THUNSTROM AND WHITECAPS END PRIDE'S 19-GAME STREAK
By Mike Murphy and Samantha Mellies-U'Ren
Tonight, a sellout crowd in St. Paul was treated to an unforgettable game. The Minnesota Whitecaps played their hearts out and were rewarded with a game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation that snapped Boston’s 19-game winning streak.
The reigning Isobel Cup champs made a major statement by spoiling the Pride's undefeated season. Tomorrow, they will have an opportunity to add an exclamation mark to it at 1 p.m. CT when these teams play for the second time in under 24 hours. Tickets for the rematch are available now at whitecaps.nwhl.zone/tickets.
"[Amanda Leveille] was solid all night," Whitecaps captain Winny Brodt Brown said after the game. "She made big saves when we needed it and I think we really fed off her and her play. We played a solid smart d-zone, really focusing on our zone and the transition and carrying it to the offensive zone. Our penalty kill was phenomenal, we had to kill quite a few penalties tonight and they have a really good powerplay, so our penalty kill did a great job."
The early stages of the first period felt like a high-speed chess match. Both teams were cautious with the puck. Amanda Leveille and Lovisa Selander traded saves until Jonna Curtis made her mark on the scoreboard 13:31 into the first. Curtis found a rare loose puck in Boston’s crease and slammed it home, extending her goal-scoring streak to four games.
The Pride answered back with just over two minutes left in the period. Christina Putigna, who was stoned by Leveille earlier in the first on a breakaway, set up McKenna Brand with an unstoppable one-timer to knot the score at 1-1.
The second period featured more breathtaking goaltending and back-and-forth action. Amanda Boulier took a tripping penalty 9:20 into the period, setting the stage for Boston to take their first lead of the game. However, it was Minnesota that lit the lamp with Boulier in the box. Stephanie Anderson sprung rookie forward Meghan Lorence for a shorthanded breakaway and Lorence sniped it home to give the Whitecaps their second lead of the game.
In the first minute of the third period, the Pride orchestrated a great scoring chance, but a cross-ice pass went behind Leveille and harmlessly through the crease. A few minutes later the highest-scoring line in the league broke through when Putigna sent a blind pass from the corner in front of the net. Jillian Dempsey, the NWHL’s leading scorer, was ready for it and tipped the puck through Leveille to tie the game up.
Five minutes after Dempsey’s goal, Anderson created another prime scoring chance for the Whitecaps with her work ethic. Anderson won a puck battle behind Boston’s net and centered it to Audra Richards who banged the puck home. As the minutes trickled away, the Whitecaps looked content to protect their one-goal lead, but the Pride kept coming.
With under a minute remaining in regulation the Pride pulled Selander for the extra attacker and their captain delivered – again. Dempsey found a rebound created by a tricky wrist shot from Brand and rifled the puck home with 57 seconds left on the clock. Selander returned to her crease, the puck was dropped at center ice and then Allie Thunstrom shocked the Pride.
The NWHL’s leading goal scorer stole the puck from Boston’s defense and ripped a shot over Selander’s right shoulder and under the bar. Thunstrom’s goal, her 17th of the 2019-20 season, sparked a roar of celebration from the sellout crowd just eight seconds after Dempsey’s game-tying tally.
"Going back to when Schammel and I had that two-on-one, I hit the post and then Boston came right back and scored," Thunstrom said after the game. "It was a very deflating moment, you never want to be on the ice when the other team ties it up with a minute to go. Then, eight seconds later to come back was super exciting. There was a whole gambit of emotions in that last minute. But I'm super proud of our team and how we stuck in there and never gave up. When they answered, we answered back. It was a really good team effort."
Photo Credit: Collin Nawrocki