For the second time in franchise history, the Boston Pride are Isobel Cup champions. After defeating the Minnesota Whitecaps 4-3 on Saturday, the Pride became the first NWHL team to win two Isobel Cups. Their first championship win came in 2016 in the NWHL’s inaugural season.
The team’s victory was led by a mix of veteran and first-year talent, with Captain Jillian Dempsey earning MVP honors. She scored the second of the team’s three unanswered goals in the second period. Which put Boston on track to victory and finished her 2021 season with nine total points.
“I guess I was in one of my sweet spots, I like shooting from that spot. Everybody went out there and did their job and owned their role and battled hard one shift at a time and that was just our mindset and focus going forward. So you know, proud of this whole group.”Jillian Dempsey, Forward, Boston Pride
From day one, the Pride set out on their #RevengeTour in pursuit of their second championship title. Saturday’s game served as the rematch of the 2020 final that was never played. The Pride was set to host the Whitecaps for the Isobel Cup just over a year ago. However, season five would never award a champion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The season that began in a bubble and ended in Boston…There’s no better way to write a story for this team. Winning the Isobel Cup on home ice, priceless.
There’s No “I” in Team, But There’s An “I” in Isobel
When you’re a professional athlete, you’re expected to do whatever it takes to achieve your dream. There is no individual player that can make the team a success, it’s a collective effort. However, you could argue that one player has exemplified sacrifice and hard work to realize that dream of raising the Isobel Cup. Kaleigh Fratkin, a six-year veteran of the NWHL, finally got her chance to compete for and raise the coveted Isobel Cup on home ice. As a native of British Columbia, though being away from her family for over a year, she’s grown accustomed to her teammates as her extended family.
“Boston certainly has become home. It’s been amazing to be a part of kind of the growth of where we started when we won four games…I think, when I joined the team in season three to Paul (Mara) joining us in season four and really kind of building a culture and building a winning organization. It’s been awesome to do it alongside Jill and, you know, Mary Parker and some of the other players that have been around for a while. I’m speechless.”Kaleigh Fratkin, Defenseman, Boston Pride
Revenge is Best Served at Home
It’s hard to believe that the Lake Placid bubble season and the playoffs were seven weeks apart. The determination shown by Fratkin and the rest of the Pride roster speaks volumes for their will to win at all costs. Success is not achieved unless you work harder than your opponent. The Whitecaps stuck with Boston for 60 minutes in regulation, but the Pride’s warrior mentality persevered.
“I think this is one of my favorite victories to be honest with you. Working with these ladies for the last three years, they deserve everything. For me to watch them grow and watch them improve and watch how hard they work and the dedication they put in is, you know, second to none.”Paul Mara, Head Coach, Boston Pride
(White)Capping Off An Incredible Season
The Minnesota Whitecaps really proved themselves to be a mainstay in the playoff conversation moving forward. Forward Allie Thunstrom showed off her speed in the first period. Rushing one-on-one she created her own space by cutting to the middle in Pride territory and fired a wicked wrister past Lovisa Selander at 7:29.
Thunstrom’s speed should come as no surprise, having competed in Olympic Speed Skating before her NWHL career. In 2018, she participated in the Olympic Trials with the goal of making the National Team. Unfortunately, she just missed the qualification but it created another opportunity in her athletic career…the Minnesota Whitecaps have entered the chat.
“To score first and get that momentum going was helpful and I think even going into the second period we came out strong. We had a couple of really good chances that we didn’t capitalize on and then they start scoring and that’s where we needed to reset and that’s where we kept fighting.”Ronda Engelhardt, co-Head Coach, Minnesota Whitecaps
The Whitecaps offense was relentless overall. After trailing 3-1 in the third, they gained momentum on a clutch penalty shot save by Amanda Leveille. Eight seconds later Thunstrom scored her second of the night and fourth goal in two games at 7:46. A quick turnaround for Minnesota, literally, cut the deficit to one.
Growing the Game Is More Important
A dangerous hit on Audra Richards late in the third earned Minnesota a 5-on-4 opportunity to get back in the game. A powerplay goal by Megan Pezon at 19:42 made the score 4-3, which would end up as the final score. The Whitecaps may have come up short on the victory, but the bigger picture was still realized.
“I think it’s really special now this is something that little girls can look to. Winnie (Brodt-Brown) and I when we were younger, and Ronda (Engelhardt) too, we didn’t have women’s hockey players on the ice (on TV) battling for anything. Now it’s there and they say if you can see it, you can be it. Even though we didn’t come out on the winning end it was really special to be part of and for all the little girls that want to be out there one day – just keep working.”Allie Thunstrom, Forward, Minnesota Whitecaps
The platforms for women’s sports are expanding exponentially. With the broadcast picked up by NBC Sports, there is an investment there and confidence knowing this sport will grow beyond measure. The fight for equity for women in sports is not easily won, but strides are being taken to declare a victory in that arena. Media, marketing, players, coaches, etc. Everyone plays a pivotal role in growing the game. Playing for a championship is great and all. But if you can inspire young players and set an example that there’s a place for women in sports, no trophy can replace that.
Penalty Shots, Powerplays, and Puck Battles
The Pride had an opportunity to open the lead in the third after a Minnesota delay of game penalty. Head Coach Paul Mara decided to take the penalty shot over a powerplay. The choice seemed questionable after Tori Sullivan came up short on the scoring opportunity. The confidence he had in his players never faded. I asked Coach Mara what his thought process was in choosing the penalty shot instead of the two-minute player advantage. Even though it didn’t work out in their favor…
“Yeah, that was a conversation that I was having with the refs. I think Tori Sullivan is one of the most skilled players in taking penalty shots – she’s money. So we had confidence in her. Our philosophy on that was ‘hey we go up 4-1, we’re in pretty good shape.’ On the flip side of that, we get a powerplay and you score, take two more minutes off the clock. But I had faith in our players, we were gonna win anyway with 12 minutes left. But obviously, they go down and score [a few] seconds later and I go down to my assistant coach and said ‘ooh should have taken the powerplay.’ But you can’t second guess yourself and these players are fantastic and they had a will to win, they did a great job tonight.”Coach Paul Mara, Head Coach, Boston Pride
A Foundation For the Future
The future of the Boston Pride is certainly in good hands. First-year players Taylor Wenczkowski and Tereza Vanisova seemed very comfortable playing in a playoff atmosphere. With two goals and three assists between them, it’s safe to say Boston has laid the foundation for success next season. The Pride capitalized on a 5-on-3 powerplay vs. Minnesota to restore their two-goal lead at 13:32, where Wenczkowski buried a rebound off a Fratkin point shot. Vanisova recorded her first goal of the season in Friday’s Semifinal vs. Toronto.
The Hockey East alumni aren’t so far away from home in Boston, Wenczkowski from UNH, and Vanisova from UMaine. With the offseason upon us, the freshmen standouts will look to carry their momentum into the 2021-22 season. Will we see the Boston Pride defend their title and make a run for an unprecedented third Isobel Cup? Stay tuned… #GoPride
The Isobel Cup Playoffs, presented by Discover, was televised across the United States on NBCSN in primetime with an all-female broadcast team. The championship’s ceremonial puck drop was performed by Mayor Kim Janey who made history this week becoming the first woman and first Black Mayor in Boston history.