An elimination Sunday becomes an elimination Monday in the NWHL.
Boston survived another day to face Buffalo in a winner-take-all third contest in their series ahead of Thursday’s Isobel Cup semi-finals, posting six goals in a definitive win.
The Toronto Six won their fourth straight contest with an equally impressive thrashing of Connecticut to clinch the top seed in the semi-finals.
Lots of goals were scored and they all came from two of the four teams, as each club heads into the final day of the tournament before the semi-finals tomorrow.
Boston 6 (2-3-0) Buffalo 0 (1-4-0)
BOS: Mallory Souliotis (2), Lauren Kelly,
Meghara McManus, Sammy Davis, McKenna Brand
Key takeaway — Mara makes the right moves: Something’s been off with the vibe for Boston. The 2019-20 version of the team, the team that made the Isobel Cup final, would demoralize opponents by piling on.
Then, they blew three 1-0 games and lost them all.
Sunday looked like the previous version.
McKenna Brand’s goal off a funky bounce from the end boards made it 2-0 late in the second, then a snipe from Sammy Davis extended Boston’s lead to 3-0 with four seconds left in the period — and the floodgates were wide open.
It’s no coincidence the Pride woke up when facing elimination, and it’s no coincidence everything looked more like Pride hockey on Sunday.
Head coach Paul Mara shook things up, placing Davis, a rookie, on the wing with veterans Lexie Laing and Tori Sullivan, and it seemed to give Davis more room to work on offense and play a more confident game.
Davis has been sharp her past few games, as Mara noted postgame, but she seemed to have more room to work with throughout the game with Buffalo. Her shot at the end of the second period rifled past Carly Jackson, who had been stellar throughout the tournament.
Player of the game — Mallory Souliotis: As the Pride defense goes, their offense goes. When they succeed on offense it’s coming straight from the blue line.
Lauren Kelly scored the lone goal in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Beauts. On Sunday, Souliotis opened the scoring, and continued buzzing all over the ice in her strongest game of the tournament.
Souliotis notched another one later, after Kelly nabbed her second tally of the season, with the blue line contributing half of the Pride’s goals.
Souliotis led the team with eight shots on goal, while Kelly blocked three shots.
That looks a lot more like the functioning Pride offense viewers have gotten used to over the years.
What’s next: These two teams will face off in a Game 3 tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. ET in a winner-take-all game to advance to the semi-finals as the fourth seed.
Beauts goalie Carly Jackson has already started back-to-back games, but sat out the majority of the third period. Head coach Pete Perram said after the game she would start again tomorrow.
Lovisa Selander nailed down her first win of the tournament on Sunday, saving 36 shots in the shutout. Victoria Hanson won her only contest, a victory over Buffalo last week, and the Pride wouldn’t hesitate to play her in a big spot.
Three straight games is a lot, but Selander has been Boston’s top goalie since last season. That decision has a lot riding on it.
Toronto (4-1-1) 6, Connecticut (2-2-0) 0
TOR: Taylor Woods, Sarah-Eve Coutu Godbout,
Mackenzie MacNeil (2), Taytum Clairmont, Mikyla Grant-Mentis
Key takeaway — The Six are No. 1: It’s not unusual for expansion clubs to succeed in the NWHL. Minnesota did it behind a group of veterans from its days as an independent club, and now the Six, on the backs of CWHL and former European league pros, are closing in on glory themselves.
Toronto got one step closer to its Isobel Cup dreams on Sunday with a 6-0 win over Connecticut to earn the top seed in the Isobel Cup semi-finals. They’ll take on tomorrow’s winner between Boston and Buffalo on Thursday.
Grant-Mentis continued her coming out tour across the league with a deke past Whale goalie Mariah Fujimagari in the third period for the Six’s, well, sixth goal, now leading the league with five tallies.
Given how hot the Whale had been entering Sunday night, it makes the Six explosion that much more impressive. Connecticut won its previous two, including an emotional come-from-behind win over Boston on Wednesday, and has had a ton of zest after years at the bottom of the league standings.
Toronto, though, has just beaten Buffalo, Boston (the reigning champions) and Minnesota, as well as the red-hot Whale in three consecutive contests. It’s safe to say the top seed was earned.
Player of the game — Sarah-Eve Coutu Godbout: Coutu Godbout started to break out against the Whitecaps on Saturday, and she was one of the best players on the ice against the Whale.
She tipped in Amy Curlew’s backhanded shot in the second period to give the Six their first goal, and led the game with nine shot attempts, seven of which were on net.
Coutu Godbout was the leader, but the Six offense was all over the ice, with depth coming from all four lines while star rookie Brooke Boquist has missed time.
In addition to Coutu Godbout and Grant-Mentis continuing their push, Mackenzie MacNeil scored her first two career goals and Taytum Clairmont welcomed Fujimagari — who relieved rookie goalie Abbie Ives in the third — with a goal from the doorstep.
Coutu Godbout’s second and Grant-Mentis’ first were scored 23 seconds apart in the third frame. Grant-Mentis, who has already been mentioned plenty, is cementing herself as one of the best — if not the best — offensive players in the entire league.
The Six has quite the momentum heading into the single-elimination postseason, looking to win six straight games to take it all.
What’s next: Toronto won’t play again until Thursday, when the Isobel Cup semi-finals kick off. It’s well-earned rest for a club that has exclusively played back-to-backs since the season began.
The Whale will complete round-robin play against Minnesota on Monday in a preview of their semi-final game, competing for seeding.
Janine Weber, one of the original players in the league, was injured in the third period and needed help coming off the ice. If the Whale are without her going forward, it would be a huge blow. They added four players to their roster on Sunday prior to their contest.