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2021-22 PHF season recap: Toronto Six

Michelle Jay

How they finished

Suffice to say, the Toronto Six did not have the postseason they were hoping for. They played just one game after receiving a bye straight to the semifinal where they ultimately came up short against a Boston Pride team that seemed to hit their stride in Tampa.

“I thought we had a great prep before the game, a great warmup, the girls were very, very positive, and with a couple of bad bounces early in the game, we couldn’t turn it around,” said Head Coach, Mark Joslin, “Adversity was definitely a factor, but not enough to lose a 5-1 hockey game.”

Overall, it’s an unsatisfying ending for the Six, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they still finished the regular season second in the standings with a 16-3-1 overall record.

“Next year’s promising and the girls that are going to be back are gonna be hungry as hell to finish what we started,” said Joslin.

What Went Right: The Regular Season

By all measures, the Six set themselves up postseason success. They finished the regular season second in the standings. They were unbeatable on home ice, finishing with an undefeated record north of the border. Elaine Chuli was everything a team could ask for in a starting goaltender, finishing the season with a .931 SV% and a single loss.

Offense was, as usual, their strength, and strong performances from top players meant that they finished the season with a +21 goal differential.

The decision to bring in Breanne Wilson-Bennett as a depth forward for the final few games of the regular season and the playoffs worked better than anyone could have imagined. She scored five goals in the last six games of the regular season as well as the lone Six goal in the 5-1 defeat to Boston.

What Went Wrong; The Playoffs

If the regular season is what went right for the Six, the playoffs are where the wheels fell off completely.

They just didn’t seem to be playing like the Toronto Six team that we’d seen over the course of the year.

Maybe the Six’s final game of the regular season, a 5-0 loss to the Whale, should have sounded some alarms, but they had proven themselves to be an incredibly offensively dangerous team in every game before that and it wasn’t hard to imagine them bouncing back in time for the semifinal.

As it turned out, their offensive woes followed them to Florida. The Six were outshot by Boston in every period for a final tally of 28-19. Part of that is definitely owing to the masterclass in puck possession that the Pride put on, but the Six just weren’t where they needed to be. Only managing five shots in a do-or-die playoff game just isn’t enough.

“Honestly, in our last two games we scored one goal,” said Joslin, “Today we probably had under 20 shots again, so we just didn’t get our gel and our chemistry going.”

There was definitely adversity to be overcome. The Six had three players get held up in travel, including Stephanie Sucharda, Shiann Darkangelo, and Elaine Chuli. Inexperience was a factor, the Six are a young team without much championship experience.

“Maybe the nerves got to them a little bit, I thought we had too many turnovers in the D-zone,” said Joslin, “I think the lack of experience playing in big games like this affected us and Boston took advantage of it.”

Best Forward: Mikyla Grant-Mentis

The best forward on the Toronto Six is Mikyla Grant-Mentis, and it’s not even an argument. She was over a point per game for most of the season and had more game winning goals come off her stick than any other player in the PHF.

She’s also been working to improve her defensive game, and it showed in the back half of the regular season. The entire team played better in their own end and Grant-Mentis was definitely a part of that

Best Defender: Stephanie Sucharda

We’ve all said it before and we’ll all say it again, it’s hard to evaluate defenders. Often, players who excel at the position don’t tend to show up on the scoresheet as frequently as the forwards and can go unnoticed. If the best defender is the one who scored the most points, it’s Taylor Woods (3G, 14A). If it’s the one who blocked the most shots, then Saroya Tinker wins by a mile with 39.

Stephanie Sucharda had a quietly impressive season for the Six, she scored just a single goal, but also recorded 12 assists in 20 games in the regular season. It’s important for defenders to be able to handle the puck effectively in the transition from playing defense to trying to score, and Sucharda always seemed to do that particularly well.

Best Rookie: Maegan Beres

Maegan Beres scored three goals and had four assists in 2021-22. She handled the transition from playing at Boston University to playing professional hockey quite well. She played with a confidence that’s not always found among rookie players and was consistent throughout the regular season. She finished the regular season with three goals, four assists and made herself a solid option on the power play.

MVP: Elaine Chuli

Without Elaine Chuli, the Six wouldn’t have been able to have the regular season they did, her record speaks for itself. She was 16-1 in the regular season, and despite the disappointing loss to Boston in the semifinal, she was definitely the backbone of this Toronto Six team.

For a young and inexperienced team, being able to trust your goaltender is so important. Knowing that if they made a mistake and turned the puck over, Chuli would be there to bail them out made their offense possible.

At times there might have been a bit too much reliance on Chuli to clean up any messes made in the defensive zone, but that’s just part of what makes her so valuable. Take Chuli out of the lineup and it’s hard to imagine the Six winning as many games as they did this year.