Win Moves Whitecaps Closer to Home-Ice for Isobel Cup Semifinal
The Minnesota Whitecaps appear destined to join the Boston Pride as the host teams in the Isobel Cup Semifinals.
With their 7-0 victory on Sunday over Connecticut before a near-capacity crowd at TRIA Rink, the Whitecaps improved to 12-4-2 with six games left in their regular season. Although the third-place Riveters - surging at 6-3-1 in their last 10 - have two games in hand on the Whitecaps (one tomorrow in Boston), there may be just too much distance to catch up.
"It's hugely important we keep pushing to earn home-ice advantage," said Whitecaps center Lauren Barnes. "Our fans are hands-down the best in the league. Hopefully, we will get home-ice, and get a sold-out crowd, and have our fans behind us."
They're moving closer to it being a reality. Minnesota completed the sweep of the Whale on Sunday behind a fast start, the heroics of star forwards Jonna Curtis and Allie Thunstrom, team defense and the usual stellar goaltending of Amanda Leveille.
"We're really clicking the last few weeks," said Curtis. "The chemistry is coming together after just an okay start to the season. The Whale came at us hard physically today, but we were ready, kept our composure, and played a strong game."
Haylea Schmid scored just 1:44 into the game, and Curtis added a power goal at 12:40 to give the Whitecaps a 2-0 lead after the first period. Early goals in the second period goals by Meaghan Pezon and Allie Thunstrom - both assisted by Curtis - ended the afternoon for starting Connecticut goaltender Sonjia Shelly. She was replaced by Saturday's starter, Brooke Wolejko.
Thunstrom, Lauren Barnes and Nicole Schammel scored in the third period for Minnesota, while Leveille closed the door for the shutout.
"We had some games early in the season on the second games of back-to-backs, so we've made an effort to improve there," said Thunstrom. "Our focus was really good today and we finished most of our scoring chances."
As a result, the Whitecaps have put themselves in position to play a big game in March before the passionate fans of the State of Hockey.
Like last season, the NWHL's fifth-place and fourth-place teams will compete in the Isobel Cup play-in game to determine who plays the first-place team on the road. Boston has already clinched hosting one semifinal.
Although there is more hockey to be played, the other semifinal game could be at the home of the defending Cup champion Whitecaps - TRIA Rink in Saint Paul. Isobel Cup Semifinals weekend is expected to be March 7-8.
Next up for the Whitecaps? Back-to-back home games next weekend against...the Boston Pride. Tickets for those games are available at whitecaps.nwhl.zone/tickets and fans can watch the action streaming from any device with internet access on the NWHL on Twitch.
"Boston is a phenomenal team from their goaltender out," said Leveille. "We'll watch the game film from when we played them last time, when we were pretty good but didn't play a full 60 minutes like we did this weekend against the Whale. We will be ready."
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National Women's Hockey League Stories from January 19, 2020
- Win Moves Whitecaps Closer to Home-Ice for Isobel Cup Semifinal - Minnesota Whitecaps
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