“We finally did it, and I’m so proud of our team,” said Boston captain and MVP Jillian Dempsey. “Huge congratulations to Minnesota, too. They really made that a battle until the very last second.”
Dempsey is the only player still on that first championship team from 2016 and is now the NWHL’s only two-time winner.
“Everybody went out there and did their job and owned their role and battled hard one shift at a time, and that was just our mindset and focus going forward,” she added. “So you know, I’m proud of this whole group.”
“I think this is one of my favorite victories, to be honest with you,” said Pride head coach Paul Mara. “Working with these ladies for the last three years, they deserve everything. For me to watch them grow and watch them improve and watch how hard they work and the dedication they put in is second to none.”
Boston advanced to Saturday’s final with a convincing 6-2 win over the top-seed and expansion Toronto Six, 6-2, on Friday night, while Minnesota hammered Connecticut 7-0 in the other semi-finals. All games were played at Warrior Ice Arena, training centre for the Boston Bruins in Brighton, Massachusetts, and finished what was started more than two months ago.
The first attempt to hold the playoffs in Lake Placid, New York, was halted on February 3 when the Metropolitan Riveters, Connecticut Whale, and Pride were all adversely affected by positive covid-19 cases, making it too risky to continue play.
Allie Thunstrom, who had two of the team’s seven goals on Friday, opened the scoring for Minnesota midway through the first period on a sensational solo effort. She raced up the ice, turned Taylor Turnquist around, and then beat goalie Lovisa Selander with a shot over the blocker.
But the second was all Boston as they scored three unanswered goals to take control. Mary Parker tied the game on a scramble in front, and Dempsey gave Boston a lead it wouldn’t surrender when her shot found the top corner over the glove of Amanda Leveille. Lexie Laing then made it 3-1 at 17:31, sending Boston to the dressing room with a two-goal lead and only 20 minutes left in the season.
“To score first and get that momentum going was helpful, and I think even going into the second period we came out strong,” said Whitecaps co-head coach Ronda Engelhardt. “We had a couple of really good chances that we didn't capitalize on, and then they start scoring. That's where we needed to reset, and that's where we kept fighting.”
Thunstrom cut the lead to one at 7:46 of the third, but Taylor Wenczkowski made it 4-2 on a power play with just over six minutes to play, converting a rebound. That was all Boston needed.
Tereza Vanisova made life interesting for the Pride, however, when she took a major boarding penalty with 2:25 remaining. The Whitecaps pulled Selander and applied relentless pressure, making in 4-3 on a Meaghan Pezon goal with 19.4 seconds remaining. That was as close as they got.
“It felt like the longest 19 seconds of my life,” said a relieved Boston defenceman Kaleigh Fratkin, who is one of the few players to have been in the NWHL since the beginning. “Boston certainly has become home. It's been amazing to be a part of kind of the growth of where we started when we won four games, I think, when I joined the team in season three, to Paul (Mara) joining us in season four and really kind of building a culture and building a winning organization. It's been awesome to do it alongside Jill and, you know, Mary Parker and some of the other players that have been around for a while. I’m speechless.”
Isobel Cup Champions
- The ceremonial puck drop was performed by Mayor Kim Janey, who made history this week becoming the first woman and first black mayor in Boston history.
- Dani Rylan Kearney, the founder of the NWHL and more recently listed as an advisor, resigned her position on 16 March, fuelling suggestions that the league and the PWHPA might get closer than ever before.
- Montreal is strongly rumoured to be the next city to join the NWHL for the coming season. Although nothing has been announced, something will likely be revealed in the coming weeks now that the 2020/21 season is officially over according to media reports.