Pride advance to Isobel Cup, the position they were in a year ago

Michelle Jay

In an alternate universe, the Boston Pride played for an Isobel Cup at their home arena a year ago.

The Pride were supposed to face the Whitecaps to fight for their second league title at Warrior Ice Arena before Covid changed those plans. Then, they got off to a shaky start at Lake Placid in January, and it looked like the Pride might have missed that window.

They turned things on late in their last two games before the season was postponed; they didn’t play again until Friday, this time on their home ice, against top-seeded Toronto.

You wouldn’t have known this wasn’t the Boston group that lost one game all last season. In their 6-2 dominant win over the Six, the Pride looked a lot like what one might imagine an Isobel Cup game a year ago may have looked like.

“There were some good things we did and some things we can do better,” said Pride head coach Paul Mara. “There’s some things we didn’t do so well. We’ll talk tomorrow morning about what we can do to be successful tomorrow night.”

Much like in Lake Placid, the Pride jumped out a 1-0 start. They gave up the lead four times up there, and it took until their final two games in Buffalo to figure things out and expand the lead.

They scored in bunches on Friday, scoring two goals in under a minute twice, the first time to jump out 2-0 and the second time to make it 4-1.

Some thoughts on how the Pride advanced to their fourth ever Isobel Cup.

[NWHL: Whitecaps roll right back into Isobel Cup]

Defense stepped up later

The Pride defense didn’t look good early, there’s no way around it.

Toronto found ways to get around the Boston defenders and to the netfront with ease, but once the Pride defense tightened up, Toronto couldn’t get looks.

The Pride jumped out 2-0 before the Six tallied off the stick of Breanne Wilson-Bennett from a terrific Mikyla Grant-Mentis feed, but after that, their chances dissipated until Grant-Mentis tallied late.

Boston’s offense succeeds when its defense is involved. League point leader Kayleigh Fratkin, a defender, was involved in the offense all day, and blueliner Mallory Souliotis scored her fourth goal of the season.

The Lovisa Selander show

Early on, the Pride defense surrendered plenty of chances to the Six right in front of the net. They easily could have jumped out ahead and Boston wouldn’t have had a chance to get going.

Second-year goalie Lovisa Selander, though, stood on her head and made 10 first period saves to keep the Pride in it and give them a chance to jump out 2-0. She finished with 25 saves.

McKenna Brand makes her mark

Brand got off to a slow start in Lake Placid but ended up ranking fourth in points. She was all over the ice on Friday to lead the Pride offense.

First, she made a slick play to keep the puck in the offensive end which led to Jillian Dempsey’s goal to make it 2-0 in the first period.

Then, she tallied her own goal where she picked up a rebound and poked it past Six goalie Elaine Chuli to expand the Pride lead to 4-1.

Brand playing well is dangerous for just about everyone who has to face her. The Boston top line, with Dempsey and Putigna playing alongside her, has the potential to dominate before opposing teams have a chance.

Friday, March 26

• Boston Pride 6, Toronto Six 2 (recap)
• Minnesota Whitecaps, 7 Connecticut Whale 0 (recap)

Saturday, March 27

• Boston Pride vs. Minnesota Whitecaps – 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream)

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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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