For the second straight season, the team that won the Premier Hockey Federation’s Isobel Cup championship knocked the Connecticut Whale out of the playoffs.
A year ago, the Boston Pride beat the Whale in the Isobel Cup finals, 4-2 to win their second straight championship. A week ago, the Toronto Six beat the Whale, 3-2 in overtime to win the best-of-3 PHF semifinal series by a 2-1 margin.
On Sunday night, the Six won their first PHF championship with another overtime goal. Toronto’s Tereza Vanišová scored the winning goal at 4:23 of the OT session to lift the Six to a 4-3 victory over the upstart Minnesota Pride in front an estimated 1,500 fans at Arizona State University in Temple, Arizona, home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.
Minnesota, the No. 4 seed in the four-team playoffs, had lost eight straight games to close out the regular season. But the Whitecaps had a stunning 2-0 sweep of top-seeded Boston in the semfinals and tied Sunday’s championship game twice. Minnesota had a one-goal lead early in the third period.
But the Six, the first Canadian-based team to win the Isobel Cup, wouldn’t be denied. Tied at 3-3 after regulation, Toronto’s aggressiveness paid off in overtime.
“I forechecked, got the puck and went straight to the net and shot high on her where I saw it was open,” Vanišová said of the cup-winning goal. She won the Isobel Cup for the third straight season. She spent the past two seasons in Boston. “We have an amazing group of girls,” she said.
Michela Cava was named Most Valuable Player of the Isobel Cup playoffs with six points including three goals and three assists in four games. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native led the Six offense with two assists in the final.
Cava sent a backhand pass into the slot for Dominika Lásková who buried the game’s opening goal at 7:22 of the first period. With the score tied 1-1 midway through the second, Toronto took advantage of a Minnesota miscue behind the net and Emma Woods fed Breanne Wilson-Bennett in front for a tap in goal.
Trailing 3-2 in the third, Cava capitalized on a turnover in the offensive zone and created a chance finished by Taylor Woods who netted the equalizer at 7:56. All four Toronto goal scorers in the final produced their first tallies of the postseason. It was also the team’s second overtime win of the playoffs.
“We’ve been down in certain games and we’ve always been able to come back,” Toronto head coach Geraldine Heaney said. “This team never gives up and always believed in each other. They wanted to win and they would do whatever it takes to win. It’s going to be great to bring the cup home to Toronto and go out and share it with the community and promote the game that’ll give the young girls in Toronto something to dream about as well.”
Brittyn Fleming tied the game for Minnesota with her second playoff goal at 4:02 of the second period. Brooke Madsen’s first at 16:06 evened the score once again making it 2-2 after 40 minutes. Jonna Albers got her fifth goal in three games on the power play just 20 seconds into the final frame to give the Whitecaps the lead.
“We came and showed what the Whitecaps can do and they played incredible in the playoffs,” said Whitecaps head coach Ronda Engelhardt. “The resilience of the team and coming back. We reset for the playoffs. This game could have gone either way. It’s frustrating being on this end but very proud of the team and how hard they fought to get here. We came out and played together.”
Added Heaney, “I said to them that the sun will shine on Monday and it’ll be a lot brighter if we win.”
The game was broadcast nationally on ESPN2 and in Canada on TSN.
Paul Krotz of the PHF Communications contributed to this report
Isobel Cup championships
2023: Toronto 4, Minnesota 3, OT
2022: Boston 4, Connecticut 2
2021: Boston 4, Minnesota 3
2020: Boston vs. Minnesota, cancelled, COVID-19 pandemic
2019: Minnesota 2, Buffalo 1 OT
2018: Metropolitan 1, Buffalo 0
2017: Buffalo 3, Boston 2
2016: Boston 2, Buffalo 0 (4-3, OT, 3-1)