Boston’s Powerplay Comes Alive in Quarterfinal Victory Over Buffalo

by Jacob Solomons

The Isobel Cup Playoffs are finally upon us. The regular season has been erased from our memory along with the success and/or failures of the six PHF teams. The only thing that’s not been forgotten, but more so placed in the forefront…the Boston Pride are the defending Isobel Cup Champions.

A clean slate and a neutral site in Tampa, Florida presented both teams with the opportunity to claim their spot in the Semifinals on Sunday. The Buffalo Beauts and the Boston Pride have a storied history in the PHF, especially with the 2021 season finishing 2-2 in the home-and-home series. With the regular season behind us, a new (post)season allowed Boston to shift their focus on defending their Isobel Cup title.

First Period

The playoffs proved to be a whole new season for the Pride, starting off the game with unbelievable control and energy that allowed them to set the tone offensively. Buffalo was riding on the fumes of last week’s two-game sweep over Boston, coming to Tampa overconfident and didn’t start the game with much enthusiasm. 

For the first half of the period, Boston overpowered Buffalo offensively, creating a strong net presence early. Carly Jackson had her hands full quickly and often as the Pride would get a few shots on net.

The special teams unit for the Pride made their first appearance of the playoffs, following a Buffalo penalty on Diffendal for tripping at 12:08. Boston’s regular season powerplay success was not good at all, plain and simple. Thankfully, the playoffs are a whole new season, and the Pride got a chance to redeem themselves on the player advantage. The first powerplay was unsuccessful, but quite honestly, their control and attacking style was exponentially better than we saw in the regular season.

The first twenty minutes of the period served as a “feeling-out” process, with both teams trying to get the upper hand offensively. No goals were scored in the first frame, adding to the anxiety and excitement that playoff hockey already brings. Both teams faced each other last week in two overtime battles, so the key to the game is wear down your opponent early. Heading into the first intermission, Boston fully understood that assignment. 

End of first: BOS – 0, BUF – 0.

Second Period

Boston opened the period carrying the momentum they had in the first, simply unstoppable on offense. The Beauts were skating backwards frequently, backing up in their defensive zone to stop the Pride’s attack. With no luck on their end, Boston established a presence that really opened up opportunities for scoring chances. 

Katie Burt had a few shots on net but certainly nothing got past her. Burt was challenged with less than half of the shots attempted by Buffalo. The Pride outshot Buffalo 22-8 in the second period, a statistic that set the tone for the onslaught that Boston would dish out in the remainder of the game. “Burty was unbelievable, she just wouldn’t let anything by her, and I think we kind of just fed off of that,” said Jillian Dempsey.

An offensive zone rush by Boston gave room for a scoring opportunity. The Pride played along the boards in their scoring attempts, keeping the defense spread out to expose any weaknesses. Taylor Wenczkowski took the puck along the boards, cut in along the goal line and fired a wrister just finding space to reach the back of the net for the 1-0 lead at 8:19. Wenczkowski’s first postseason goal served as a flesh wound to Buffalo, allowing Boston to capitalize on the scoreboard. 

A powerplay for Boston gave them another scoring opportunity and a chance to redeem themselves from the last player-advantage. Buffalo’s Jenna Suokko would draw a tripping penalty at 13:38 which would prove costly on the scoreboard. A fair amount of back and forth passing at the blue line by Boston, psyching out Buffalo gave them room to setup on the perimeter. A quick pass to the point to Kali Flanagan followed through with a hard slapshot and connected with the net at 14:42. 

Shortly after Flanagan’s goal, Boston would break out with a 3-on-1 scoring chance by led on by McKenna Brand. Brand passed along out front to Jillian Dempsey who flipped it in past Carly Jackson for the third goal of the game. Only 33 seconds between Flanagan and Dempsey’s goal. 

Boston would get their first penalty of the game, charged to Tereza Vanisova for body checking at 15:58. The Buffalo Beauts had their first player advantage, but they were unsuccessful with any scoring chances. Much like the regular season, the penalty kill unit for Boston was dominant. To close the second period, Boston would have all the momentum heading into the final 20 minutes. A 3-0 lead, however, is not comfortable enough to take the foot of the gas.

End of Second: BOS - 3, BUF - 0

Third Period

The final frame of play was all in favor of Boston. Buffalo couldn’t really get any momentum going offensively, being completely shut down by the Pride despite all efforts. The game plan for Buffalo seemed as a full-180° from last weekend’s series, this time they were outworked in every area. Mechanics and fundamental elements like passing seemed to trip up Buffalo in the majority of regulation. 

A bit of physicality picked up in front of the net as traffic in net caused some pushing and shoving. Dominique Kremer took a shove from Fratty in front, falling hard on the ice with no penalty call. The physical aspect is customary to hockey, but pushing the envelope and potentially injuring someone (not always on purpose) is a scary sight. 

Boston’s powerplay would go back to work on a slashing call charged to Claudia Kepler at 10:10. The powerplay unit for Boston was buzzing and kept the energy up started on by Christina Putigna. Putigna charged into the attacking zone on the far left wing, pressured by Buffalo  defense but still cut in with room for the shot. The awkward-angled shot beat Jackson stick side for Boston’s fourth goal of the game, their second powerplay goal. 

Boston’s powerplay quickly back to work just a minute later, with Cassidy Vinkle headed to the box for interference at 11:37. Putigna would take the puck in once again on the far left and fed it out front to Tereza Vanisova for the tip-in powerplay goal, expanding the Pride’s lead to 5-0. 

[on the three powerplay goals] “Yeah we just waited for today, for the playoffs to actually score,” head coach Paul Mara said jokingly. “I think it was ‘4-for-71’ or something like that in the regular season…but we knew with the players we have; we just bear down and get the job done when the time comes.” 

Boston would draw another penalty with Evelina Raselli going to the penalty box with a roughing penalty at 14:03. Buffalo’s gas tank was running low, and their energy level wouldn’t allow for a significant scoring opportunity. Boston’s final penalty kill of the day was successful yet again, closing the door on the Beauts’ chances at breaking the shutout. 

The Pride on the other hand, were not finished just yet. Another offensive rush allowed another shot from mid-range by Kali Flanagan which was saved by Jackson. The puck remained loose in the crease and controlled by Mary Parker. Parker flipped it over Jackson’s extended leg pad for the 6-0 lead. A sixth goal would be the final nail in the coffin for the Beauts as the time ran down to zero. 

A quarterfinal victory for Boston means two things. Firstly, it means they will be playing the Toronto Six in the Semifinals on Sunday, but most importantly…their victory over Buffalo means they need to work exponentially harder if they want to defend their Isobel Cup title.

“It’s win or go home,” said captain Jillian Dempsey. “We have to make every shift count, which we did today. You just gotta empty the tank, have confidence in yourself and your teammates, and you have to be prepared.” 

[On preserving goals and saving energy for the Semifinals] “We have a lot of goals left in us…it keeps us working and supporting one another. We got one, got two, and just kept it going and that’s what we’re going to do on Sunday,” said Dempsey.