The Unfinished Business has been settled. The Boston Pride are 2021 Isobel Cup Champions. They are the first team in NWHL history to lift the Cup twice.
The Pride defeated the Whitecaps in a 4-3 in a thriller in Boston thanks to a big three-goal second period and a third-period power-play goal scored by Taylor Wenczkowski that proved to be the game-winner. Fittingly enough, original NWHLer Kaleigh Fratkin, who has been waiting six years to lift Isobel, had the primary assist on the goal that won the Cup.
Before lifting the Isobel Cup for the second time in her career, Jillian Dempsey was presented the MVP award and earned a $1,000 gift card from Dick’s Sporting Goods for the honor. “Demps is by far the best leader that I’ve had in my time as a player ... she really is special, I don’t think there are words that can describe how special she is,” Fratkin shared after the game.
It was a cautious start for both teams at Warrior Ice Arena. The Pride blocked five shots and put five shots of their own on Amanda Leveille but they couldn’t stop Allie Thunstrom from doing her thing and blowing past the defense. With 7:29 left in the first, Winny Brodt Brown broke up a play in the defensive zone which sent the puck to Thunstrom who left Taylor Turnquist in the dust in a one-on-one battle before beating Lovisa Selander with a wrister.
7:29, 1-0 Whitecaps | Allie Thunstrom (EVG) assisted by Winny Brodt Brown
The second chapter of the game belonged to Boston. They out-shot the Whitecaps 12-11 and scored three straight goals to pull ahead 3-1 before the close of the period.
The Pride’s first goal of the period came off of an offensive zone faceoff win by Tereza Vanišová. Vanišová recovered her own win and got the puck to Mary Parker who went hard to the net and jammed the puck through Leveille’s pads. The goal was reviewed but the officials came to the conclusion that they couldn’t take it off the board.
Boston limited Minnesota’s chances for much of the period until they struck again at even strength with 4:55 left in the period. Jillian Dempsey forced a defensive zone turnover just inside of Minnesota’s blue line which got back to her stick after a nifty pass from Christina Putigna to give Boston its first lead of the game.
Shortly after Dempsey’s goal, Haylea Schmid was sent to the box for hooking and, just a few moments into first power play of the 2021 Isobel Cup Final, the Whitecaps took a bench minor for having too many skaters on the ice. Boston got set up and moved the puck beautifully from Kaleigh Fratkin to Putigna to Lexie Laing who was unchecked on the doorstep and slammed home a cross-ice precision pass. And just like that, it was 3-1 Boston.
2:41, 1-1 Pride | Mary Parker (EVG) assisted by Tereza Vanišová
15:05, 2-1 Pride | Jillian Dempsey (EVG) assisted by Christina Putigna, Taylor Turnquist
17:31, 3-1 Pride | Lexie Laing (PPG) assisted by Christina Putigna, Kaleigh Fratkin
The Whitecaps showed up ready for a battle in the third period after giving up three goals in the second. Minnesota had a strong start to the third but found themselves pleading their case to the officials when a penalty shot was called after it appeared that Amanda Boulier had covered the puck in the goal crease.
After much confusion, the Boston Pride elected to take a penalty shot instead of a power play and Tori Sullivan lined up behind the puck at center ice. Sullivan made a gorgeous move but Leveille was equal to it, stopping it with her left toe. Following the penalty shot, the Whitecaps flew up the ice and Thunstrom scored her second goal of the game to cut the Pride’s lead down to one.
Tension mounted in the third period until Jillian Dempsey drew a penalty on Lisa Martinson with 6:28 to go in regulation. Boston went to work on the power play again and a big point shot from Fratkin created a juicy rebound that Wenczkowski absolutely buried to give Boston back its two-goal lead.
Taylor Wenczkowski scores on the power play to add to the Pride's lead. 4-2 with ~6 minutes remaining. pic.twitter.com/5t54fUvpDW— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 28, 2021
Boston seemed like they were on the doorstep of a victory that had been denied to them for a year until Tereza Vanišová was handed a five-minute major for boarding Audra Richards with 2:24 left in regulation. Richards looked rattled on Minnesota’s bench but almost immediately made a play, with Leveille pulled, to cut Boston’s lead down to a single goal again. She drove to the net and jammed at the puck before working it loose for Meaghan Pezon to tuck it into the net with just 19.4 seconds left in regulation.
Pride head coach Paul Mara requested a review but the goal stood.
It was a powerful moment for Richards and the Whitecaps but it proved to be too little, too late. The puck was dropped at center ice after the goal and the little time that was left on the clock quickly evaporated. When the clock hit 0:00, the Pride erupted from the bench and the celebration began.
PRIDE WIN— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) March 28, 2021
THE BOSTON PRIDE ARE YOUR 2021 ISOBEL CUP CHAMPIONS! pic.twitter.com/decWSmaBn4
7:46, 3-2 Whitecaps | Allie Thunstrom (EVG) assisted by Meaghan Pezon
13:21, 4-2 Pride | Taylor Wenczkowski (PPG) assisted by Kaleigh Fratkin, Mary Parker
19:32, 4-3 Whitecaps | Meghan Pezon (PPG, EA) assisted by Audra Richards, Allie Thunstrom
The box score tells us at the shots were 30-30 when the final whistle blew which only underlines how important Boston’s two power-play goals were. Whitecaps captain Winny Brodt-Brown expressed some frustration with calls being made after the second period after the officials let a lot go in the first (and in the Isobel Cup Semifinals). “When we were starting to get momentum and a delayed penalty is called to make it 5-on-3, any championship you watch at any level, they’re won on power plays ... The whistles were not blown in the first and they started in the second, not in our favor.”
Dempsey awarded the Isobel Cup. She handed it right off to Kaleigh Fratkin, the regular season points leader. pic.twitter.com/zII1kb2SY5— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) March 28, 2021
It was a true team win for Boston. Mary Parker, Kaleigh Fratkin, and Christina Putigna all had two-point games for the Pride. Selander became the first Swede in NWHL history to win an Isobel Cup with a 27-save performance. Captain Jillian Dempsey went 12-4 on the faceoff dot, had five takeaways, scored a goal, and drew what proved to be a decisive penalty. It was a classic performance for the face of the franchise.
After the game, Mara said he felt this year’s team was even better than last year’s club but Boston looked a lot like the team we saw shatter records in the 2019-20 season. They played like a team that had been thinking about nothing but this game for a year while dealing with all the nightmares and chaos created by the pandemic.
Minnesota fell short in the final but they have a lot to be proud of for the way they played in Lake Placid and this weekend.
Thunstrom was sensational tonight, to the tune of two goals, an assist, three takeaways, and seven shots on goal. She wasn’t the only player on Minnesota who had a big game but, ultimately, the Whitecaps fell short. They performed admirably without two of their best players and the penalties proved to be the difference. The Pride capitalized on those chances and on two of their scoring chances at even strength. That is why they are the 2021 Isobel Cup Champions.