The Stage is Set: Pride Battle Whitecaps For Isobel Cup

Boston Pride forward Tori Sullivan shoots on Minnesota Whitecaps goaltender Amanda Leveille Boston Pride at Minnesota Whitecaps on Jan 25, 2020. (Collin Nawrocki)

The Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps both came away with a win in Friday’s Semifinal round of the NWHL Playoffs, presented by Discover, and will compete for the Isobel Cup on Saturday at Warrior Ice Arena. In the first matchup, the #4 Boston Pride defeated the top-seeded Toronto Six 6-2, while the #2 Whitecaps shutout the #3 seed Connecticut Whale 7-0.

NWHL 2021 Isobel Cup Finals Game Poster
(Credit: NWHL)

Defending Home Ice, A ‘Warrior’ Mentality

The Pride routed Toronto 6-2 in regulation to reach their second consecutive Isobel Cup Finals. Boston came out with more fire than Toronto which favored their longevity in regulation. Tereza Vanisova opened the shooting gallery for the Pride with a tip-in goal, her first of the season. Of the six goals scored, each one was scored by a different player. It seems as though having home-ice advantage is in full effect. The Six had a few scoring chances early on in the first period, however, they just couldn’t find the back of the net. Breanne Wilson-Bennett capitalized on one in the first against Boston netminder Lovisa Selander, making it 1-0. Followed by a last-minute goal in the third by Mikyla Grant-Mentis.

The Toronto Six may have lost, but their season was far from disappointing. Not many first-year teams come out and turn heads as quickly as they did. Seven weeks. I don’t care which professional sport you play. Playing exhibition games seven weeks apart is no easy task, let alone a Semifinal playoff game. In the post-game press conference, Toronto Six head coach Digit Murphy spoke on the team’s success this season.

“I will say this. One game doesn’t make your season. It was an incredibly successful season. We had finished number one in the league, as an expansion team, during COVID, who didn’t practice ever…that’s the thing I’m most proud of. We knew that these two games would be the cherry on top to a really great season, a really great start for an inaugural team.”

Digit Murphy, Toronto Six Head Coach
Toronto Six Wallpaper

Of course, the mission for Toronto was a championship to cap off their opening season. Though they came up short of that milestone, the team can correct their mistakes to ensure a Championship berth next season. For any team, playoff road games are always challenging. But when you include COVID quarantine, it can create some animosity. It also adds an element of self-reflection on whether traveling is even worth it at all…

“Obviously quarantine is not fun for anybody but it’s always worth it. Obviously this is huge being on NBC today no matter the outcome just for women’s sports and where we’re going. This has been awesome and, you know, we’re super excited to have played this season at all. It’s always worth it to come and play the game you love even if you know you have to sacrifice things.”

Shiann Darkangelo, Forward, Toronto Six

Will Boston Raise the Cup At home?

The Bubble in Lake Placid served as neutral ice for all teams. Fast forward almost two months, and the playoffs have been moved to Brighton, MA. The Warrior Ice Arena is where the Pride call home, but they’re going to have to defend it with their life…especially if they want to raise the Cup on home ice. Taylor Turnquist and McKenna Brand discussed afterward, what that feeling was like knowing that they would be playing at home in Boston.

“I feel like at the end of Lake Placid, we really came together we’re clicking as a team. I mean, it felt right in the locker room and starting with our preps, you could still feel that momentum. Playing in Boston at our home rink is definitely an advantage for us, it felt right.”

McKenna Brand, Forward, Boston Pride
Boston Pride Forward McKenna Brand
McKenna Brand

“I was very excited just to play at Warrior for the first time. It was a great experience and to get the win it was even better. But I’m excited for tomorrow. I know what it’s like to win one national championship and I anticipate winning the Isobel Cup…I hope we can carry all this (momentum) into tomorrow’s game.”

Taylor Turnquist, Forward, Boston Pride

Whitecaps Offense Dominates, Isobel Cup Rematch Awaits

The Minnesota Whitecaps defeated the Connecticut Whale in their first meeting of the season. Audra Richards recorded her first hat trick of the season with Allie Thunstrom netting two goals in the 7-0 victory. Nina Rogers helped the Whitecaps earn their Championship spot with four assists of her own Friday night.

“Me and Nina, we are so positive with each other that we just have success and, I don’t know, we just kind of have fun on the bench and I think that translates onto the ice. She’s a great playmaker and I’m big and I’ll get in front and I’ll put it in the net.”

Audra Richards, Forward, Minnesota Whitecaps
Richards, Rodgers power Whitecaps over Whale, Isobel Cup Semifinals
Audra Richards (Credit: NWHL)

The Connecticut Whale had a tough time generating a strong offensive presence throughout the game. After a game-tying goal that was overturned in the first period, the momentum seemed to shift away from the Whale.

The Whitecaps recorded a total 31 shots on net, connecting on seven of them. The high-scoring offense Friday night begs the question going into Saturday’s Championship game: What do you improve on? I had the opportunity to ask Whitecaps forward Allie Thunstrom, what can you change offensively (if anything) knowing that Boston also had a high-scoring game?

“I think, we did capitalize on a lot of chances like you said, but there’s a lot of them that we didn’t. But you know, at the end of the day our goal is to just put pucks on net, get out of the D-zone. Like Jack said, we want to take care of our defense first and hope our offense comes from that. Both of us did score a lot of goals, but I wouldn’t expect that out of us tomorrow. It’s two talented teams on both ends of the ice and it’s gonna be a grind.”

Allie Thunstrom, Minnesota Whitecaps
Minnesota Forward Allie Thunstrom
Allie Thunstrom

There Can Only Be One

Surely Saturday’s Championship will be a stalemate. Considering the two teams put up a combined 13 goals in the Semi’s, could we expect a low-scoring game Saturday? No matter the outcome, high score or low, it will be a tough battle for either team. There is no doubt that this game will continue to blaze the trail for the future of women’s hockey and their well-deserved presence in the national spotlight.

The Isobel Cup Final starts at 7 p.m. ET live on NBCSN and streamed on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app exclusively in the U.S., and streamed via Twitch in Canada and other international markets.

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