 win in Sunday's semifinal.
Connecticut Whale 4, Minnesota Whitecaps 2
The Cinderella story of the Connecticut Whale continues. After an outstanding regular season, the Whale are heading to their first-ever championship game. What a corner they've turned over the last few years; anyone else remember the early years of the then-NWHL when this team was historically at the bottom of the league?
Both the Whale and Whitecaps looked good to start Sunday's semifinal, and based on the first period alone, it could've been anyone's game. Early in the second, Minnesota nearly opened the scoring as Audra Morrsion rang the puck off the post and crossbar. Upon review, it was deemed no goal.
That was the spark needed to really open the game up, as the Whale scored on the very next shift. Kennedy Marchment picked up a pass down low, walked in on net and beat Amanda Leveille over the shoulder. Minnesota tied it less than four minutes later on a shot by Allie Thunstrom, who got it up and over Abbie Ives as she went down into the butterfly.
The game was tied for until two minutes before Janine Weber gave Connecticut their second lead of the afternoon, redirecting in a point shot from Allie Munroe.
Minnesota continued to battle back & found the equalizer on the power play with under five to play in the second period. After Connecticut was called for too many skaters, Ashley Brykaliuk cleaned up on a bounce off the boards.
The quick responses continued, with Alyssa Wohlfeiler making it 3-2 just 14 seconds after Brykaliuk's goal. It was a great tic-tac-toe play: a point shot from Shannon Turner found Marchment down low, and she quickly swept it across the front of the net to a waiting Wohlfeiler.
Wohlfeiler's game would stand as the game-winning tally. Tori Howran added an insurance goal off a deflection, and the Whale held strong in the third period to limit Minnesota's chances. Connecticut outshot the Whitecaps 35-24.
Boston Pride 5, Toronto Six 1
Score first, score often. That's what the Pride did in Sunday's second semifinal, tallying three goals in a span of 2:14 in the first period. They added a goal in each of the last two periods, and staved off the Six to head to the championship.
Three of the Pride's five goals came on the power play. While it wasn't huge for them in the regular season, it has undeniably been a critical part of their game in the playoffs this year.
After a slew of penalties, Christina Putigna opened the scoring on the 4-on-3 when she capitalized from the side of the net on a cross-ice pass from Lauren Kelly. Only 27 seconds later, Kali Flanagan made it 2-0 as she rushed down the ice, deked numerous Six players and beat Elaine Chuli.
Kayla Friesen made it 3-0 amid a crowd in front of the net minutes later. Chuli was out of the crease and seemed to think she had it covered; the play was reviewed, but there wasn't conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the ice.
Breanne Wilson-Bennett scored Toronto's lone goal in the dying seconds of the first period, and it appeared to give her team some life after a rough few minutes. But no matter how hard they battled, the Six just couldn't find that second goal.
Evelina Raselli scored 3:40 into the second period, and Taylor Wenczkowski sniped one past Chuli midway through the third. The Pride stifled the Six and capitalized on their chances, exposing the goalie's weak spots where they could. They also outshot Toronto by a 28-19 margin.
Isobel Cup Preview: Connecticut vs. Boston
Regular Season Records
- Connecticut: 15-3-2, 47 points 1st place
- Boston: 10-5-5, 32 points, 3rd place
- Boston 4, Connecticut 3 (OT)
- Connecticut 3, Boston 1
- Connecticut 3, Boston 2
- Connecticut 6, Boston 1
Likely Goaltending Matchup
Abbie Ives vs. Katie Burt. Ives made 22 saves in Sunday's semifinal, while Burt had 18 saves. Both are strong goaltenders and have earned their spot here to give their team the best possible chance at the Isobel Cup.
Players to Watch
I've said it once, I'll say it again: Kennedy Marchment. What a season she's had, and what a treat it'd be to see that end with the championship. For Boston, keep an eye on Christina Putigna. She scored in the semifinal and was sixth on the team in regular-season scoring with 10 points in 20 games.
My heart says Connecticut wins this one. After what a great season they've had, it would truly make a storybook ending. They certainly want the win, and if players like Kennedy Marchment are on top of their game, they can get there.
My head... says Boston finds a way to win, like they have in the past. As the defending champs, they're not going to be quick to lay down, and with a one-game championship, all it takes is one goal (maybe on the power play?) to make the difference.
Tune in on Monday, March 28 at 9:00 PM Eastern on ESPN2.
Previous Isobel Cup championship results:
- 2021: Boston 4, Minnesota 3
- 2020: Not awarded
- 2019: Minnesota 2, Buffalo 1 (OT)
- 2018: Metropolitan 1, Buffalo 0
- 2017: Buffalo 3, Boston 2
- 2016: Boston 2, Buffalo 0
(Photo: Michelle Jay/PHF)