What If…? NWHL Version, Part 1

What If...there wasn't a penalty shot awarded in overtime of Game 1 of the inaugural NWHL Isobel Cup Final?

Time. Space. Reality. It’s more than a linear path. It’s a prism of endless possibility, where a single choice can branch out into infinite realities, creating alternate worlds from the ones we already know. I am not the Watcher, but I am your guide through these vast new realities.

Follow along and ponder the question... ‘What if?’

March 11, 2016. The Boston Pride and Buffalo Beauts meet in Newark, New Jersey to play Game 1 of the Isobel Cup Final. After falling in an 0-2 hole early on the Beauts roared back with three straight goals and were 4:41 away from upsetting the heavily favored Pride in the first game of a best-of-3 series.

Instead, it was Hilary Knight who tied the game with a power-play goal late in regulation, and it was that same Hilary Knight who scored the winning goal just 2:29 into overtime … on a penalty shot. Boston was awarded the penalty shot when the referee ruled that a Buffalo defender covered the puck with their hand in the crease.

What If…that play went to video review and it was ruled the Beauts’ defender didn’t put their hand on the puck in the blue paint? How long would the game have continued? Sure, the Pride had a 7-0 advantage in shots on goal in the 2:29 that was played in overtime, but the Beauts had Kelley Steadman. All she did was score the go-ahead, power-play goal three minutes prior to Knight’s power-play marker.

Steadman had a brilliant season in the inaugural NWHL campaign - 20 points (13g-7a) in ten regular-season games, and another three points (2g-1a) in four playoff games. What I’m trying to say is she was/is more than capable of scoring in that overtime. What if Buffalo scored on a Boz-Blast from Megan Bozek or a nifty play by Emily Pfalzer? Buffalo had plenty of worthy candidates.

What if…Buffalo did score in that overtime, and then won the next night? Would they have won back-to-back Cups over the Pride? Would the Pride have roared back to win Games 2 & 3 and capture the Cup? Would Meghan Duggan still have signed with Boston if she won the Cup with Buffalo in that first season?

What if Boston just eventually won in overtime on a conventional goal? That’s also a possibility. That Pride team was a juggernaut and it showed as they went 30-3-1 in the regular season over two seasons with largely the same group.

The different possibilities are endless.

In the NWHL’s tumultuous second season the Pride finished 16-1-0, outscoring their opponents by a robust 44 goals. In a single-game Isobel Cup Final in 2017, they lost to the Beauts, falling behind 0-3 before scoring two, third-period goals and losing 3-2. In the next edition of What If…? we’ll see what might’ve been.