With a berth in the 2022 Isobel Cup Final on the line in Sunday’s first PHF Semifinal, the Connecticut Whale rode a four-goal outburst in the second period to outlast the Minnesota Whitecaps 4-2 to advance to the Isobel Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. The Whale will play the winner of the Toronto-Boston game on Monday night (9:00 pm ET).
“They’ve had a phenomenal year; it’s a fun team (they have). If we have to lose to someone,” said Whitecaps forward Allie Thunstrom. “The Connecticut Whale from three years ago to now is incredibly impressive. Everything that they’ve done, they do it the right way. Nothing but respect for them.”
Kennedy Marchment, the PHF’s points leader during the regular season, scored the game’s first goal and added an assist in the middle frame in a game that the Whale never trailed in. Her goal came just 83 seconds into the period and when Minnesota’s Thunstrom tied the game less than four minutes later the momentum shifted in the Whitecaps' favor; but only briefly.
“Our top line is really good at taking opportunities and turning them into something,” Head Coach Colton Orr proudly said after the win. “Our top line with the speed they have and their composure, they are able to really slow things down. They saw something too,” he added when talking about putting together the trio of Marchment, Alyssa Wohlfeiler, and top pick Taylor Girard.
“They mentioned to us that they saw some chemistry (earlier in the season) between themselves and wanted to give it a try.”
Janine Weber scored on an artful deflection at the side of the net less than two minutes after Thunstrom’s tally to give Connecticut a 2-1 lead. It stayed that way for about nine minutes before Minnesota’s Ashleigh Brykaliuk tied things again with a power-play goal.
The 2-2 tie lasted for all of 14 seconds, as Wohlfeiler was the beneficiary of two pristine, perfect passes from Marchment and captain Shannon Turner to finish off a tic-tac-toe play. It was only 3-2 for less than two minutes before the Whale jumped ahead by two goals.
Defender Tori Howran got her first goal since Lake Placid when her point shot hit a Minnesota player on its way to the net and slipped past Amanda Leveille.
That was it. All the scoring, all six goals in the game, came in the second period. Leveille finished with 31 saves and Abbie Ives finished with 24 stops. The Whale stifled and stymied the Whitecaps all afternoon long and especially in the third period when Minnesota was pressing for a goal.
Connecticut also killed off two penalties in the third period and made it look rather easy. “We had a lot of good responses that game,” Marchment would tell the media afterward. “We had some leads and they cam (right) back at us; I don’t think we got too high or too low. We always had a good response. That’s really big for our team, shows a lot of character.”
“Tomorrow will be a long day waiting for a 9:00 pm game, but we’ll be ready when the time comes.”
Connecticut was able to respond after both of Minnesota’s tying goals with strong shifts and swung all of the momentum back in their favor. The Whitecaps were never out of it, but it did feel like it was too much to overcome, which it was in the end.
3 Stars of the Game
* Kennedy Marchment G + A
** Shannon Turner 2 As
*** Amanda Leveille 31 saves
“It’s an exciting feeling. It’s a special group here, and it’s been a fun season the way they developed throughout the year, the way they’ve come together as a group, the way they’ve played for each other. It’s been so fun to watch and be a part of, and I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished. We’re not done yet. We have some unfinished business.” — Connecticut Head Coach Colton Orr.