Connecticut Whale, Boston Pride Advance to Isobel Cup Final

The Isobel Cup Final is set as both New England teams win comfortably. 

By Spencer Hoagland

If you like close games, look away. A day which promised close, low scoring games did not deliver, but we did get a nice upset in semifinal number two. The Premier Hockey Federation’s top four teams met in Tampa on Sunday afternoon to decide who would play for the Isobel Cup on Monday night. Let’s dig into what went down. 

Connecticut Whale vs. Minnesota Whitecaps

The first period of this game felt like a true playoff game. Neither team had many chances to speak of and play rolled on continuously for minutes at a time. You could tell there was a bit of a feeling out process happening, but that process did not last very long. 

Maybe it was something the coaches said after the first, but the second period showed each team’s scoring ability at its best. And who else better to open the floodgates than the PHF’s leading scorer, Kennedy Marchment. She did so by picking the top left corner on Amanda Leveille, who had a strong game to this point. Just a few minutes later, Minnesota responded, with their top goal scorer Allie Thunstrom adding to her impressive season. Minnesota was never able to hold momentum from this power play goal though; just two minutes later Janine Weber tipped a point shot that got behind the Minnesota goalie to restore the one-goal lead. 

The Connecticut Whale celebrate following their semifinal victory.
(Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

The Whale responding rapidly to Whitecaps goals became sort of a trend in this game. Minnesota would tie the game with five minutes remaining in the period, but Alyssa Wohlfeiler put the puck in the back of the net just 15 seconds later. Connecticut would continue their second period scoring with one last tally from Tori Howran. This final goal seemed to deflate the Minnesota Whitecaps as the puck bounced off both a defender in front and Leveille. 

As it turns out, this would be the final goal of the afternoon for both teams, as the third period brought a whole lot of skating around and not much else. Whitecaps coach Rhonda Engelhardt credited her team with fighting until the end, and they did fight hard—Minnesota continued to get chances until the final minute, but ultimately nothing came of it. 

Despite the difficulty of coming in cold to face an opponent that just had a big win, the first-round bye didn’t do much to slow Connecticut’s offensive firepower. They displayed a team effort Sunday afternoon and continued rolling heading into the final Monday. Head coach Colton Orr praised his team’s ability to answer every Whitecaps goal, while forward Kennedy Marchment cited her teammates’ mindset for their ability to answer quickly. That mindset clearly worked for the Whale in the semis, but now we have to wait to see if they can finish the job to bring home their first ever Isobel Cup.

Toronto Six vs. Boston Pride

Our second semifinal of the day featured the all-around great Toronto Six and the newly hot Boston Pride. Sadly, this game did not live up to the hype. I hoped for an instant classic game with back-and-forth scoring and some kind of dramatic game-winning goal. In reality, we got probably the worst game Toronto’s played all season and an absolutely dominant performance from the Boston Pride. 

Boston caught their first momentum swing late in the first period as they turned a penalty kill into a 4-on-3 powerplay thanks to consecutive penalties on Toronto. The Pride went on to score twice on that power play and once at even strength, just for good measure. Although Toronto scored a late goal to end the first, you could tell Boston was feeling good about this game. 

The Boston Pride celebrate a goal scored against Toronto.
(Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

Toronto’s bad night only got worse as Elaine Chuli misjudged a popped-up puck which found its way into the net behind her. It almost looked as if Chuli tried to headbutt the puck but in the end, and that slip up resulted in a crippling 4–1 lead for Boston. 

I was thoroughly impressed at how the Pride were able to keep the talented scorers of Toronto at bay. All game, Mikyla Grant-Mentis and company had nothing doing. For the second straight game, Toronto was held under 20 shots on goal—a frustrating way to end their dominant season. 

I think this result emphasizes the need for at least 3-game series in the PHF playoffs in future seasons. Hopefully that will come soon as the league gets better funding and infrastructure, but it would absolutely lead to a better product and deliver a better championship. No disrespect to the Boston Pride, but we all know this wasn’t Toronto’s best showing all year. As much as we love a Cinderella story, I think we deserve a series just to make sure Boston is the right team to move on. 

On to the Final

In the final game of the PHF season, the Boston Pride will take on the Connecticut Whale on Monday, March 28. I say this with caution, but this game looks like it’ll be a real treat. Shout out to all the New Englanders out there who will win either way, but for the rest of us, this result has big implications. These two teams know each other well and represent different ways to get to the top of the PHF. Boston is last year’s champion and is usually in the running for the title every season. Connecticut has seen the depths of despair in this league recently but have now climbed the mountain. The Whale are making their first Isobel Cup Final appearance and could finish their storybook season with the perfect ending, or Boston could snatch away the chance to add to their trophy case. No matter what happens, it’s sure to be a fantastic finale to a great year of hockey. 

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