The Boston Pride believed they were destined to win the Isobel Cup. But the Pride had to wait a year before their patience paid off with a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Whitecaps at Warrior Ice Arena Saturday night.
“I don’t think it could’ve been written any other way,” defenseman Kaleigh Fratkin said. “We were supposed to play Minnesota last year at home and we got the chance to finally do it. I don’t think it has sunk in much just yet, but everyone is pretty pumped up so it will be a fun night to celebrate.”
The Pride rallied from an early deficit with a three-goal second period to take their second NWHL title. But the Pride had to hold on through a hectic finish that included a missed penalty shot and a shorthanded situation for the final 2:24.
“Hockey’s an emotional game,” Pride coach Paul Mara said. “It was an emotional game, a fantastic game for both teams and to have it end that way was probably a fitting end. But our team is mentally strong and we kept it together the last 2:24 to kill that penalty and get a huge win.”
The teams were scheduled to meet in the final last year, but the game was called off as the league locked down because of the coronavirus pandemic. When the teams finally met, Minnesota took a 2-1 win over the Pride in the opener of the regular season at Lake Placid, N.Y. Then, COVID-19 protocols cut the season short, and playoffs were postponed from early last month.
“We knew down the stretch it was going to be a battle,” said Pride forward Jillian Dempsey, who was named tournament MVP. “Everybody who was left was tough, fast, competitive, and it’s not going to be easy to win. So when we were able to regroup after Lake Placid we were just focused every single day on getting a little better and getting ourselves prepared. These are the games we live for, the games that are fun to play. And we really had to turn it around there, every single team did.”
After Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey participated in the ceremonial puck drop, the Whitecaps took an early lead, Allie Thunstrom breaking away against Taylor Turnquist and finishing past Lovisa Selander at 7:29. The Pride failed to find a rhythm in the opening period, but Sammy Davis produced two shots that were saved by Amanda Leveille.
The Pride found their stride in the second, taking a 3-1 lead on goals by Mary Parker, Dempsey, and Lexie Laing.
Parker equalized after Tereza Vanisova won a faceoff in the right circle at 2:41. Parker finished her own rebound, slipping a shot under Leveille in the crease. Dempsey broke the deadlock with a blast from the left circle over Leveille’s glove at 15:05. The Pride then capitalized on a 5-on-3 as Laing converted at the back post off a Christina Putigna feed at 17:31.
In the final period, the Pride squandered a chance to increase the lead as Tori Sullivan’s penalty shot was kick-saved by Leveille at 7:39. Thunstrom, 32, a hockey and softball star at Boston College who switched to speed skating before returning to hockey in 2018, cut the deficit with a wrister past Selander’s glove at 7:46.
But the Pride regained their composure, killing a penalty, then scoring on Taylor Wenczkowski’s power-play goal. Wenczkowski finished a rebound of a Fratkin shot. But a boarding major against Vanisova revived the Whitecaps’ hopes, and Meaghan Pezon scored in a 6-on-4 situation at 19:42.
“The longest [19.4] seconds ever,” Fratkin said. “We were waiting for the TV timeout and we were just talking about a million scenarios and I was just like, can we just get this over with. But looking at the group everyone was just so positive and everyone was like we got this.”
Photos from the title game
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.