NWHL Bubble 2.0: Semi-Final Friday

4 teams, 2 spots. Day one of the return of the NWHL Isobel Cup Playoffs bubble began on Friday in Brighton, Massachusetts. The NWHL 2021 playoffs began in January and was unfortunately suspended for close to two months because of a number of positive COVID-19 cases in their Lake Placid bubble. The four remaining teams- Toronto, Boston, Minnesota, and Connecticut, all faced off on Friday night in some semi-final action to determine who would be the final two. The first game saw Toronto take on Boston at 5pm.

Toronto Six 2 vs Boston Pride 6

Prior to the suspension of the original Isobel Cup Playoff bubble, the newest team to the league, the Toronto Six, were rolling on all cylinders. They had posted four straight wins and were going into the semi-finals first overall. 

However, the hockey gods had different plans for the ‘new kids on the block’. Toronto started the game off with star goalie, Elaine Chuli, in net taking on Lovisa Selander from the Pride. 

Right from the get-go, the game was very back and forth. The two teams both suffered from giveaways and back and forth play but could not get one past the opposing team’s goalie. It remained 0-0 until Boston Pride forward, Tereza Vanisova, pushed one past Chuli at 13:48 moment in the first. 

Not even a minute later, Boston’s Jillian Dempsey, furthered the Pride’s lead to 2 on an even-strength goal. After Dempsey put Boston up by 2, the Six knew they couldn’t go into the second down by 2. At the 15:35 mark in the first period, Mikyla Grant-Mentis set up Six forward, Breanne Wilson-Bennett who got one past Selander. Hoping to be able to come out flying in the second, the Toronto Six were able to go unscathed in the final moments of the first period to escape the period, only down by one.

The second period went by in a flash. The period was full of giveaways and big chances for both teams. Both, Toronto and Boston, spent time respectively in the penalty box. While in the penalty box, Boston’s, Mallory Souliotis, slide one past Chuli for a short-handed marker. Only seconds later, Boston slid another one past Toronto to make it 4-1. The second period ended with Boston up 4-1, making the third period a do or die situation for the Six.

With the season on the line for the Six, it was all engines running for the rookies. Not even 5 minutes into the game, Boston’s, Sammy Davis, scored an even strength goal to further Boston’s lead. The next few minutes were all Boston. The Pride’s efforts were rewarded when Pride forward, Mary Parker, extended the lead to six. Its safe to say that the Six were getting worried. 

Mikayla Grant-Mentis provided a bit of hope for the Six when she put one past Selander to make it 6-2. Toronto’s efforts were not successful as they fell to the Pride 6-2. Toronto’s inaugural season unfortunately came to an end after a successful first season. Boston advances to the finals.

Connecticut Whales 0 vs Minnesota Whitecaps 7

The second game of the day was not nearly what we, all, were expecting. Connecticut starting goalie, Abbie Ives, was starting the semi-final game with a .936 save percentage and a 2.01 GAA. On the opposite end of the ice, Allie Morse, was between the pipes for Minnesota who were looking to secure their spot in their second straight NWHL final. 

The game started off relatively slow with Minnesota plotting 2 goals past Ives. With no penalties in the first period, the second semi-final of the day was relatively uneventful.

The second period was not much different. Minnesota controlled much of the play and was able to slide 3 more past the Whales. Audra Richards with 2 and Haley Mack with the other gave Minnesota a 5-0 lead heading into the third.

Just like the first game of the day when Toronto was heading into third with a do or die mentality, Connecticut was going into the third with their season on the line. Despite the Whales’ best effort, Minnesota snuck two more goals in. Whitecaps, Allie Thunstrom, put up her second goal of the game while Audra Richards scored another goal to complete the hat trick. Minnesota had clinched their ticket to the Isobel Cup finals where they will be attempting to win their second straight Isobel Cup.

We will back tomorrow for an recap of the Isobel Cup Final which will see Minnesota take on Boston at 7pm. This will be the first time in NWHL history that sees two teams competing for their second Isobel Cup. The game will be broadcasted on Twitch and on live television in the United States.

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