Pride rely on veterans to lead the way to second Isobel Cup title

The Boston Pride gather for a photo with the NWHL's Isobel Cup after beating the Minnesota Whitecaps. (Michelle Jay/NWHL)

Perhaps the wait was worth it.

A year after they should have met in the same place, the Boston Pride hoisted the Isobel Cup with a thrilling 4-3 win over the Minnesota Whitecaps.

Minnesota jumped out first before the Pride scored three straight, then a Whitecaps goal following a Boston penalty shot made it close. Taylor Wenczkowski scored on a late power play to put Boston up by two, and they needed it.

“They go down and score 20 seconds later, I go to my assistant coach and say, ah we should have taken the man advantage,” said Pride head coach Paul Mara. “But you can’t second guess.”

The Whitecaps made it a one-goal game on the power play with just 20 seconds left, but the Pride held on to win their second-ever Isobel Cup, and become the first NWHL team to ever win two titles. Boston captain Jillian Dempsey was named MVP.

As Pride defender Kaleigh Fratkin said after the game, “It was the longest season ever.”

Boston 4, Minnesota 3

Goals: MIN: Allie Thunstrom (2), Meaghan Pezon  BOS: Mary Parker, Jillian Dempsey, Lexie Laing, Taylor Wenczkowski

Key takeaway: This Pride team is last year’s Pride team: The names and numbers might differ a little bit, but this is as close as we were going to get to seeing last year’s Isobel Cup matchup play out.

In the end, it was the Pride veterans — namely Jillian Dempsey, Cristina Putigna and Mary Parker — who led the way to bring Boston its first Cup since 2016. Taylor Wenczkowski, the rookie, of course, made it 4-2 with a key insurance goal on the power play late, and was an example of how Boston, despite its lesser record, has evolved even beyond last season.

Who knows if the Pride would have had the same result a year ago. They still are ultimately different teams with different backgrounds getting back to this point.

Boston certainly faced more adversity than they did as a one-loss team a year ago, this time losing four of their first five contests before reeling off four straight victories.

It’s still impossible to watch this year’s version of the team and not think of how they look a whole lot like last year’s.

Player of the game: Christina Putigna: Putigna sometimes gets lost in the shuffle on her line between captain Jillian Dempsey and top sniper McKenna Brand.

The Providence product really shouldn’t be forgotten, though. She made a tremendous pass to Dempsey to put Boston ahead in the semifinal, and added two more assists on Saturday night in her first Isobel Cup game.

If Putigna has been overlooked by anyone, that won’t happen for much longer. She’s a top liner for a reason and continues to improve seemingly every time she’s on the ice.

Of course, this could go to Dempsey, the MVP as well. She and Putigna have arguably the best chemistry in the league, and throw in Brand, and that’s a line that rightfully has a title now.

Final thoughts: This is Boston’s second Isobel Cup, and just Dempsey, the captain, remains from the first team that won it.

Fratkin, a fellow original NWHL player, won her first-ever Cup while playing for her third team. She’s been a member of the Pride since the 2017-18 season.

Everyone else with the group is also a first-time Isobel Cup winner, including the league-record eight rookies.

“The leadership of this team kept this group together,” said Mara. “They never wavered from their plan, and in return, they get an Isobel Cup.”

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