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Whale blank Whitecaps for fifth straight win, clinch No. 3 seed

Whale goalie Abby Ives stopped 25 shots to earn her third shutout and her tenth win of the season Saturday as Connecticut beat Minnesota, 3-0.

The Connecticut Whale scored twice in the third period and scored their league-leading eighth shorthanded goal of the season to beat the Minnesota Whitecaps, 3-0 on Saturday night in Premier Hockey Federation action.

Connecticut (13-8-2) won their fifth straight game and clinched the No. 3 seed for next weekend’s PHF playoffs. The Whale will travel to face No. 2 Toronto in a best-of-3 semifinal series beginning on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on the site of the old Maple Leaf Gardens.

Goalie Abbie Ives won her fourth straight game, making 25 saves to earn her tenth win and her third shutout of the season.

The Whale took a 1-0 lead late in the second period when current league MVP Kennedy Marchment tipped in a pass from Taylor Girard past Whitecaps goalie Amanda Leveille with 1:37 remaining in the period.

For Marchment, it was her team-leading 17th goal of the season and she extended her PHF-record streak with at least one point in a game to 17 games. For Girard, it was her team-leading 18th assist of the season and she has scored at least one point in the last six games and eight of the last nine contests.

Minnesota (10-10-3) was hoping to even the score when the Whale took a penalty earn in the third period. But Connecticut once again scored a shorthanded goal when Katerina Mrazova popped in a pass from Caitlin Lonergan for a 2-0 lead with 16:26 remaining in the game.

Lonergan intercepted a Whitecaps pass and drove to the net. Her initial shot was deflected away by Leveille and Lonergan took the puck behind the net, came around to the front and found Mrazova alone and ready for the puck on her stick.

Lonergan has five goals and three assists for the Whale in the last seven games. She has 10 goals on the season. The rookie from Clarkson University is tied for third on the Whale in scoring with 18 points in 23 games and is ranked fourth in the league in scoring among rookies.

Lenka Serdar added a third goal with 3:36 remaining for the final tally of the evening.

Minnesota activated Leveille from long-term injury reserve this week. The Whitecaps were looking for their first win since Leveille was on the ice against Montreal on Feb. 6. She had won nine of her previous 15 starts coming into Saturday’s action.

Connecticut closes out the regular season on Sunday with a 2 p.m. contest with the Whitecaps.

Toronto dropped a 4-2 decision to the two-time defending Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride on Saturday as the Pride clinched the top seed in the PHF playoffs. Boston will host Minnesota in the other best-of-3 semifinal beginning on Thursday night at Bentley College.

Connecticut 3, Minnesota 0
At Richfield, Minnesota

Connecticut (13-8-2)              0  1  2  — 3
Minnesota (10-10-3)              0  0  0  — 0
First period
No scoring. No penalties
Second period
Connecticut 1, Kennedy Marchment (Taylor Girard), 18:23; Penalties – Stephanie Anderson (M) tripping; Hannah Bates (CT) slashing, 6:07
Third period
Connecticut 2, Katerina Mrazova (Caitrin Lonergan) 3:26 (SH); Connecticut 3, Lenka Serdar (Alyssa Wohlfeilder, Tori Howran), 16:24; Penalties – Lenka Serdar (CT) tripping, 2:29; Shannon Turner (CT) tripping, 9:02
Saves – Abbie Ives (CT) 25, Amanda Leveille (M) 37; Shots: Connecticut 40 (16-14-10), Minnesota 25 (5-7-13); Power play: Minnesota 0-3, Connecticut 0-1

2023 PHF playoffs
Semifinals (best-of-3)
Thursday, March 16
Minnesota at Boston (Bentley College), 7 p.m.
Friday March 17
Connecticut at Toronto, 3 p.m.
Saturday, March 18
Connecticut at Toronto, 2 p.m.
Minnesota at Boston (Bentley College), 6 p.m.
Sunday, March 19
Minnesota at Boston (Bentley College), 6 p.m., if necessary
Monday, March 20
Connecticut at Toronto, 6 p.m., if necessary
Sunday, March 26
Isobel Cup championship

Two semifinal winners, 9 p.m. at Arizona State University

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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