The Toronto Six captured the first Isobel Cup in franchise history on Sunday night by knocking off the Minnesota Whitecaps in a thrilling, 4-3 overtime game at Mullett Arena in Arizona. Toronto, only in its third season as a franchise, has been one of the best teams in the PHF since they joined the league in 2021 - and now finally they can call themselves Isobel Cup champions. Tereza Vanišová was the ultimate hero for the Six, scoring the goal that will live forever for the franchise.
“The last time I won it (the Isobel Cup) was a while ago, being a part of the first team here in Toronto, building and getting to this point - it’s awesome,” a smiling Shiann Darkangelo, the only captain the Six have ever had, sad immediately after the win. “There’s a core group that has been together (for these three seasons); it’s super-exciting and I’m really proud of all of the players beside me.”
Darkangelo, Elaine Chuli, Taylor Woods, Emma Woods, Lindsay Eastwood, Brooke Boquist, and Breanne Wilson-Bennett are the seven players who have been with the Six for all three seasons.
Vanišová is now just the second player in league history to win three Isobel Cups, joining former teammate Jillian Dempsey, and is the first player to win three consecutive Cups. Michela Cava had two assists in the win and was named the MVP of the playoffs -finishing with six points (3g-3a) in four postseason games.
“She’s a big-time player,” Head Coach Geraldine Heaney said of Cava moments after the game ended. “Sometimes I kind of bug here and say - she doesn’t show up in every game, but she shows up when it counts. She always tells me that - ‘I show up when it counts’ - she proved it to me today, and throughout the whole playoffs.”
Toronto struck early in the game, jumping out to a 1-0 lead when Cava set up Dominika Lásková for the opening goal 7:22 into the first period and the Six would carry that one-goal lead all the way until 4:02 into the second period when Brittyn Fleming netted the tying goal off a weird bounce behind the net.
“Good players make good plays in big games, and that’s what happened tonight,” Darkangelo said of Cava’s performance in the winner-take-all championship.
“(Leah) Lum chipped the puck off the wall past one of their D and I was on a 2-on-1. I let the girl slide past me and I saw a teammate going to the net so I just put it on my backhand to her and it was a nice goal by Laska,” Cava told The Ice Garden, explaining her opening period assist.
The Six capitalized on a miscommunication between Whitecaps netminder Amanda Leveille and her defenders six minutes later and regained a one-goal lead when Breanne Wilson-Bennett buried a pass from Emma Woods, who was behind the goal line. But Minnesota showed toughness with a tying goal before the second period ended via Brooke Madsen’s redirection of a Natalie Snodgrass pass/shot.
Snodgrass helped give Minnesota their first and only lead of the night when she set up Jonna Albers for a power-play goal 20 seconds into the third period. The Whitecaps battled back time after time and now were 19 minutes away from a win, but the Six found the tying goal eight minutes later when Taylor Woods scored the second-biggest goal in franchise history.
“I think that was her first goal all year, just a huge goal for her,” Coach Heaney said of Woods’ tying goal. “We don’t just rely on one or two players (on this team), at any given time any given player can have an off night and when your top players aren’t playing well other players step up, and that’s what we did (tonight).”
It was Cava, again, who made a great play with the puck that eventually led to the tying goal. “The puck was coming up the wall in a good spot and I thought I’d pull it in and get to the middle of the ice so I could get the puck to the net,” the MVP explained. “Luckily we got a couple of whacks at it and T Woods put it in.”
With nothing settled over the final 12 minutes the game headed to a 20-minute 3-on-3 overtime and it didn’t take long for Vanišová to score the biggest goal in franchise history for the Six. The three-time Cup winner won a 50-50 battle with Liz Schepers in the corner to the left of Leveille and as she skated towards the slot fired a rising shot that eluded Leveille and sent Toronto into celebration mode.
“I tried to check her, get the puck, and I took it straight to the net. I tried to shoot high (on the net) where I saw it was open,” Vanišová said of the winning play. “I’m glad it went in,” she added with a grin.
Elaine Chuli finished the game with 23 saves for Toronto and Leveille finished with 35 saves for Minnesota.
“It was a great pace,” Whitecaps defender Amanda Boulier said of the overtime period. “We had a tough time winning some draws there and keeping possession. I think we were a little scattered and a bit nervous; obviously, there was a lot on the line. I think that showed in the 3-on-3. We didn’t really get great possession. I know we had a couple of good looks but they out-chanced us in OT, had the better of the chances and that showed in the end.”
Game Notes: Cava celebrated her 29th birthday (March 26) in style - with two assists and an Isobel Cup win. With her goal Albers now has 15 career points in the playoffs, tied with Dempsey for the league’s all-time lead. Other than Vanišová, Darkangelo is the only player who had previously won the Isobel Cup (2017 with Buffalo), everyone else on the roster is a first-time winner. Cava and Albers led all players in playoff scoring with six points apiece.
Toronto outshot Minnesota 7-1 in the 4:23 that was played in overtime; Cava and Darkangelo led all skaters with six shots on goal each, while Schepers and Snodgrass led the Whitecaps with four apiece. There were only three penalties called, and one of the three was for too many skaters on the ice. T. Woods’ goal was her first since Feb. 27, 2022 - a span of 30 games. Toronto's win means that two of the seven PHF teams have yet to lift the Isobel Cup - the Connecticut Whale and the Montreal Force.