PHF Playoff Preview: Isobel Cup Final
Previewing the 2023 Isobel Cup Final between the Premier Hockey Federation's Minnesota Whitecaps & Toronto Six.
Recapping a PHF game between the Metropolitan Riveters and Buffalo Beauts as the regular season comes to a close.
Metropolitan Riveters 3, Buffalo Beauts 2
The Riveters and Beauts came into the final weekend of PHF regular season action with just one thing on the line: their pride. Both teams had already been knocked out of playoff contention, along with the sixth-place Montreal Force, and while the Beauts hoped to pull out one or two more wins, the Riveters looked to extend their winning streak.
That's exactly what they did, sweeping the weekend against Buffalo to finish the season on a four-game winning streak. Saturday's game saw the Riveters outshoot the Beauts by a 45-28 margin, including 19-10 in the second period, en route to a narrow 3-2 victory. Fanni Garát-Gasparics scored the game-winning goal, her seventh of the season in her first year in the PHF.
After a bit of back-and-forth action to start the game, Claudia Kepler opened the scoring for Buffalo at 8:02 of the first period. The play started at the other end of the ice, with Emma Nuttinen poking the puck past a Riveters player to herself, then taking it to the other end of the ice. Although her shot didn't make it in, the puck eventually squeezed past goaltender Rachel McQuigge and laid in the crease. Kepler was able to get her stick on it, poking it into the net.
Garát-Gasparics had the Riveters' best chance of the first period with about six and a half minutes left, but Samantha Ridgewell made the save and Kelly Babstock couldn't capitalize on a loose puck to follow. Mikyla Grant-Mentis then nearly scored at the other end, but it remained 1-0 in favor of Buffalo.
Hayley Lunny also rang a shot off the post late in the period, and the Riveters had a few chances on the power play, but the Beauts held to the 1-0 lead as time ran out in the first period. Buffalo also had a power play early in the second, but were unable to capitalize.
The Riveters then squandered a power play opportunity, but tied the game about 40 seconds later. Kendall Cornine made no mistake on a 2-on-1 chance, as she let a shot rip that hit the net in the top corner. Cornine and Kennedy Ganser came in on the odd-player rush againt Maddie Truax, and Cornine elected to go for the shot rather than the pass to notch her second goal in three games.
The tide of the game really changed at this point, between the goal and then a quick penalty soon after. Jess Healey checked Madison Packer in the corner and received a major penalty and game ejection, sending the Riveters to a five-minute power play. During that, Grant-Mentis was also served a cross-checking minor, which set Metropolitan up for a two-player advantage.
Naturally, the Riveters capitalized to take the lead. Packer, with a patient shot on an off angle, put it in under Ridgewell's glove and arm:
A slew of penalties would follow in the second period and (largely) throughout the third period, as the teams combined for 20 penalty minutes and two game ejections in the final 29:32 of play. This comes as no surprise to anyone who's followed the Riveters and Beauts for years; the teams have always had animosity between them.
The Riveters' lead held until 8:13 into the third period, when Courtney Maud tied it. Grant-Mentis and Summer-Rae Dobson came in on a 2-on-4, and Grant Mentis' initial shot came out in front on a massive rebound. Maud, coming in from the left side uncovered, found herself in the right place at the right time to sweep the loose puck in amid the confusion.
The first penalty – of many – in the third period is what ended up costing the Beauts the game. With Truax in the box on a tripping call, the Riveters took a 3-2 lead with their second power-play goal of the game. Packer passed it back to Anna Kilponen, who released a shot from the point that found its way through a crowd. Garát-Gasparics redirected the shot with a tip in front.
Garát-Gasparics' goal would stand up as the game-winning tally. McQuigge stopped 26 of 28 shots faced, while Packer had two points. Cassidy MacPherson, who is the new Beauts' leader in games played, led the team with seven shots on goal. Ridgewell made 42 saves in her sixth appearance of the season.
*clinched Isobel Cup playoff spot
Stay tuned for a full playoff primer later this week.
(Photo: Metropolitan Riveters)