PHOTO BY MICHELLE JAY
In the biggest game of the 2018-19 NWHL regular season to date, a goal by Jonna Curtis with just 1:42 remaining in the third period gave the Minnesota Whitecaps a monumental 2-1 victory over the Boston Pride.
As a result, if they defeat the Connecticut Whale on Sunday, the Whitecaps will host one of the Isobel Cup semifinal games next weekend.
"I'm proud of how we played," said Pride defender Lexi Bender. "The puck didn't bounce our way tonight, but we'll be ready wherever we play in the playoffs."
The intense battle was played before the third consecutive sellout crowd at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston. Through two periods, it was a brilliant goaltending duel between Katie Burt of Boston and Amanda Leveille of Minnesota. Despite several sterling goal-scoring opportunities by both teams, all-star Burt and Leveille kept their opponents off the scoreboard.
U.S. Olympian and former Northeastern star Kendall Coyne Schofield opened the scoring at 5:35 of the third period for Minnesota with a brilliant solo effort.
Boston’s Haley Skarupa tied the game just three minutes later on a power play goal off perfect passing from Bender and Alyssa Gagliardi.
But Curtis, the Whitecaps’ leading goal scorer and one of the breakout stars in the NWHL this season, broke Boston’s heart with the late goal.
Final seeding for the playoffs all comes down to tomorrow, the last day of the regular season, as Minnesota plays at Connecticut and Buffalo visits the Riveters.
"We'll find out Sunday night who we play in the Isobel Cup Playoffs, and then we're going to have a couple very important practices to prepare," said Pride forward Mary Parker. "I believe in our team."
The NWHL Play-In Game between the Riveters and Whale will be played this Wednesday or Thursday. The two semifinals, to determine who plays in the Isobel Cup Final, will be next weekend on March 9 or 10. The playoff game schedule for the week will be announced by Monday morning.
But make no mistake, Curtis’s late heroics has put Minnesota in the driver’s seat to host an Isobel Cup semifinal game next week at TRIA Rink in Saint Paul.
The game marked DIFD Night, bringing awareness to youth mental health. Both teams wore special jerseys for warmups, which will be auctioned off. [PHOTO BY MICHELLE JAY]