After a pause in play and the withdrawal of the Metropolitan Riveters on Thursday, the NWHL and its teams were ready to get back in action. Before they started up again, they had to alter the format and schedule to fit five teams.
The standings were determined by win percentage calculated from the games played.
- Minnesota Whitecaps
- Connecticut Whale
- Toronto Six
- Boston Pride
- Buffalo Beauts
Seeds 1-3 (Minnesota, Connecticut, Toronto) will each play each other once more to decide the final seedings heading into the semi-finals. Seeds 4 and 5 (Boston and Buffalo) will play a best of three series to decide who will finish fourth and make the semi-finals.
With four of five teams in action, Saturday was set to be a great day of hockey.
Buffalo Beauts 2 – Boston Pride 1
Boston and Buffalo got the day started with the first of their three-game series. With the fourth-place spot on the line, the two teams left it all on the ice. Ultimately, it was the Buffalo Beauts who took the first meeting of the series. The Beauts continued to put faith in rookie goaltender, Carly Jackson as she earned her fourth start of the season. Lovisa Selander took the spot between the pipes for the Pride, this being her third start so far.
Lauren Kelly opened the scoring for the Pride in the first half of the period on the power play. This was Kelly’s first point of the tournament. After the goal, the teams exchanged chances but neither could capitalize. The Boston Pride headed to the intermission up 1-0.
The Beauts didn’t let the first period get them down and responded well. Autumn MacDougall tied the game up for Buffalo less than five minutes into the second period. The teams remained locked at one for the duration of the period.
The Buffalo Beauts came out flying in the third period, producing scoring opportunities. They were unable to get anything past Selander. Late in the third period, the Beauts had to power play opportunities but were unable to score. Lisa Chesson, who joined the bubble late and was playing in her first game, scored with just over three minutes remaining to give her Beauts the lead. The Pride continued to throw the puck at Jackson but she stood tall to carry her team to the win. In Jackson’s first ever NWHL win, Boston outshot Buffalo, 37-23.
This was Buffalo’s first win of the tournament and it came at the right time. They take the first game of the three-game series which will determine who gets to occupy the fourth spot in the semi-finals. Boston will surely come back hard when these two teams play again on Sunday as their life in the bubble will be on the line.
This game was huge for the NWHL and their viewership. For the majority of the game, viewer numbers stayed around 30,000 on the Twitch stream. This is the highest viewer count the NWHL has seen so far during the season.
Toronto Six 4 – Minnesota Whitecaps 3
Saturday’s second game was a rematch between the Minnesota Whitecaps and Toronto Six. The first meeting between these two teams was a wild Minnesota comeback after Toronto was leading 5-1 and lost 6-5 in the shootout. The Six were looking to get that one back. The Minnesota Whitecaps came into this game undefeated but they didn’t leave that way. The Toronto Six topped them for their third win in a row, 4-3. Toronto’s Elaine Chuli got her third straight start and Amanda Leveille started for Minnesota.
The Toronto Six got off to an early lead with Mikyla Grant-Mentis scoring just 7:02 into the first period. While Minnesota had chances to tie things up throughout the period, they couldn’t seem to get the puck past Chuli.
Minnesota came into the second period on a mission. They evened the score with a goal from Nina Rodgers on the power play. This came just 1:23 into the period. Only four minutes later, Emma Woods recaptured the lead for Toronto. The Six thought they’d head out of the period with the lead but Brooke White-Lancette had something to say about it. She scored with 29 seconds remaining in the period to bring the game back to a tie.
The first half of the final frame had the teams exchanging chances but only Toronto could capitalize. They retook the lead with a goal from Sarah-Eve Coutu Godbout, 8:34 into the period. This was Coutu Godbout’s first NWHL goal. The Whitecaps weren’t ready to go down without a fight and with 8:01, Rodgers scored another power play marker. Just when the game looked like it was headed to extra time, Grant-Mentis scored her second of the game with 23 seconds remaining. The Whitecaps tried to get it back but it was too late. The Toronto Six got their revenge. The final shots on goal favoured Toronto, 45-31.
Toronto and Minnesota will play Connecticut in back to back days. Toronto will get them first on Sunday and Minnesota will see them on Monday.
The short pause in the season certainly didn’t derail the high-level play or excitement surrounding the games. After a fantastic, hockey-filled Saturday, Sunday will see two more games. The Boston Pride will hit the ice against the Buffalo Beauts in a do-or-die at 3:00, followed by the Connecticut Whale and Minnesota Whitecaps at 6:00. All NWHL games are streamed live on Twitch for free so you never will have to miss out on the action. Be sure to come back to Unbenched every day for a roundup of the previous night’s hockey.