The Toronto Six didn’t come to Lake Placid to mess around, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t playing some of the most fun hockey that we’ve seen in a while.
The Toronto Six had the No. 1 seed heading into what was supposed to be the Isobel Cup semifinal. Though they fell in their first two games, the team was able to use the losses as a learning experience.
Things really started rolling for the Six in Game 3 against the Boston Pride. Their sloppiest mistakes had been cleaned up. The Six won 2–1, and they kept on rolling into a four-game winning streak.
The suspension of the season kept the Six from playing the semifinal against Boston, where they would have had home ice and momentum on their side. We didn’t get to see the Six finish their inaugural season, but what we did get to see was impressive to say the least.
The Toronto Six’s offense was a force to be reckoned with in Lake Placid. It took a game for them to get their bearings and really gel as a team, but once they scored their first goal in Game 2 against the Whitecaps, there was no stopping them.
The Toronto Six were never outshot, averaging 41 shots per game over six games. Although impressive, their barrage of shots wasn’t all that dangerous at first.
After being shut out by Metropolitan, it was apparent that the Six needed to spend more time in front of the net looking for rebounds. Where did Lindsay Eastwood score their first goal from? In front of the net, off the rebound.
What held the Six’s offense together was their impressive depth. This team was put together to score and that’s exactly what they did, from top to bottom. Even after losing two thirds of their top line after Boquist and Emma Woods were deemed unavailable, the Six kept on scoring.
The Toronto Six’s defense was never bad, but it did show its inexperience at times. They were plagued by turnovers in their first two games, and, while they did a good job of course correcting, we still caught glimpses of the Six of games past.
The Six’s defense got marginally better over time as they got more and more comfortable playing with each other. I was particularly impressed with their forechecking and puck recovery.
Losing Kristen Barbara hurt the Six, but not as much as it could have. Barbara is one of their top defenders. When she was on the ice, much of the defensive responsibility seemed to fall on her shoulders. When she was unavailable, other defenders had to pick up the slack.
The Six’s defense wasn’t the best at the tournament; they made the kind of mistakes you’d expect from a team that hadn’t practiced together until arriving in Lake Placid. Just like everything else about the Six, defense got better once they found their rhythm as a team. A surefire way to avoid defensive mistakes is to play offense as often as possible, and that’s what the Toronto Six did.
Elaine Chuli started the first game for Toronto, and Samantha Ridgewell got the nod for the second. It became clear after Chuli secured the first win for the Six, in their third game, that she was going to be their starter for the rest of the tournament.
Chuli had a .936 SV% over five games and kept the Six from being entirely blown out in their first game. Chuli came up big, with several highlight-reel worthy saves, including one where she kept the puck out of the net with her stick laying about six feet away from her on the ice.
You really can’t have asked for better from Chuli. She was exactly the goalie that the Six needed.
So why only an A– and not an A or an A+? Well this was supposed to be a group project, and we have to take Ridgewell’s performance into consideration. She only played one game and had a .800 SV% and allowed five goals, not her greatest performance. In such a short tournament, it’s hard to blame the coaching staff for letting Chuli have command of the crease for the remaining games. It would have been nice to see Ridgewell get a second chance, especially when Toronto had two games in two days.
MVP: Mikyla Grant-Mentis
How can you not give the MVP to Grant-Mentis? She led the Six in goals with five and has a higher points-per-game average than any player in the NWHL after the bubble season.
She was good as a center, but she really flourished after being moved to the wing where she had less defensive responsibility. The coaching staff regards her as a player who has a lot of potential to become an amazing two-way center, but the focus in Lake Placid was just letting her loose and giving her permission to score as often as possible.
Not only did Grant-Mentis score, she scored at right moments. Whether it was keeping the Six in the shootout against the Whitecaps in Game 2, taking the lead over Boston in Game 3, or keeping the Six from having to play overtime against the Whitecaps in Game 5, the puck always seemed to go off her stick and into the net when Toronto needed it most.
Grant-Mentis was a crucial part of this team, and I think it’s safe to say that they wouldn’t have found their footing without her. Though I think it’s only fair to give Julie Allen an honorable mention for all the pregame dancing too.