PHF Playoff Preview: Isobel Cup Final
Previewing the 2023 Isobel Cup Final between the Premier Hockey Federation's Minnesota Whitecaps & Toronto Six.
The Americans got on the board quickly and moved into autopilot in their opening game. They capitalized on an early Sweden penalty as Laila Edwards lit the lamp just 23 seconds into the power play. She took a pass from Simms down low and walked it into the slot. The first save was made but Edwards knocked home the rebound. Cassandra Hall scored twice in succession, first with top shelf wrister from the far faceoff dot and then one-timing home a rebound that fell to her at the far post. Josie St. Martin extended the lead to 4-0 before the first period was over on a nice little backhand flip right in front of the net.
In the second, Elyse Biederman picked up a pass at the center line and skated right in on net, slotting the puck past Sweden goalie Annelies Bergmann at the near post. Sweden broke up the shutout early in the third on a power play goal from Ebba Hedqvist who said it was a good drop pass and the US defenders provided a screen. Tessa Janecke closed out the scoring when she was in position on the back post to receive a perfect pass from Sydney Morrow.
"We're so happy to have this tournament happening. I think everybody's pretty fired up." – USA coach Katie Lachapelle
"It was a good game for us to have also as a first game because now we know what level to expect." – Sweden coach Mira Jungaker
"Leila is really shifty, as well. But you know, when she shifts, she's pulling the puck past three people." – Lachapelle
"It was a tough lesson, but a good lesson for us to come into before tomorrow's game." – Jungaker
"It showed a lot about the three words we use: relentless, pride and together." – Laila Edwards
"It feels it's so good. I can't even describe it. It's such an honor," – Cassandra Hall on wearing the USA jersey for the first time
"To be closer to the to the other team and be a little bit quicker in your decisions all the time," – Ebba Hedqvist on what she learned from the loss to the US
In the nine previous matchups between these two teams at the U18 level, Canada had not lost and had outscored Finland 61-3. Canada has just one loss to a team other than the Americans in any U18 Women's World Championship.
None of that mattered to the Finns on Monday as the teams got on the ice for this much-delayed tournament. Canada struggled to find an even keel, coach Howie Draper said – they were a bit more hyped than he'd have liked. That led to some sloppy plays as the Canadians took six penalties in the game.
The teams played a pretty even first period, but Canada looked to be pulling away in the second, getting momentum from the penalty kill. They outshot Finland 14-3 in the frame, but it was Finland that would get on the board before the period ended.
Jenniina Kuoppola won the puck after a faceoff in their zone and quickly passed it back to Ada Eronen, who was waiting near the boards at the blue line. Eronen took two strides towards center ice and let loose with a rocket of a shot that made it through a ton of traffic in the slot and clanked off the far post and into the net.
Canada pressed again in the third, but the undisciplined play gave Sweden a 5-on-3 five minutes in. The Canadians had a solid penalty kill going, but a missed assignment left a lane open right up the middle and Oona Havana did not miss. Her shot beat Haily Macleod five hole and put Finland up 2-0.
Finnish goalie Emilia Kyrkko was superb in the historic win for her country, making 40 saves, including 19 in the final frame.
"Everybody played exactly how I want them to play." – Finland coach Mira Kuisma
"It was amazing and I am very proud of our team." – Finland goalie Emilia Kyrkko
"We are Finnish people. We celebrated in the locker room, and we sang and danced." – Finland alternate captain Oona Havana, talking about her team being relatively calm on the ice in reaction to their historic win.
"I felt like we started off a little bit hesitant, a little bit more anxious and maybe worried about not finishing the way we want to finish in the end." – Canada coach Howie Draper
"I always think that a little adversity kind of lights a little bit of a fire underneath (the team)," – Draper, on if losing early is a positive in terms of motivating the team.
"I don't think we want to change anything I think we just want to refine." – Draper
"We know that we need to crash net more. There was lots of rebounds. So capitalizing on those tomorrow will be huge." – Canadian forward Sarah MacEachern
With two separate venues and the games all happening simultaneously, it's impossible for me to cover both at the same time – so here's a quicker look at what went down at Cap Ice in Group B play while I was at LaBahn for Group A.
Anna Sapovalivova had two goals and an assist and Andrea Trnková added a goal and two assists to lead Czechia to an opening round win. Sapovalivova scored first, assisted by Trnková and Tereza Plosová. Less than three minutes later, it was Trnková from Sapovalivova and Plosová. Sapovalivova opend up the third with a goal from Trnková before Eliška Hotová got on the board with the final talley. Laura Medvedova made 37 saves for Slovakia in the loss.
Lola Liang scored in the final minute of regulation to give Germany the win. She swung at a deflected puck in the air that bounced off the goalie's shoulder and in. It was reviewed for a high stick but ultimately deemed a good goal.
Margaux Favre made 19 saves for Switzerland. Felicity Luby made 27 saves and earned the shutout win for Germany.
Sweden faces Canada at 4:00 PM Central on Tuesday June 7 in a game where they'll both be hoping to get back on track. Later, the Americans face off against Finland for the top spot in Group A at 8:00 PM Central. Both games are at LaBahn.
In Group B at Cap Ice, Czechia and Germany will play at 4:00 PM Central, followed by Switzerland vs. Slovakia at 8:00 PM Central.
Photo credit: IIHF