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Isobel Cup Preview: Boston Pride vs. Connecticut Whale

Do we get back-to-back champs, or do we get first-time Izzy winners? Either way, it’s history in Tampa.

Connecticut Whale forward Emma Vlasic and Boston Pride forward Katelynn Russ during a PHF game in Boston on Feb. 05, 2022.
Michelle Jay

One game stands between two teams and Lady Isobel, and it’s bound to be a showdown for the ages in Wesley Chapel.

The Connecticut Whale booked their first ticket to the final dance with a commanding 4-2 win over the Whitecaps, while the Boston Pride make their fourth appearance at the Final in seven seasons, standing a chance at making it their first back-to-back Cup win and third overall for the franchise if they can figure out how to make it happen against the Whale.

Season Series: Whale won 3 out of 4 games

Connecticut lit the entire Fed on fire in 2021-22, including the 2021 champs. The Pride took game 1 in Connecticut, 4-3, but from there it was all Whale, as they outscored Boston by a combined 12-4 to take the final three games (including a weekend sweep at Warrior).

Series Stars

Boston: Christina Putigna has a combined four points, three of them having come in the first matchup of the year on Nov. 15. Amanda Boulier also factored into the scoring a few times over the four games, but there wasn’t a whole lot of scoring on the Pride’s end against Connecticut.

Connecticut: Kennedy Marchment, to no one’s surprise, was all over the scoresheets against Boston with 8 points (4 G, 4 A, including a shortie). Also, Amanda Conway and Janine Weber have both had multi-point games, as well as Alyssa Wohlfeiler.

How the Pride win

Special teams, special teams, special teams. After being sub-10 percent on the power play all regular season, Boston has just exploded on the skater advantage with a ridiculous 75 percent efficiency rate. Putigna and Kali Flanagan have two PPG apiece, and in general the units have looked faster, more aggressive, and cycled really well. With Connecticut taking all three penalties (including a bench minor) in the semifinal, they’ll have to really focus on limiting the opportunities for the Pride.

Boston has also done beautifully at shutting down the heaviest hitters on their opponents’ rosters. After shutting out the Beauts (and making life hell for Cassidy Vinkle, Taylor Accursi, and Anjelica Diffendal), Boston also completely neutralized Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Shiann Darkangelo in the semis. The latter failed to even record a shot on goal, while MGM had 2 PIM and failed to capitalize on any of her six shots, many of which went to the outside and posed little to no trouble for Katie Burt. Of course, for her part, Burt has been excellent, posting a ridiculous .980 save percentage. If she can keep up the near-perfect performance against a stacked Whale offense, she could help Boston steal this right out from under them.

How the Whale win

This is Connecticut’s game to lose, frankly speaking. They looked excellent top to bottom during the semis, responding to every single goal the Whitecaps scored with one of their own. Defensively, they’ve gotten sticks in the lanes and let very little get to Abbie Ives, who had to make just a few point blank saves against Minnesota (including one late on Audra Morrison which was probably her best of the night).

Head coach Colton Orr talked about the focus this team has had heading into the semis, and for the players’ part, they’re just as dialed in, practicing, doing things as a team, and echoing Orr’s sentiment that there is plenty of time to party and have fun in Florida once the Cup is in their hands. The way they’ve bought in has been amazing to watch, and as seriously as they’ve taken it, they’re still providing us with some super-fun hockey. If they keep that tone and stay out of the penalty box, they might be walking away with this entire season.

Prediction

It’ll be a close game; after all, this isn’t the same Pride team from the regular season, and they’re hitting their stride at the right time on all fronts. The Whale, meanwhile, are still firing on the same cylinders they’ve had going since the final weeks of the year, and they’re on a mission. These teams are pretty much on a par with each other, but I think this is the Whale’s year once and for all, and I am really hoping they can give Shannon Turner a proper sendoff with their first Isobel Cup. I’m thinking this’ll be a 3-2 Whale Final.