Boston Pride defeat Minnesota Whitecaps to become 2021 Isobel Cup champions

Photo: Michelle Jay / NWHL

BOSTON, Mass. — The Boston Pride are the 2021 Isobel Cup champions after a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Whitecaps in Saturday’s final at Warrior Ice Arena.

After winning the Cup in the NWHL’s inaugural season in 2016, the Pride are the first team to win the Isobel Cup twice. Last season’s co-MVP Jillian Dempsey is the only player to be a part of both Boston’s championship teams.

Fittingly, Dempsey contributed to the scoring for the Pride with a high-corner goal from the left circle in the offensive zone late in the second period to help Boston to their first lead of the night at 2-1.

“I guess I was in one of my sweet spots, I like shooting from that spot,” Dempsey said of her goal to reporters post-game. “Everybody went out there and did their job and owned their role and battled hard one shift at a time and that was just our mindset and focus going forward. So you know, proud of this whole group.”

Mary Parker buried the Pride’s first goal early in the second period after a backhanded pass from Tereza Vanisova and then forcing her way through heavy traffic in front of the net where she snuck the puck past Minnesota goaltender Amanda Leveille.

Lexie Laing put the Pride up to three unanswered goals, thanks to an assist across the net from Christina Putigna during a five-on-three power play for Boston.

The Pride lost some momentum in the third period after the Whitecaps scored their second to make it a one-goal game at 3-2, but once Boston had a power play Taylor Wenczkowski made sure to put in a fourth goal for the yellow and black.

Boston ended last season undefeated for all except one game, which was against the Minnesota Whitecaps. Both teams, who were supposed to play each other in the 2020 Isobel Cup final, came into the 2021 season as the favourites. The Pride had a shaky start to their time in Lake Placid, N.Y., but came away with 13 goals in their final two games heading into the playoffs, initiating the momentum they needed to get to their Cup victory.

Pride Head Coach Paul Mara, who played in the NHL, said the 2021 Isobel Cup was one of his favourite victories.

“Working with these ladies for the last three years, they deserve everything,” said Mara. “For me to watch them grow and watch them improve and watch how hard they work and the dedication they put in is, you know, second to none.”

Minnesota’s Allie Thunstrom was the first to open the scoring in the game. There was no stopping the 2019-2020 co-MVP when she decided to use her speed to carry the puck into Boston’s end and score her third goal in two nights.

“To score first and get that momentum going was helpful and I think even going into the second period we came out strong,” said Whitecaps Co-Head Coach Ronda Engelhardt. “We had a couple of really good chances that we didn’t capitalize on and then they start scoring and that’s where we needed to reset and that’s where we kept fighting.”

The Pride got another big chance at a goal when Minnesota’s Amanda Boulier was called for covering the puck in her team’s crease, but Leveille stopped Tori Sullivan’s penalty shot with her toe. Minnesota answered in the next play with a second goal from Allie Thunstrom.

Audra Richards scored the third for Minnesota in the final 19 seconds while on a power play, recording her fourth in two days to lead the league in playoff goals.

Despite Boston being down 1-0 in the beginning and being pinned to their own end more often than they would have liked, the Pride outshot the Whitecaps 8-7 through the first period. Leveille stayed strong in net to record her fourth consecutive shutout period.

Boston goaltender Lovisa Selander kept her composure and only got more comfortable as the game went on, setting the tone for the rest of her team, who took more control of the game in the second period and continued to outshoot the Whitecaps.

It wasn’t until late in the second period that the first penalty was called. Minnesota’s Haylea Schmid went to the box, only to have too many players on the ice less than a minute later, which put Boston on a five-on-three power play that resulted in Laing’s goal that put Boston up 3-1.

Energy was high for both teams in the third period, as Minnesota believed in their chance to make a comeback and Boston did their best to lock things down. The officials called a major penalty on the Pride late in the third, resulting in a five-minute power play for the Whitecaps, but Boston was adamant that their hands would lift that Isobel Cup.

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