Three seasons in, and the Toronto Six are Isobel Cup champions. The regular season was full of ups and downs, but at the end of the day, they brought the Isobel Cup home to Canada for the first time in league history.
The Six finished the regular season in second place with a 17-5-2 record.They struggled on the road and discovered that they weren’t invincible on home ice. In contrast to their first two seasons, they came together in the playoffs instead of collapsing.
They finished the regular season in second place, making them the higher seed in a semifinal matchup against the Connecticut Whale. The Whale took the first game in the series, but after a dicey win in Game 2, they were able to shut them out in Game 3 for the series win.
Their ultimate Isobel Cup win came in dramatic fashion. They traded goals with the Minnesota Whitecaps in a game that would ultimately require overtime. Tereza Vanišová ended it 4:23 into the extra frama.
The Six’s offense was as high-flying as ever. Their +25 goal differential this season was second only to the Boston Pride’s inhuman +40 differential. The Six’s real offensive strength was in their depth and versatility. While some other teams might have had one player leading the scoring by miles, the Six were an offense-by-committee kind of team. Brittany Howard led scoring with 26 points in 20 games, followed by Shiann Darkangelo with 25 points in 24 games. The Six were so deep that only one player did not record a single point this season; Alexis Woloschuk, who played 12 games in a stay-at-home defender role.
You could make a pretty long list out of all the things that win championships according to Geraldine Heaney. At the very top of the list would be defense and just below that would be “the little things.”
One of the very best players on the Six in that regard was Saroya Tinker, with 32 blocked shots in the regular season. She had a career season, stepping up and quickly becoming one of the Six's starters. Her play on the ice earned her a well-deserved All-Star nod.
The entire team was more confident on the blueline than they had been in seasons prior. Lindsay Eastwood stepped into a playmaking role, quarterbacking plays and breaking out pucks. Her offensive production took a step back but she was just as noticeable and impactful, picking up 8 assists in 24 GP.
Kati Tabin, who you can make a strong argument for being the Defender of the Year, led all D in points with four goals and 14 assists. She was at her best guarding the offensive blue line, preventing zone exits and giving Toronto opportunities to sustain pressure. When Toronto had sustained pressure in the offensive zone at evens, it was often when Tabin kept the pedal to the floor on the blue line.
Even players with comparably less ice time, like Taylor Davison and Emma Greco, contributed massively to the Six’s new and improved defense. There was no glaring weak link on Toronto's blue line - it's a recipe the Six should aim to repeat in 2023-24.
You can argue all you want about who the best goaltender in women’s hockey is, but if you’re looking for the best tandem, look no further than Elaine Chuli and Carly Jackson.
The Six stuck with Chuli as their starter, and it clearly worked for them. She started 19 of the team's 24 games, while Jackson started five. She played just under an additional period in November when Chuli was pulled a few minutes into the third period of what would become a 6-3 loss to the Riveters.
Chuli was the Six's goaltender all through the playoffs. She had her best game of the year in Game 3 against the Whale, and was the difference-maker when it came to them making it to the final.
"She's been a brick wall back there and it's huge," said captain Shiann Darkangelo following the Six's semifinal victory, "It gives our team the momentum and the confidence to do what we do."
Chuli finished the season with a .917 SV% after facing 591 shots, while Jackson had a .926 SV% after facing 136 shots. The pair’s supportive, encouraging relationship was also often on display throughout the season.
MVP & Best + Newcomer
There are at least half a dozen players on the Toronto Six who would be star players on another team. Among all that skill and talent though, it’s Brittany Howard who stands out the most.
Not only was Howard the Six’s most valuable offseason signing, but she was also their most valuable player, period. Howard brought immediate firepower to the top six.
Howard missed a few games mid-season; per team sources, she was dealing with an injury. If she'd been on the ice for all 24 games, there’s no question that she would have been coming for some scoring records. She had more than a point per game. She had .195 scoring percentage on 110 shots as tracked by the Six’s statisticians.
Daryl Watts is the only player who the Six have publicly announced to be back for 2023-24. You would hope that the majority of the team stays exactly where they are, because there really is something special about this group from their scoring leaders to their shot-blocking defenders. With players from the NCAA and Europe looking more and more to play in the PHF, the Six have the opportunity to make some solid offseason moves. Still, if they ice exactly the same team next season that they did this season, they’d be in pretty good shape.