Minnesota Whitecaps depth a hallmark in Isobel Cup run
The single-elimination Isobel Cup Semifinals will be shown live on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. ET and 8:30 p.m. ET. The winners of the semifinals will advance to the Isobel Cup Final on Friday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. ET. In addition to coverage on NBCSN, live coverage will stream exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
The Minnesota Whitecaps believe they’ve gone a bit overlooked.
The Boston Pride, their would-have-been opponent, have dubbed this season their revenge tour. Minnesota, though, has done no such thing.
Instead, they’ve -- somehow, quietly -- dominated.
The Pride had all the hype heading into the Lake Placid bubble, but the Whitecaps shut them down on Saturday with a 2-1 win behind a 36-save performance from goalie Amanda Levielle.
The next day, head coach Jack Brodt’s choice to start Levielle on a back-to-back could be questioned early; Toronto jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then 5-1 before the Whitecaps surged back to win in the shootout.
Heading into Tuesday’s slate, just they and Metropolitan -- their opponent -- are the lone undefeated squads.
“It was a lot of fun to see the energy on the bench,” said Whitecaps assistant coach Laura Slominski. “Our girls always believed in themselves and just stuck with it. We know it’s a long game and anything can happen, and they did a great job of sticking with it to the very end.”
Levielle finished the weekend with 66 saves and a .917 save percentage despite being banged up against Toronto and missing part of the game while Allie Morse filled in, but shut down Toronto when she had to to give the Whitecaps offense an opportunity to win it.
Over the past two seasons Minnesota has been known for its high-end top of the roster talent. Some of that talent has since departed; Allie Thunstrom and Jonna Curtis remain as the Whitecaps bona fide superstars.
There’s been a shift, though, in the on-ice cohesiveness, and perhaps that can be attested to the sheer amount of depth from line one to four.
In Sunday’s comeback effort there was no standout performance that surged to bring the Whitecaps back; seven individual players finished with single points. Just Sydney Baldwin, a late addition, and Nina Rodgers were credited with two points.
Rookie Haley Mack falls into the category of overlooked. She won it in the shootout and tallied earlier in the day, and thus far her energy has been a spark every time she touches the ice.
“It’s always nice to get the first one out of the way,” she said. “I had an idea (on the shootout), but I didn’t really know what I was going to do.”
Baldwin was a late signing after defender Amanda Boulier wasn’t able to make the trip to Lake Placid, and is averaging near 27 minutes a game on defense and has led some of the offensive play, including the Whitecaps first goal to begin their comeback.
Audra Richards leads the league with three points after two games and one of them game in the form of a shorthanded goal on Sunday to make it a one-goal game before Meaghan Pezon tied it on the power play to force overtime.
It was a banner day for the special teams after they didn’t score on any of their power play chances on Saturday, but now the Whitecaps have had a chance to show off every part of their balance game.
“That was a huge goal and huge effort,” said Slominski. “It’s one of those things where it’s a really fast game, a lot of goals and penalties. That really got us going when Audra scored that goal, that dialed us in like we got this game.”
The Whitecaps have the talent to win the Isobel Cup. They did last year, too, even if it’s Boston getting the retroactive hype.
That doesn’t matter; it’s a new year, and if Saturday’s shutdown of the Pride wasn’t enough to get you on the Whitecaps bandwagon maybe a four-goal come from behind shootout win will do the trick.
“When we won the Isobel Cup in overtime, that’s a tough one to beat,” said forward Winny Brodt Brown. “But this one is pretty up there.”