Toronto wins Isobel Cup
by Andrew Podnieks|27 MAR 2023
Just 26 months after playing their first game in the PHF, the Toronto Six won the Isobel Cup in dramatic fashion, beating Minnesota, 4-3, in overtime.
photo: Kate Frese / PHF
Tereza Vanisova scored at 4:19 of overtime to give the Toronto Six a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Whitecaps in the Isobel Cup final. Vanisova did it all on her own, stripping Liz Schepers of the puck in the corner, going quickly to the net, and wiring a great shot high over the glove of Amanda Leveille to end the 3-on-3 OT in spectacular fashion.

The Six, coached by Canadian legend Geraldine Heaney, had had several great chances to end it earlier in the fourth period and dominated the overtime from the drop of the puck. For Vanisova, a native of Strakonice, Czechia, it was her third straight Isobel Cup, having played with the victorious Boston Pride the previous two years. She also has three IIHF Women’s U18 tournaments, five Women’s Worlds, and one Olympics to her credit with Czechia and will be in Brampton next week for the start of the 2023 Women’s Worlds.

The Toronto Six is unique in the sports world. The team’s owners are a purposefully collaborative group of BIPOC members of the hockey community—former NHLer Anthony Stewart, longtime Team Canada star Angela James, Bernice Carnegie, daughter of Herb, and former NHL coach Ted Nolan.

The game was played at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Arizona, home rink for both the men’s and women’s teams at Arizona State University as well as the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

The engraving on the Isobel Cup reads: “The Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Cup 1875-1963. This Cup shall be awarded annually to the greatest professional women's hockey team in North America. All who pursue this Cup, pursue a dream; a dream born with Isobel, that shall never die. EST. 2016.”
The dream began in 2016, when the Cup was first awarded to the Boston Pride for their championship win in the NWHL, the first pro women’s league in the United States. The league changed its name to Premier Hockey Federation in September 2021 and added Canadian teams in 2020 (Toronto) and 2022 (Montreal Force).

Both teams in the finals featured mostly players from their own country. The Six were all Canadian except for two Czechs and one American, captain Shiann Darkangelo. The Whitecaps were almost exclusively American, except for four Canadians, a Swede, and a Czech.

The Six and Whitecaps advanced to the finals in dramatic fashion. The Whitecaps eliminated the two-time defending champion Pride with two straight wins in the best-of-three last week in Massachusetts, winning 5-2 and 4-1. The Six, playing at home at the same time, took a tougher road, losing the opener to the Connecticut Whale by a 5-3 count but rallying with wins of 3-2 and 3-0.

The seven PHF teams all played 24 games in the regular season, the Pride finishing on top with a 19-4-1 record for 54 points. Close behind was the Six with 51 points, then Connecticut (43) and Minnesota (33). The Metropolitan Riveters (30), Montreal Force (23), and Buffalo Beauts (18) all failed to qualify for the post-season.

The Six opened the scoring midway through the first period on a great play off the rush. Michela Cava, celebrating her 29th birthday, barrelled down the left wing and spotted Dominika Laskova, the team’s other Czech star, cutting to the slot. She made no mistake, converting Cava’s perfect pass with a high shot. Seconds later, Laskova was flagged for the game’s first penalty, but the Six’s PK was letter perfect. When they had a chance of their own, it was the Whitecaps’ defence that was flawless.

Laskova has represented Czechia at every level over the last decade, most notably winning bronze at the 2014 WW18 and an historic bronze with last year’s Women’s Worlds in Herning, the first ever WW medal for the Czechs.

The Whitecaps tied the game at 4:02 of the second off a turnover behind the Six net. Brittyn Fleming came out front quickly and snapped a shot over the shoulder of Elaine Chuli to make it 1-1. Three minutes later, Chuli made her best save off a breakaway by Denisa Krizova, sticking out her right pad on a deke to keep it a tie game.

Toronto re-took the lead at 10:27 on a miscue by goalie Amanda Leveille behind her goal. She played the puck a little too casually, and Emma Woods picked it up and passed out front where Breanne Wilson-Bennett poked it into the open cage.
That lead lasted all of six minutes. The Six were guilty of a slow line change, and a stretch pass gave the Whitecaps a three-on-one break. Natalie Snodgrass made a sensational pass in front to Brooke Madsen, and Madsen had only to reach out and redirect the puck over Chuli to make it a 2-2 game at 16:06.

The ice was still wet at the start of the third when the Whitecaps took their first lead courtesy of a too-many-skaters penalty to Toronto that had carried over from late in the second. Snodgrass cut around the goal and saw Jonna Albers in front, and Albers’s quick shot found the back of the net just 20 seconds into the final period of regulation.

Not to be outdone, the Six rallied midway through the period to tie the game again. Cava made a great play to keep the puck in at the Minnesota blue line and drove to the net. In a mad scramble, Taylor Woods jammed the puck over the line at 7:56 to even the score for a third time. That set the stage for a thrilling overtime and a wild ending to the 2023 Isobel Cup finals.

Previous Isobel Cup winners
2016    Boston Pride
2017    Buffalo Beauts
2018    Metropolitan Riveters
2019    Minnesota Whitecaps
2020    not awarded (COVID-19)
2021    Boston Pride
2022    Boston Pride