Boston Pride are back-to-back Isobel Cup champions

by Paul Krotz

For the first time in Premier Hockey Federation history a back-to-back Isobel Cup champion has been crowned as the Boston Pride came back to defeat the Connecticut Whale 4-2 in Monday’s playoff final at AdventHealth Center Ice near Tampa Bay, Florida.

Boston scored two goals within a span of 18 seconds during the third period to erase a 2-1 deficit. Taylor Wenczkowski scored the game-winner and earned playoff MVP honors, while goaltender Katie Burt earned her third straight victory with a 32-save performance.

The victory secures a record third league title for the Pride who also won during the inaugural 2015-16 season in a two-game sweep over the Buffalo Beauts, along with last season’s triumph over the Minnesota Whitecaps on home ice. It was the first championship appearance for the Whale in the PHF’s seven-year history.

“It’s hard to put into words. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Pride head coach Paul Mara. “The leadership and character in that room is second to none. I just love this team and what we brought this week. For the last five days our team focused, our team played with heart, our team played with passion and when we do that this is what happens.”

Pride captain Jillian Dempsey became the first player in PHF history to win a third Isobel Cup having been a part of all three franchise victories.

“It was our mission to come back and win twice in a row,” Dempsey said. “We had so much stacked against us and I’m just incredibly proud of how we came together at the right time to get the job done.”

Boston outscored their opposition 15-3 over three games, often filling the net in bunches. A three goal second period propelled the Pride past the Beauts in preliminary round play, then three goals in a span of 2:14 in the first period of the semifinals against the Toronto Six showed what the team’s offense is capable of in any situation.

“We were going to leave it all on the line,” Mara said. “One hundred percent of our souls were going into that third period, and you could tell. Our team is a veteran group, the way we pretty much roll three to four lines this whole three-game series and it showed. 2-1 going into the third against the number one team is a tough feat. I’m really proud of our team for battling the way they did and never quitting and came up with a huge win.”

The Pride’s roster includes 14 returning members from last year’s winning unit that showed their experience along with resiliency throughout the season as the number three seed who often underachieved.

“We definitely had our ups and downs but that’s where you really become battle tested and that’s what builds that toughness that you’re going to need down the stretch,” Dempsey said. “If it was an easy road I don’t think we would have responded as well to some of the adversity that we faced.”

Dempsey opened the scoring with a beautiful goal at 4:14 of the first period with her ninth career postseason tally in 14 games. The Whale evened the score with an Amanda Conway snipe at 16:44, then took the lead just 33 seconds into the middle frame courtesy of first overall pick Taylor Girard who buried a cross-ice feed from regular season top scorer Kennedy Marchment.

The 2-1 spread lasted until the third period when Evelina Raselli capitalized on a rebound from a Mary Parker shot on the rush at 6:39. Another fortuitous bounce went Boston’s way on the go-ahead goal by Wenczkowski who scored on the rebound from a Christina Putigna shot on goal at 6:57. Defender Jenna Rheault iced it with an empty-netter at 18:30.

“They are a team that can score in bunches,” said Whale head coach Colton Orr. “They’ve got a really skilled team. Their third line was really good tonight. It was just one of those things where they grabbed the momentum quickly. We had it for a bit up 2-1, but it was one of those shifts where you score that one and it’s hard to recover from. I think the players felt like they were in it but you could see how much that took out of us, and then the next one.”

The Whale entered the final as the PHF’s number one team which was another first for the Founding Four member. They led the league in goals for and had the fewest against during the regular season while earning a franchise record 15 wins including a streak of 12 in a row.

“You can see a team that’s won it before has a lot less stress behind it, a little more carefree attitude knowing they won it last year and this is bonus if they win it again,” Orr said. “You can see it on their roster that they didn’t get too phased by the game, the ups and downs or the different swings. They stayed in it and they had that team with that experience and the same kind of thing we’re looking to gain. If we didn’t want to win so badly and we didn’t work so hard it wouldn’t hurt so much. I think that’s the culture we have that’s only going to make us stronger. I’ve never been a part of a team that has been that close and fought for each other so much.”

Marchment finished as the team’s top playoff scorer with a goal and three assists over two games. Girard finished with two points in her first taste of playoffs, as did Janine Weber who assisted on Conway’s goal, and captain Shannon Turner who had two assists in the semifinal. Abbie Ives stopped 26 of 29 shots faced in defeat.

“I think our team is so phenomenal,” Marchment said. “Every person in the locker room gave everything they had, every ounce of effort. We put in work all season. Obviously the outcome is not what we wanted but as we talked about in the locker room after the game, we still have to hold our heads high for what we accomplished this year and bringing the Whale to the championship for the first time in their history. I’m just so incredibly proud of each and every individual we have on that team.”

While Marchment is among the club’s cast of talented newcomers, the Whale have several veteran players like Turner, fellow defender Hanna Beattie, forwards Kayice Anderson, Emily Fluke, Alyssa Wohlfeiler, and Weber who all have lengthy tenures with the organization and were finally rewarded with team success.

“We had no doubt that we wanted to win and give our best for those specific girls,” Marchment said. “I think this was the year of the Whale and unfortunately we didn’t come out on top but I still think the performances we had this year was phenomenal and in itself speaks volumes.”

Pride newcomer Kali Flanagan led the postseason in scoring with five points including two goals and three assists, with Parker and Putigna both counting four points in three games. Wenczkowski led the way with three goals and produced her second straight championship winning tally. Burt stopped 82 shots in total over the three games for an impressive goals-against-average of 1.00 and save percentage of .965.

“She was Katie Burt,” Mara said. “She is a fantastic goalie. I think she’s the best goalie in this league and one of the best goalies in the world. She showed that this week and she put us on her shoulders and she carried us and made the big saves when we needed them.”

The Pride’s title puts a wrap on an historical first season in the PHF’s new era, with outgoing Commissioner Tyler Tumminia presenting the Isobel Cup to Dempsey.

“Hearing about Ty leaving the position of Commissioner at the end of the year, I had texted her and said the only way I want this to end is with me and you, and you handing me the cup to bring to my team,” Dempsey said. “It was just an incredible moment looking over and seeing all those faces and everyone wanting the cup so badly. We’re just elated and on top of the world with this feeling.”

The championship final aired live across North America on ESPN2 and TSN2 and represented the first linear broadcast of professional women’s hockey on the ESPN network. Discover was the presenting sponsor of the 2022 Isobel Cup Playoffs. DICK’S Sporting Goods was the presenting sponsor of the Isobel Cup championship post-game trophy presentation and MVP award of $1,000 in gift cards.

Officials for the final were referees Alex Clarke and Katie Guay, and linespersons Sarah Buckner and Amanda Tassoni. The rest of the playoff officiating team consisted of referees Erika Greenen and Laura White, and linespersons Jennifer Cameron and Meg MacTavish.

Tickets for all five games at Wesley Chapel’s AdventHealth Center Ice were claimed in advance and represented the first time the Isobel Cup was contended for in a neutral state outside of traditional PHF territory.

Box Score