PHF Postseason Wrap-Up

Now that the Isobel Cup Playoffs have ended, let’s look at how each team fared this season.

By Spencer Hoagland

It’s been a truly incredible five months of watching Premier Hockey Federation action and following all of the storylines. All year long, we talk about the future and what could happen for the rest of the season. But now that the Boston Pride have yet again won the Isobel Cup, it’s important to look back and touch base with all six teams to see how their 2021/2022 campaign went. Let’s do some brief check-ins to review all of the major storylines of the PHF season. 

Buffalo Beauts

I’m sorry you have to be first again Buffalo, but we are doing this in reverse standings order. This year, I’ve written multiple times about the mighty struggles of the Buffalo Beauts. They started the season off as cold as the ice they play on, losing 9 of their first 10 games. In fact, they won their first game in regulation on February 6—and let me remind you the Beauts played their first game on November 6. In a 20 game season, starting off so poorly means disaster, and unfortunately, the Beauts never stood a chance. 

Boston Pride vs Buffalo Beauts in the 2022 Isobel Cup Playoffs.
(Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

Despite their bad on-ice performances, the team itself still found ways to have fun out there. Goaltender Carly Jackson stole the show at the PHF All-Star showcase in the Beauts’ home city of Buffalo. Jackson rocked a pair of shades on the bench and reminded fans how much style she has. The Beauts also beat the then-top team Toronto in their outdoor game. In true Buffalo style, shirtless drunk fans were there to celebrate with the team, which made it that much more fun. I admire Buffalo’s resilience; they could’ve just taken a beating every weekend but chose to keep fighting until the end. 

Minnesota Whitecaps

Now the Minnesota Whitecaps are a team that deserved a lot better than they got. On paper, Minnesota stacked up as one of the worst teams in the league despite their high-octane offense and solid goaltending. We saw how good they could be in their short Isobel Cup Playoff run where they beat Metropolitan and gave Connecticut a good game before ultimately losing 4–2 in the semis. But there’s no shame in losing to the best regular-season team in the playoffs, and holding your own while doing it. Allie Thunstrom put up the second-best scoring season of her career with 18 goals and 3 assists in 20 games. I would like to see her get more assists by setting up teammates, but I feel like that’s nitpicking on someone who led the league in goals by a wide margin. 

Amanda Leveille making a save vs Metropolitan.
(Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

The injury bug bit the Whitecaps hard this year, which is likely why they fell so low in the standings. Goalie Amanda Leveille was out for a few months with an undisclosed injury, forcing rookie Jenna Brenneman to start 12 games in her absence. Leveille was having another stellar year before going down but returned in time for the playoffs in March. It’s very difficult to replace a player like Leveille, and unfortunately for Minnesota, they just didn’t have the pieces to succeed while she was gone. 

Metropolitan Riveters

Now for a team that represents the true middle of the PHF—the Metropolitan Riveters. If I had to think of a metaphor for their season, it’d be a fancy sports car spinning its tires in the mud for hours. Looking back at their schedule, the Rivs failed to sweep a single opponent all year long. If you’re looking to climb the standings, winning one and losing one every weekend will get you nowhere. Every time Metropolitan would put together a complete 60-minute performance, they’d follow it up with a dud of a loss. Unfortunately, that led them to a quick exit in the playoffs at the hands of Minnesota and left them with more questions than answers going into next season. 

What’s puzzling is how potent the Rivs offense was this year. Their forward group is one of the deepest in terms of scoring, with four players tallying more than 13 points in their 20 games. Rebecca Russo, Kendall Corrine, and of course, Madison Packer led the way and were consistently a threat while on the ice. Packer topped this Riveters team with a steady 12 goals and 11 assists, yet again showing off her offensive proficiency in the PHF. 

Packer, who turns 31 this June, made a bit of a cryptic tweet as the season ended. I’m not much of one to speculate but check it out for yourself; it seems a little like a goodbye, but I might be reading into it too much. It’s not likely that Packer would leave the Rivs just yet, especially considering she’s married to the team’s general manager. 

Toronto Six

What a dominant year for the Toronto Six. As I look back at their season, I find that it’s filled with blowout wins over just about every team in the PHF. Having the league’s reigning MVP in Mikyla Grant-Mentis surely helps, but I want to highlight Toronto’s elite defense and goaltending. Elaine Chuli shined in her first full PHF season playing behind defenders that provided a mix of offensive power and solid defending. Saroya Tinker was a rock on the blue line allowing other defenders like Taylor Woods and Lindsay Eastwood to rack up points jumping up in the rush. The Six’s success this season came from their well-rounded play rather than just a hot offense.

The 2021/2022 season seems stained now for the Toronto Six since they laid an egg in the playoffs. Deep down I know this Six team was one of the two best teams in the PHF, but we’ll never know how they would have fared in the title game since they put out their worst performance of the season losing to Boston in the semis. Watching Toronto win all year just to be bounced in their first game of the postseason makes me wonder what could have been different if the PHF adopted an expanded playoff format. I think it’s a necessary addition to the league so their best teams don’t get eliminated off one poor performance. 

Connecticut Whale

The best story of this PHF season has to be the turnaround of the Connecticut Whale. Before this year, Connecticut had never made it to the Isobel Cup Final, which they finally accomplished after finishing first in the league. It’s even more impressive considering their abysmal record of 2–20–2 just two years ago. Going from worst to first is more than just better production on the ice for the Whale. Flipping the script like that takes a total change in team identity and mindset. Head coach Colton Orr has seen both extremes since being hired in 2020, and if there was a coach of the year award, he would more than deserve it. 

Connecticut Whale celebrating a goal.
(Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

There were a lot of offensive stars for the Whale this season, but one of my favorite stories is the success of Amanda Conway. The Whale forward was playing NCAA Division III hockey just three years ago before being drafted in the 4th round in 2020. It’s been incredible to watch Conway go from playing low-level college hockey to being over a point-per-game player in the PHF. Conway’s rise illustrates the Whale’s development of young players and hints that their success this year won’t be just a flash in the pan. 

Boston Pride

I hate to be the annoying realist, but the Boston Pride didn’t have the best regular season in the PHF. They finished third and were never really in the race for first place. Boston consistently trailed both Toronto and Connecticut throughout the year. There wasn’t much flashy about this Pride team, but they found ways to win hockey games throughout the year by playing solid defense and doing just enough offensively. At the end of the day, they avoided large slumps which kept them in the top half of the standings, although not in the contender tier. 

Boston celebrating a goal vs Toronto.
(Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

Obviously, becoming the first back-to-back champions in PHF history is no small accomplishment. The Boston Pride faced much adversity on their run to the title and I’m not taking anything away from them. Katie Burt, who according to head coach Paul Mara started the year as the Pride’s third-string goalie, was arguably the league’s best at stopping pucks. Forward Taylor Wenczkowski was once again the hero, scoring the game-winning goal in the Isobel Cup Final just as she did last year. The Boston Pride are built for sustained success, so there should be no surprise that they won it all again this season. I absolutely expect them to be a contender again next year with even more championship experience under their belt. 

What a fantastic PHF season it was. For now, we have expansion and discussions with the PWHPA to look forward to, and the future is bright. The league will search for a new commissioner to lead into this next phase, but the 2021/2022 season gave just a taste of what’s to come. The beautiful thing is that each of these six teams have the chance to be the best next year, and that’s all we can ask for. I can’t wait to see what stories the PHF will tell next time around.

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