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2022 PHF Semifinal Preview: Six vs. Pride

Once again, it’s Toronto vs. Boston for the last spot in the Isobel Cup Final

NWHL Isobel Cup Playoffs - Semifinals Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In a rematch of last year’s semifinal, the Toronto Six and the Boston Pride will faceoff today at 4:30 p.m. E.T. The Six have the higher seed, but just like last season when the lower seeded Boston Pride beat the Six 6-2 to earn a spot in the Isobel Cup Final, it’s really anyone’s game.

The Pride will look to win back-to-back cups and become the PHF’s first three time champions, while the Six will look to take Izzy back to Toronto for the first time in their relatively short franchise history. As the second seeded team in the playoffs, the Six earned a bye straight to the semifinal, while the Pride shutout the Buffalo Beauts 6-0 to claim their spot.

Season Series

Dec. 4, 2021 | Pride win 2-1

Dec. 5, 2021 | Pride win 8-2

March 12, 2022 | Six win 2-1

March 13, 2022 | Six win 4-3

Toronto and Boston split their regular seasons series, with each team benefiting from the home advantage and each winning the two games hosted on their own ice. The 8-2 game aside though, these two teams matched each other shift for shift, play for play in the regular season and there’s no reason to think it’s going to be any different in the playoffs.

Players to Watch

Elaine Chuli

Chuli is the engine of this Toronto Six team, if she’s playing well, she can be the difference maker. It took until the very last game of the season for Chuli to record her first loss of 2021-22. She had a .930 SV% in the regular season and allowed an average of just 1.82 goals per game. No goalie likes to get scored on, but Elaine Chuli in particular hates seeing pucks in the back of her net. If she doesn’t want to allow her teammates to score in warmup, you can bet she really doesn’t want to let the Pride score in the semifinal.

Jillian Dempsey

A win against the Six would mean an opportunity for captain Jillian Dempsey to lift the cup for the third time with the Pride, and a second time as captain. Dempsey put up 14 points in the regular season (7G, 7A) and scored the Pride’s third goal against Buffalo. The Pride’s offense struggled to get going at times during the regular season, and Dempsey’s been no exception. We know what she’s capable of though (anyone remember that time she scored 40 points in 24 games?) and with the Pride seeming to hit their stride in the post season, it’s easy to imagine Dempsey scoring some big goals tonight.

Mikyla Grant-Mentis

The reigning league MVP led the Six in scoring in the regular season with 13 goals and 17 assists over 19 games. She has a knack for creating space and making chances appear out of thin air. She leads the PHF in game winning goals, finding the back of the net when it mattered most six times over the course of the season. Containing Grant-Mentis for a full 60 minutes is going to be a challenge for the Pride, she’s only gotten better since last season’s Six/Pride semifinal matchup.

Taylor Wenczkowski

With eight goals and seven assists in 15 games, Wenczkowski led the regular season scoring for the Boston Pride. She got things started for the Pride in the playoffs, breaking the scoreless tie at 11:41 in the second period. She makes herself difficult to play against and showed off her strong puck possession skills against the Beauts.

How the Six win

The Six need to set up in the offensive zone and stay there. Their offense has absolutely been their strength this season, and with the un-scored-on-in-the-playoffs Katie Burt likely starting for the Pride, they need to apply as much pressure as possible as soon as possible. Goaltending is going to be important, and so is the transition from playing defense to offense. They can’t afford to make any mistakes when moving the puck out of their own end, because that’s when the Pride will pounce (that was a pun, get it, because they’re lions?)

How the Pride win

Containing the Six’s offence is going to be huge for the Pride, but they’ll also need to put up some big goals of their own. Having to play in the preliminary round could turn into an advantage for them as they build on the momentum of a 6-0 victory while the Six won’t have played a game for a full week. It took the Pride a while to find the gas in the regular season, but now that they’ve found it, they’re dangerous. Like the Six, their fate is going to be determined by whether or not their offense is rolling.

Prediction

It’s hard to bet against either of these teams. Boston is a team with two Isobel Cups to their name, they’ve been here before and they’ve gotten the best of Toronto on more than one occasion. On the other hand though, Toronto has been such a strong and complete team over the course of the regular season. Toronto are well rested, but could too much rest be a bad thing against a team who hit their stride in the playoffs?

Whoever wins, I think it’s going to be tightly contested and pretty back and forth, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one went to overtime. At the end of the day, I give Boston the edge, they know how to shut Toronto down and since these games are single elimination, they only have to do it once.