Woods’ OT winner evens series for T6

by Paul Krotz

Emma Woods scored the biggest goal in franchise history at 2:31 of overtime to lift the Toronto Six to a 3-2 victory over the Connecticut Whale on Saturday afternoon at Mattamy Athletic Centre.

The win is Toronto’s first in Isobel Cup Playoff history after three-straight losses and evens the best-of-three semifinal series 1-1 with the deciding game three scheduled for Monday night.

“We believe in this group,” Woods said. “We really came together and the energy was up. We have a lot of leaders on our team that step up and say things and I think the girls were just fired up. Three-on-three (overtime) is all about possession and finding that moment to get an odd-man rush. We had a three-on-two, (Kati) Tabin made a good drop pass to me, and I pretty much had the whole lane to the net with Shi (Darkangelo) and Tabin driving. I knew I had to get it on net, but I knew I had to make a good shot to beat Abbie (Ives), she’s a great goaltender. I did just that and it worked out in my favor.”

Toronto erased a pair of one-goal deficits with both tying goals scored in the second period off the stick of Brittany Howard who earned Player of the Game honors. Her first was a shorthanded breakaway tally at 6:21, with the second at the end of a two-on-one rush with Daryl Watts where she poked in a rebound at 8:55.

“We wanted to work on that PK (penalty kill) for sure, they had two (power play goals) in the first game,” Howard said. “We wanted to focus on blocking shots as a team and I think we did that and was a huge contribution to letting (Elaine) Chuli see a little less rubber. Bre (Wilson-Bennett) had a helluva stick on that (shorthanded) play, was able to chip it to open space and I was able to get my hands on it for a breakaway. Got a little lucky on a PK breakaway but no going to complain. We knew we were capable, we just had to come out here as a united group and play a cohesive game all the way from our back end to our forwards and that’s what we did.”

Kennedy Marchment extended her point-streak to 20 when she put Connecticut on the board in the first period, taking advantage of a turnover at the blue line created by Taylor Girard and ripping a shot glove side from her off-wing at 15:46. Girard scored her third goal in two games at 7:44 of the middle frame between both Howard markers. It was also the Whale’s third power play goal of the series.

“We need to play with a little bit more confidence and urgency,” Marchment said. “We’re a really good team when we play our game and our style which is being hard to play against. I think right now we’re just gripping our sticks too tight, maybe a little nervous, but game three is anybody’s game. I think we still haven’t played our best hockey yet in this series, so that’s something we’re really going to try and focus on for game three. I think we had a lot of chances, myself personally had two really good chances that need to go to the back of the net.”

Stopping those Whale chances was Elaine Chuli who earned her first career playoff win in her fourth appearance with a 23-save performance. Abbie Ives made 26 saves at the other end including three in overtime.

“I think they (T6) came out with some desperation and played a good game today as well, you have to credit what they did here and how they were able to come out and stay with it,” said Whale head coach Colton Orr. “We needed some killer instinct to put them away when we went up 1-0. We need to stick with our game plan, we have a tendency to get away from it and get complacent sometimes. She (Chuli) played well and is a big part of their team and success. She’s a goalie that can steal a game and I think she did that here today. We’ve had our opportunities on her and when we get those chances we need to bear down, especially in the playoffs here.”

This was the sixth meeting of the season between the two teams who have now won three games apiece, with neither team winning twice in consecutive days. Connecticut has converted on a third of their nine power play opportunities so far in this series and have denied all five of Toronto’s chances with the advantage.

Monday’s puck drop is at 6:00 p.m. ET and can be seen live on ESPN+ and across Canada on TSN2. It will be the first playoff game three since the Whale lost to the Beauts in the inaugural 2015-16 semifinal.

Cover photo by Lori Bolliger