MARCHMENT AND WOHLFEILER DOMINATE IN SERIES FINALE, SECURING FIRST PLACE FOR CONNECTICUT.

by JACOB SOLOMONS

 Sunday’s series finale was about as hard-fought as you could get, between the Pride and the Whale. In the end, Connecticut was just too much for Boston’s defense to handle and the scoreboard reflected that, as the Whale beat the Pride 6-1.

  We saw a very fast-paced, yet evenly matched game on Saturday. Sunday’s contest was no different except the momentum Connecticut generated in game one, carried over into the second game which allowed them to take control quickly. Kennedy Marchment has made a name for herself in her short time as a member of the Connecticut Whale, with nine goals and 19 points following Sunday’s victory. A Rookie of the Year candidate that has made an impact from day one, has certainly made it fun to watch her play. Even as our opponent.

  Before the contest began, we honored former Boston Pride player Denna Laing in the pregame ceremony, in part with the Pride’s annual “Denna Day.” Laing suffered a spinal cord injury in the NWHL’s inaugural season in an outdoor game at Gillette Stadium in December of 2015. Laing has been a part of the Boston Pride family since that inaugural season and has made a tremendous impact to grow the game of ice hockey and inspire younger generations of hockey players to follow their dreams.


First Period 

   We said the key to success yesterday was to score early and often. The Connecticut Whale put this theory into practice because to took just over a minute for them to get on the board first. Connecticut won a faceoff in the attacking zone, where they established their presence early. Marchment’s faceoff win sent the puck back to the blueline for Allie Munroe to wind up a slapshot, Munroe’s shot was deflected in the air by Marchment for the early lead at 1:20. Marchment’s point streak stayed alive with her ninth goal of the season, adding to the Whale’s impressive +15 goal differential thus far.

  The Whale had a lot of speed and drive to keep their momentum rolling and there was nothing Boston could do to stop it. It would have been helpful to intercept a few passes or control the puck, but we can work on that for next game. Connecticut kept the pressure on with a breakout of the neutral zone and an generated an offensive rush started on by Emma Vlasic with a shot saved by Selander. The puck was not covered, allowing the Whale to recover possession in the corner with Janine Weber trying to find room for a shot. A shot bounced out to the point where Vlasic had another opportunity, taking the shot that tipped off of Weber’s stick for the ricochet goal at 9:41.

  A fast start and an early two-goal lead for the Whale is exactly what they wanted, to at least be comfortable to stay focused and keep their pressure on Boston. The conduct report for both teams were pretty clean for the most part during the first period. Surprisingly, there weren’t too many whistles for penalties in the first frame. The only penalty came just past the halfway mark as Cailey Hutchison would be sent to the box for slashing at 12:33. The Boston Pride powerplay has unfortunately not had a lucky streak but Sunday was a new day, with new chances to change their ways.

  The player-advantage for Boston struggled a bit, where it seemed as though they were the ones on the shorthand at times. Their Achilles’ Heel this season has been the powerplay and many of us are stuck wondering what the issue may be? Hutchison’s penalty expired with the Pride unable to answer the call. The remainder of the period was very back and forth, with no goals for either team but some physicality ensued as time ran out of the first period.

End of First Period: CTW – 2, BOS – 0 

 

Second Period

    The second period of action presented Boston with the opportunity to erase their deficit on the scoreboard and hopefully generate some offense which was lacking in the first. A neutral zone battle for puck possession was won by McKenna Brand who took the offensive zone on the far right wing with Jillian Dempsey by her side. No room for a shot, Dempsey passed up to Amanda Boulier at the blue line. Boulier took a spill to the ice, still able to send the puck a few feet to Sammy Davis who took control and found a lane skating around the back of the net. Davis took advantage of netminder Abbie Ives’ delayed reaction and attempted a wraparound, giving Boston their first goal of the game at 1:07.

  Things got a little choppy in the second period as the extracurricular activities seemed more fun than the game itself. Boston was the first to go on the powerplay in the second period, following a hooking minor on Hanna Beattie at 6:57. With the difficulty on the powerplay, Boston could sense they would not have much momentum – so they decided to take a penalty to even things out 4-on-4. Kaleigh Fratkin was assessed an interference minor at 7:08. The powerplay/penalty kill unit has had a few opportunities this season to create some scoring options, but the success rate hasn’t been stellar.

   The Pride couldn’t keep control of the puck which gave Connecticut possession, making a break on offense. Kennedy Marchment and Taylor Girard entered the zone on a 2-on-1 breakaway, Marchment flipped it along to Girard out front for the top shelf wrister, making it 3-1 Connecticut at 7:38. Following the goal by CTW, Hannah Bates would join Hanna Beattie in the penalty box for interference at 8:03 – making it 4-on-3. Boston’s third chance on the powerplay was met with disappointment as they failed to capitalize on the eventual brief 5-on-3 after Fratty’s penalty expired.

  The defensive struggles began to appear for the Pride as Connecticut established their offensive presence yet again, following the two minor penalties. A break into the attacking zone for the Whale turned into a scary sight as Hanna Beattie crashed into netminder Lovisa Selander after a hit from behind by Jillian Dempsey. The play stoppage was filled with a bit of anxiety as Selander was slow to get to her feet. The team trainer was escorted to the goal line to assess the damage, if any, but Selander flashed a smile which was a sign of relief that she wasn’t seriously injured. Even though the smile reflected a sense of positivity, head coach Paul Mara decided to make the switch and give Victoria Hanson the nod to finish the game strong for Boston.

    Following the collision in net, Jillian Dempsey would serve two minutes for body checking, making it a 4-on-4 with Bates still in the box. Back to even strength and back on the defensive as the Whale just continued to dominate the attacking zone. Everyone was a defenseman for Boston in Sunday’s game, very few forwards. Issues controlling the puck seemed to be a recurring problem for Boston as Taylor Girard capitalized in the neutral zone and had Alyssa Wohlfeiler on the right wing for an open shot. Wohlfeiler took a wicked wrister that beat Hanson over the shoulder to expand the Whale’s lead to 4-1, at 13:33.

    It’s not the finish to the period we would have liked, but the room for improvement is sizeable. Boston was able to make a few offensive rushes and to her credit, Abbie Ives was playing on her head in that period. We should have had a few goals, but the truth of the matter is, we couldn’t follow through. The third period was an opportunity to make a comeback that would make a statement, at the very least at least close the gap on Connecticut’s three goal lead.

End of Third Period: CTW – 4, BOS – 1 

 

Third Period

 

    The final 20 minutes of regulation afforded Boston the chance to score a couple goals and close in on Connecticut’s lead. The Pride started out hot with multiple offensive rushes and a deep attacking presence, but only to be met by a brick wall named Abbie Ives. Nothing could find the back of the net for Boston, but challenging Ives in the early minutes allowed them to rattle her a little bit. The Pride were met with a strong forecheck by Connecticut which created pressure in the neutral zone and take advantage on offense. The faceoff win at the right circle gave Alyssa Wohlfeiler the advantage to create space with the puck, centering and firing a wrister past Hanson at 4:47. Wohlfieler’s second goal of the day put the Whale up 5-1, with little room for the Pride to comeback.

    In the second half of the third, things got a little choppy as the penalty whistles were in full effect. Boston took the first turn in the box as Kali Flanagan would be assessed a body-checking minor at 10:00. The Pride managed to kill off Flanagan’s penalty successfully, allowing only a few shots on net but nothing more.

    The even strength battles were more physical than strategic as things got a little spicy along the boards, as Hannah Bates took a two-minute timeout for body-checking at 13:11. Less than one minute later, Allie Munroe would join Bates in the doghouse for a roughing minor at 14:05. Christina Putigna would also get a matching penalty for a little retaliation, assessed as “coincidental minors” for Munroe and Putigna. With the 5-on-4 still in effect Boston had the opportunity again to close the gap.

   Not even ten seconds after Munroe went to the box, another penalty on Connecticut would be enforced to Tori Howran for holding at 14:11. The 5-on-3 powerplay gave Boston many options on offense, including a curveball of pulling the goalie for a 6-on-3 advantage. The offensive zone for Boston was spread out, as each player had a few shots that were blocked successfully by Ives. The players for Connecticut filed out of the box on-by-one as all three penalties were killed off, resulting in an unsuccessful powerplay chance yet again for Boston. The Whale, however, were not finished as their forecheck created pressure in Boston’s defensive zone giving up possession to Connecticut. Jenna Rheault tried to clear the zone but Hannah Bates intercepted at the blue line and skated in for a slapshot beating Hanson at 17:17, putting CTW up 6-1.

   Not many things could go right for Boston in the remaining minutes of regulation, as the sixth penalty of the period was called on Mallory Souliotis for body checking at 18:52. The Pride managed to kill off the penalty and at this point, we’ll take any positive news. The Whale were dominant throughout regulation and would not give Boston any breathing room, as the final buzzer would sound signaling the end of the game. Connecticut secured their eighth consecutive victory in the 6-1 win, securing first place atop the PHF at 10-3-1 with 31 points. Boston would be handed their third consecutive loss, where they still sit in third place at 7-5 with 18 points. The fourth place Minnesota Whitecaps are not too far behind Boston at 4-7-1 with 13 points. Luckily, the Pride have a couple weeks off to regroup and get back to the drawing board. There is still ample time to turn this thing around for Boston and eventually right the ship, especially if they plan to defend their Isobel Cup in the playoffs. The Pride are set to take the ice again on February 26 and 27, where they will host the Buffalo Beauts at Warrior Ice Arena.