Boston Pride forward Jillian Dempsey looked at the Connecticut Whale’s second-period equalizer as the wake-up call her team needed.
Dempsey, the NWHL’s co-MVP, promptly responded to the Whale’s surge with a goal to put the Pride back ahead. Christina Putigna added an insurance tally midway through the third period, and the Pride went on and cruised to a 5-1 win in the National Women’s Hockey League’s Isobel Cup semifinals Sunday afternoon at Warrior Ice Arena.
The top-seeded Pride (24-1) will host the Minnesota Whitecaps, 1-0 winners over the Metropolitan Riveters in the other semifinal matchup Sunday, in Friday night’s Isobel Cup Final. The Whitecaps are the only team to beat Boston this season.
“When they scored against us, that was kind of a wake-up call to be, like, we need to kick it into gear, we need to find it and turn it up,” Dempsey said. “Once the third period came, we knew we were going to have the legs and finish out the game.”
Coming off a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Beauts in Friday's quarterfinal, the Whale (3-21-2) hung tough for two periods against a Pride team that hadn't played since the regular season finale on Feb. 23.
Emily Fluke began the scoring for Boston at 9:53 of the first period when she gathered a rebound near the left circle, twirled around, and fired a wrister into the top-right corner of the net.
But the Pride couldn't capitalize on a pair of power plays in the second period, leaving the door open for Connecticut to tie the game 1-1 on a goal from Grace Klienbach at 11:53 of the second frame
Dempsey answered just 1:25 later when she lifted a rebound past Whale goalie Brooke Wolejiko for a 2-1 lead the Pride would never relinquish.
“You sort of come to expect her [Dempsey] to do that,” Pride coach Paul Mara said. “When our team needs a boost, it seems like she’s always there. I think we took off from there.”
Still clinging to a 2-1 lead with 10 minutes left in the third, Putigna skated down the right wing and unleashed a beautiful slap shot to make it 3-1. Kaleigh Fratkin added an empty-netter with 1:23 left, and Jordan Juron scored on the power-play 18 seconds later for the final margin.
NWHL Goalie of the Year Lovisa Selander finished with 29 saves for her league-leading 18th win. The Pride will have four days rest before they host the Isobel Cup Final back at Warrior Arena on Friday night.
“That was the goal from the start, and we worked really hard for this,” Selander said. “You’re always a little nervous going into a one-and-done situation. But we were focused and determined to get to the final.”
Matthew Doherty can be reached at Matthew.Doherty@boston.com