Richards and Leveille lead Whitecaps to semi-final victory over Whale

Michelle Jay / NWHL

BOSTON, Mass. — Audra Richards scored a hat trick and Amanda Leveille made 44 saves in a 7-0 win over the Connecticut Whale at Warrior Arena on Saturday to claim a ticket to the Isobel Cup championship.

The defending 2019 Isobel Cup champions will face the Boston Pride in a rematch of what should have been the 2020 final that was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“We played probably our best game of the year overall from start to finish,” said Whitecaps Co-Head Coach Jack Brodt. “Tomorrow’s another day — we’ll see what happens, but we’re glad to be in the championship and we’re going to do the best we can to bring the Isobel Cup back to Minnesota.”

Richards added her first two goals in the second period, and closed the scoring in the third period with her third goal, recording her fourth for the season.

Leveille’s seventh career shutout earned her BladeTech Hockey Peak Performance of the Game.

Last season’s co-MVP Allie Thunstrom had two goals of her own after not scoring yet in the 2020-2021 season. Her first was made on a breakaway to put Minnesota up 2-0 before giving the Whitecaps the 6-0 lead in the third period. It might be safe to say she is back to full strength after recovering from her knee injury.

Haylea Shmid and Haley Mack also scored for the Whitecaps, contributing to Minnesota’s now 3-1 season record.

Connecticut’s Kayla Friesen came close to tying the game 1-1 early in the first period, but the officials waved it as the puck did not cross the line.

It was all downhill from there for the Whale, who outshot the Whitecaps 44-21 but just did not have luck on their side.

Assistant Coach Laura Brennan stepped in as head coach for Connecticut with a day’s notice after Colton Orr couldn’t make the trip to Boston due to NWHL’s COVID-19 protocols.

“I think we showed a lot of resiliency in the bubble, and even tonight,” said Brennan. “The way we battle out there, we don’t give up, we’re competing with every team in the league, our team has improved a lot in the past year and we look to improve moving forward and we’ll come back even stronger next season.”

This was Connecticut’s first matchup against Minnesota this season. Before coming to the semi-finals in Boston, the green and blue were 2-2 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The Whitecaps and the Boston Pride face off for the Isobel Cup at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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