History Will Be Made in Friday's Isobel Cup Final
By Mike Murphy
The 2020 Isobel Cup Final between the 2019-20 regular season champion Boston Pride and the 2019 Isobel Cup Champion Minnesota Whitecaps takes place on Friday, Mar. 13 at 7:15 p.m. ET at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston, MA.
This year’s final is the culmination of the NWHL’s fifth season. Regardless of the outcome, we will see a team lift its second Cup for the first time in history. The Whitecaps hope to repeat after defeating the Buffalo Beauts in the 2019 Isobel Cup Final, while the Pride have their sights set on drinking from the Cup for the first time since the first final back in 2016.
The Pride earned home-ice advantage for this winner-takes-all game after going 23-1-0 in the regular season. That solitary loss on Boston’s record was a blemish provided by the Whitecaps on Jan. 25 thanks to a last-minute goal scored by co-MVP Allie Thunstrom. Neither team has forgotten that moment in their march to the final.
Thunstrom scored an even bigger goal in the Isobel Cup Semifinal on Sunday. She broke a 0-0 tie 6:39 into overtime against the Riveters punch the Whitecaps' ticket to their second consecutive Isobel Cup Final appearance. On that same day, the Pride defeated the Whale 5-1 in their semifinal, piling up three goals in the third period. Fittingly enough, Boston’s captain and the co-MVP of the 2019-20 season Jillian Dempsey scored the game-winning goal in the second period of that game moments after the Whale tied the game.
The Pride won three of their four regular season meetings with the Whitecaps and remain undefeated at Warrior Ice Arena this season. But all that goes out the window once the puck drops on Friday night. The only thing that will matter will be which team scores more goals, and these two teams have all the firepower, swagger and skill we need for an unforgettable Cup Final.
Both teams have elite goaltending, an intimidating amount of scoring depth and defenders who are dangerous with the puck. Boston is led by Dempsey, McKenna Brand, 2020 Defender of the Year Kaleigh Fratkin and 2020 Goaltender of the Year Lovisa Selander; the Whitecaps are led by Thunstrom, the NWHL’s highest-scoring defender Amanda Boulier, 2018 Newcomer of the Year Jonna Curtis and two-time Isobel Cup winner and the NWHL’s all-time leader in wins Amanda Leveille. And that list accounts for just some of the All-Stars on these two teams.
Players to Watch
Allie Thunstrom scored four goals, picked up an assist and put 23 shots on net in four games against the Pride this season. So, the Pride know all about what the Boston College alumna is capable of. She also scored a staggering 24 goals in 24 games, setting a new NWHL single-season record.
Boston simply can’t afford to let her get behind their defense with any amount of daylight between her and Selander. Thunstrom has game-breaking speed, as she proved at the 2020 NWHL All-Star Skills Challenge in the very building that will host Friday’s final. She led all Whitecaps’ forwards in penalties drawn (9) in the regular season and four of her 24 goals were unassisted. One way or another, her speed will shape the outcome of the Isobel Cup Final.
It’s hard to believe, but Friday will be Kaleigh Fratkin’s first trip to the Isobel Cup Final and she has no plans on losing. Arguably the most-decorated defender in NWHL history, Fratkin had a huge game for Boston against the Whale in Sunday’s semifinal. She picked up two assists and iced the game with an empty-net goal in addition to blocking two shots.
Fratkin had one of her three three-point games in the regular season against the Whitecaps on Oct. 26, 2019. Her speed and ability to join the rush will be essential to the Pride’s success just as it has been all season. If Boston goes on the power play, watch for Fratkin to run the top unit from the point.
“We’ve only played [Minnesota] four times this year and they have an amazing team with some really lethal hockey players – some unreal hockey players,” Fratkin said on Monday’s episode of NWHL Open Ice on Twitch. “We can only really focus on ourselves at this point … For us it’s about coming out and playing good, sound hockey game and coming out on top first.”
Photo Credit: Collin Nawrocki, Michelle Jay, Kate Frese