Two tight games with plenty of scoring have brought the Toronto Six and Connecticut Whale each to the verge of an Isobel Cup appearance. Who will finish?
On Friday, the Toronto Six faced off against the Connecticut Whale in their first matchup of the best-of-3 semi-finals. With an evenly matched regular season where they split the series 2-2, both teams were hungry for a win in their quests for a first Isobel Cup.
The Whale took an early lead and maintained it throughout most of the game, but the Six made a valiant effort to rally back towards the end. However, it wasn’t enough to secure a win and the Whale took a 1-0 series lead with a 5-3 win.
The Connecticut Whale got out to a quick start
After back-and-forth action in the first period, Justine Reyes opened up the scoring at 14:24 with a one-timer on the power play, giving the Whale a 1-0 lead. Less than a minute later, Allie Monroe sent a pass off the faceoff to Melissa Samsoskewich, who scored to double the Whale lead.
“I thought our start was great, I thought we were ready to go,” said Whale coach Colton Orr.
With a little over two minutes left in the period, Toronto Six forward Emma Woods went five-hole to cut the Whale lead in half.
Shots were 16-6 Connecticut as they lead 2-1 after the opening frame.
The Toronto Six fought back but couldn’t break through
The Six’s late first-period goal gave them momentum early in the second period as they dominated most of the play, but failed to capitalize on countless opportunities.
The Whale went into the third period leading 3-1, with a minute left in the hooking penalty from Alyssa Wohlfeiler to kill.
The third period went Connecticut’s way
25 seconds in, Taylor Girard scored shorthanded off a 2-on-1 to give Connecticut a 3-goal lead.
“Scoring shorthanded is huge and no one really expects you to do it, so it’s nice to go out there knowing that Toronto really needs to get this goal right here, but then we score—it’s a great feeling,” said Girard.
When asked about the attack mentality of the Whale’s penalty kill, Orr stated that “we’ve got the skill, we’ve got the speed and we like to try to take advantage…we don’t like for power plays to be comfortable.”
However, the Six didn’t let that get them down as just over a minute later, forward Michela Cava scored even-strength to cut the Whale lead down to 2.
Describing what she saw on the goal, Cava said “it was just a good shot and then a rebound off the back wall, I saw that the goalie was out of position…so I just tried to put it to the net and it luckily went off the back of her leg and in.”
Not long after, Cava scored her second goal of the match to make it a one-goal game and maintain the Six’s momentum.
“We outplayed them probably three-quarters of that third period and were all over them…they couldn’t keep up with us,” said Six coach Geraldine Heaney.
Toronto desperately pushed to try and to the game, but Girard sealed the win for Connecticut with an empty net goal and her second of the game.
“Those goals aren’t going in without Kennedy [Marchment] battling and getting those amazing passes over to me,” said Girard.
Marchment finished second in goals and assists in the regular season and had two points (2 A) in the game.
After the game, Heaney pointed out that Toronto “got off to a very slow start and were trying to play catch up throughout the game.”
Despite playing from behind the entire game, the Six remained relentless as Cava mentioned that they “got them on their heels…and tried to get everything to the net.” Toronto outshot Connecticut 10-7 in the third period.
It was clear that Connecticut came into the game prepared as Girard, player of the game, stated that “we came in with a good mindset, just trusting each other and battling for one another.”
“This group has grown a lot throughout the season and faced a lot of adversity…early on in the year, 4-1 going to 4-3 like that—I don’t know if we hold on,” Orr added.
While Connecticut secured a narrow victory, the Six demonstrated their resilience and ability to compete regardless of the score. They followed that up with a 3-2 overtime win on Saturday to keep their championship hopes alive.
As the two teams prepare to face off in Game 3, it’s anyone’s game, and both the Whale and the Six will be looking to emerge victorious and claim their spot in the Isobel Cup final.