On Saturday, March 27, the NWHL made history by awarding the Isobel Cup to the Boston Pride, making them the first team to hoist it twice. It was also the first time professional women’s hockey, and their championship game was broadcast live on prime time national television as NBCSN showed both the semi-final games and the final with an all-female broadcast team.
While this is a huge feat for women’s hockey, Whitecaps fans may be a little sullen to come that close and lose 4-3 in a matchup over a year in the making.
In the 2019-20 season, the Boston Pride went on a massive 23-1 run, losing only once to the Minnesota Whitecaps. They were the two clear best teams and were set to face off for the 2020 Isobel Cup championship, but that was cancelled just a few days before the game was set to take place.
After a long offseason, reconstruction of teams, and the obvious global pandemic leaving hardships for many players, these two teams battled their way back to a final, this time the Whitecaps with the higher seeding.
The semi-final matchup between the Whitecaps and the Connecticut Whale saw the Caps dominate and take an easy 7-0 win, which included an Audra Richards hat trick, a 44-save game for Amanda Leveille, and most importantly, a 4-point game for Allie Thunstrom who failed to get on the board at all in Lake Placid.
In between the regular season and the return of the playoffs, it was reported by Dan Rice that Thunstrom had faced quite a few hardships and health problems which may have contributed to her unusually cold season in Lake Placid. She shined in the semi-final game once more though, and for a moment, all seemed right in the land of Minnesota hockey.
The Isobel Cup final...not so much. The game, however, was everything you could have asked for to put on a big stage like NBCSN to prove women’s hockey’s worth, which unfortunately is part of the order for these players when their main focus should be the game itself. A close score, lots of physicality, and some questionable calls by referees, much like the NHL.
The Whitecaps got on the board first with a goal by Thunstrom early in the first period.
Mary Parker, Jillian Dempsey, and Lexie Laing of the Pride all answered back in the second period to show they were not backing down. Thunstrom did it again in the third period to try and fight back, leaving it 3-2. Taylor Wenczkowski tacked another one on for the Pride after that.
After a controversial penalty shot, a goal review late in the game, and a major penalty handed to the Pride with two minutes to go, tensions were high as the Whitecaps pulled Leveille and Meaghan Pezon was able to cut the Pride lead to one goal. Ultimately it wasn’t enough and time ticked down allowing the Pride to claim the title on home ice. Captain Jillian Dempsey was awarded the MVP title.
The fate of the NWHL and every team is always a little rocky when the offseason hits as players only sign one-year contracts, and nothing is ever really set in stone. However, I personally feel safer than ever saying the league will be back stronger and the Whitecaps will not stop being a force to reckon with.
These players waited almost two full years to see if they would continue their reign as the champs, only to have the Cup snatched from them. I think if allowed, almost all of this team will be back for that title.
Corinne Buie, who signed with the Whitecaps prior to Lake Placid as a free agent from Buffalo, but ultimately didn’t play, has announced via Twitter, she is moving to the Boston area so expecting her to join the team may be a long shot.
Additionally, Audra Richards tweeted about this year being the last time she wears ‘Richards’ on her jersey, but not because she’s leaving, just because she’s getting married. I certainly will be hopeful and assume that means she plans on returning, just with some new letters on her back.
In the meantime...is it October yet?