NWHL Isobel Cup playoff preview 2021: Minnesota Whitecaps

Minnesota Whitecaps
Michelle Jay

The single-elimination Isobel Cup Semifinals will be shown live on Friday, March. 26 at 5 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET. The winners of the semifinals will advance to the Isobel Cup Final on Saturday. March 27 at 7 p.m. ET. In addition to coverage on NBCSN, live coverage will stream exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

• Minnesota Whitecaps: 3-1-0 at Lake Placid

Last time out: The Whitecaps never played their final game with the Whale, but dropped a contest to Toronto last time out.

Leading players: Allie Thunstrom, Amanda Leveille: Thunstrom didn’t get going in Lake Placid by the time it came to an end, which is incredible given how well Minnesota played as a whole. Thunstrom was last season’s co-MVP with Boston’s Jillian Dempsey. At any time, she can turn it on and start producing.

Leveille has consistently been one of the best goalies in the game. She finished Lake Placid with a .936 save percentage. A two-time Isobel Cup champion, she has the ability to take these last two games and turn them on their head.

Who to watch: Nina Rodgers: This is a little revenge tour as Rodgers began her career with the Whale, but she moved back home to Minnesota to play for the Whitecaps. In Lake Placid she posted six points, two of them goals, and she was tied for fourth in points.

She can break out any given game and make a matchup nightmare if teams aren’t careful.

Roster changes: Amanda Boulier: The Whitecaps will be without top defender Sydney Baldwin who starred in Lake Placid, and Emma Stauber also won’t be making the trip to Boston. They will get back power play captain Amanda Boulier on the blue line, who nearly played in the final games in Lake Placid.

[Isobel Cup previews: Toronto Six / Boston PrideConnecticut Whale]

Schedule

Friday, March 26

• No. 1 Toronto Six vs. No. 4 Boston Pride – 5 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)
• No. 2 Minnesota Whitecaps vs. No. 3 Connecticut Whale – 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)

Saturday, March 27

• Isobel Cup Final; higher seed is home team – 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)

Matchup history: Minnesota swept last year’s season series with the Whale 7-0, but didn’t get to play them earlier on this season.

Vibe check: The Whitecaps have every right to feel a bit overlooked. They made it to the Isobel Cup a year ago and never got to play Boston, the only team to defeat them last season.

If they beat Connecticut they could find themselves in a position to complete some unfinished business against Boston, raising the Isobel Cup in the arena they would have played in now over a year ago.

But first it’s getting past Connecticut, which will be no small task in a game where no one can afford a slow start.

“It’s like we’re starting all over again after Lake Placid,” said Leveille. “That had been the first time we could all be together as a team in the same space for an extended period of time…. It’s just been fun to get back on the ice here again.”

The Whitecaps were dominant throughout Placid, falling just once to Toronto. They beat Boston in the first game in a strong showing from Leveille in net, while young defender Maddie Rowe made a strong impression throughout.

One thing is for sure heading into the Whale matchup; they haven’t forgotten they’re a force to be reckoned with, even if all eyes are on Toronto and Boston.

“Everyone is so pumped,” said Leveille. “Our practices have had such a quick pace. All that energy everyone is bringing has been awesome, it’s such a special and unique time for our team.”

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Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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