PHOTO BY BRYAN JOHNSON
The Minnesota Whitecaps made history on Sunday, taking a 4-1 win over the Connecticut Whale at Terry Conners Rink to earn the regular-season title in their inaugural NWHL season.
As a result, the Whitecaps have clinched home ice for the Isobel Cup Playoffs and will host the winner of the Metropolitan Riveters vs. Connecticut Whale play-in game at 1:30 PM CT on Sunday, March 10. The play-in game will be Thursday, March 7 at 7 PM ET at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House. Playoff tickets go on sale Monday at 12 PM ET.
Lauren Barnes led the charge with a pair of goals for Minnesota, the first of her career, while Amanda Boulier picked up a pair of assists. In her second appearance in net for the Whale, Boston University alum Erin O'Neil had a standout performance, stopping 30 of 33 shots.
Minnesota generated a number of good looks on a power play midway through the first period, but O’Neil made a sprawling save amidst a scramble in front and another chance rang off the crossbar.
Barnes netted her first of the afternoon 4:17 into the second, burying a rebound after a flurry in front of O’Neil.
The Whale cut the deficit to one at 16:03, with Katerina Mrazova sending a puck from behind the net to Emily Fluke, who fired into the left side.
But Minnesota regained its two-goal lead before the period expired, with Barnes getting her second of the day with eight seconds remaining in the frame, capitalizing on another hectic play in front.
With home ice for the play-in game on the line, the Whale pushed to generate offense in the third, putting 10 shots on goal, but were unable to find the back of the net.
Kendall Coyne Schofield then iced the game for Minnesota, firing into the empty net with 1:01 to go.
The regular-season title caps an incredible regular-season for the Whitecaps in their first NWHL season, including beginning the campaign on a six-game win streak and ending it with five straight wins.