Much of the hype that would have surrounded Monday’s night contest between Boston and Buffalo evaporated right before they took the ice.
Minnesota and Connecticut, scheduled to play earlier Monday evening, had their game postponed moments before it began. Minnesota had taken the ice for warmups, but the Whale never arrived at the rink. Sources in Lake Placid told Sportsnet the Whale, who reportedly had a positive COVID-19 test last week, all tested negative.
Right before puck drop between the Pride and Beauts, the league announced Connecticut had requested to forfeit and withdraw from the tournament.
That took away all the drama from the would-have-been elimination game between Boston and Buffalo, after the Pride fought back from a hole to tie the series with a 6-0 win on Sunday afternoon.
The Pride, who came alive yesterday in the second game of their mini series with the Beauts, went on another offensive rampage to secure the third seed.
It all aligns for a Thursday semi-final where the Pride will face Minnesota — the team they should have faced in the Isobel Cup last March if not for the pandemic — and Buffalo will face the top-seeded, red-hot Toronto Six.
Another weird day in Lake Placid wrapped up with still more questions than answers, but the semi-finals, for now, is set to go between the four remaining teams.
Boston 7 (3-4-0), Buffalo 1 (1-4-1)
BOS: Sammy Davis (2), Jillian Dempsey, Meghara McManus, Meghan Rickard, Lexie Laing, Mallory Souliotis
BUF: Kristen Lewicki
Key takeaway — The Pride have their swagger back: Last season when the Pride won, they rarely let teams hang around for too long.
One of the biggest on-ice surprises in Lake Placid had been Boston’s inability to extend leads, a hallmark of their soul crushing 23-1 season a year ago.
Something clicked when their backs were against the wall on Sunday and they laid a thrashing on their rival. Whatever came alive in them against the Beauts then was on display on Monday as well.
Some of it is probably the rookies getting their legs under them and getting used to the competition. Another element is probably the condensed season just allows for way too short of a sample size early.
Jillian Dempsey is playing banged up and still managed to find the scoreboard and went 15-2 at the faceoff dot. The Pride won 80 percent of the faceoffs overall.
Their best players have been their best players, moreso the deeper they get into the tournament.
Kaleigh Fratkin, last year’s defender of the year, leads the team with 10 assists in seven games played. Lovisa Selander, despite losing three consecutive contests, has a save percentage of .946.
Mallory Souliotis, fresh off a two-goal performance the day prior, found the back of the net for the sixth Pride tally to continue the offensive push from the blue line.
It took them a while, but the Pride have arrived — and that’s scary for everyone else.
Player of the game — Sammy Davis: It’s the Sammy Davis show.
Davis broke out in Saturday’s 6-0 win over the Beauts, playing with Lexie Laing and Tori Sullivan compared to the rookie line that head coach Paul Mara rolled out earlier in the season.
Her snipe past Buffalo’s Carly Jackson on Saturday was arguably one of the best shots of the whole tournament. She doubled up her production on Monday’s elimination-game-that-wasn’t.
Davis added four shots on goal and doubled her overall tournament scoring pace, now with four goals in her rookie season.
The 2020 first overall pick started buzzing around the ice after a couple of games, but her elevation to playing with two veterans on her line has seemed to spark something else in her entirely.
Jenna Rheault, who broke her wrist following the first game of the season, dressed for the Pride and sat on the bench but didn’t skate a shift. She did serve a Boston bench penalty in the second period.
Victoria Hanson relieved Selander in the third period after she played eight consecutive periods over the course of the past three days.
What’s next: Boston will meet up with Minnesota in the semi-final on Thursday, a rematch of the Isobel Cup that never was.
It’s also a rematch of the first game of the season for both clubs, when the Whitecaps came from behind to beat the Pride 2-1. Since then, Boston is a much different team, and the Whitecaps are coming off a loss to Toronto on Saturday with plenty of time to rest.
The Beauts will face their cross-border rival Toronto Six in the semi-final. The Six have won four in a row in their path to being the top playoff seed in their first season of play.
Buffalo has just one win, the first coming on Saturday in its series with the Pride. Jackson started all three games of the series, and will likely be back in net again Thursday after two days of rest.