The Premier Hockey Federation hosts its Isobel Cup final on Monday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2), pitting the reigning league champion Boston Pride against the Connecticut Whale in their first-ever final appearance.
The entire playoffs were held at the AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Florida. Each of the PHF’s six teams were part of the field, with the league’s top two seeds — No. 1 Connecticut and No. 2 Toronto Six — earning first-round byes.
In Friday’s preliminary-round action, the Pride eliminated the Buffalo Beauts in a dominating 6-0 shutout, and the Minnesota Whitecaps defeated the Metropolitan Riveters 4-1.
Forward McKenna Brand had a three-assist night for the Pride, supporting Katie Burt’s 32-save shutout in net. Minnesota had two forwards — Jonna Curtis and Audra Morrison — with three helpers each in their win, as netminder Amanda Leveille tossed out a 32-save performance.
Those outcomes set the table for Sunday’s semifinal action, with Minnesota pitted against Connecticut, and Toronto facing Boston.
The Whale were first to reach the final, downing the Whitecaps 4-2. Connecticut will play for its first title having already earned the franchise’s first regular-season championship (15-3-2 in the regular season).
In the second semifinal, Boston jumped all over Toronto early and would never relinquish its lead in a 5-1 victory. Defensemen Kali Flanagan and Kaleigh Fratkin lead the way with two points each. The Pride finished third in league standings this season, with a 10-5-5 record.
Boston is the only PHF team to win the Isobel Cup multiple times, hoisting the trophy in 2016 and 2021. To make it three titles, the Pride will have to knock off the Whale, who have put together the best season in franchise history.
Connecticut also won the regular-season series against Boston 3-1.
Ahead of Monday’s marquee matchup, here’s a primer on both clubs and an impact player to watch for each one.
The Whale have come a long way in an impressively short time.
In the PHF’s last regular season before the coronavirus pandemic (2019-20), Connecticut went 2-20-2 with a goal differential of minus-61. In the combined three seasons prior, the Whale won a total of 10 games.
Then the Whale’s fortunes changed. Connecticut drafted forward Taylor Girard No. 1 overall in last June’s draft — the franchise’s first time picking from the top spot — and Girard’s 24 points were fourth-most in the league this season.
Everything clicked in place from there. The Whale led the PHF in almost every category offensively, and the goaltending tandem of Abbie Ives (10-3-2) and Mariah Fujimagari (5-0-0) has been a real asset in supporting Connecticut’s success up front.
It’s been a special run for the Whale, and especially for captain Shannon Turner. She’s one of only five players who have been with the PHF since it started in 2015, and Turner’s only suited up for the Whale. The 29-year-old blueliner essentially announced her retirement in May, but came back for one last run at an Isobel Cup.
Now, she’ll have her chance.
Player to watch
Connecticut forward Kennedy Marchment kept building off her terrific regular season with a goal, an assist and nine shots on goal in Sunday’s semifinal. Marchment led the PHF in points (33) and assists (20), and she was second in goals (13).
That made Marchment the Whale’s first-ever scoring champion. The 25-year-old is also the franchise’s single-season record holder in goals, points and assists after leading her team in all three categories.
The Pride know how to win. And they know how to recover.
In a strange twist, Boston ended its regular season with five overtime losses in a row. That’s not exactly the high note the Pride wanted to enter to playoffs on.
But they weren’t rattled. Their third-place finish didn’t merit a first-round bye, but the Pride have played like potential champions by dominating opponents 11-1 in two games in Florida.
It’s the Pride’s depth that’s most impressive. No one from Boston ranked top-10 overall in an offensive category this season, but the Pride relied on contributions from players throughout the lineup to put together another strong campaign.
Now that collective success will be put to the test in another final. All told, the Pride have 18 players with postseason experience — led by captain Jillian Dempsey, who is the only skater to have been part of both previous Pride Cup wins.
It was goaltender Katie Burt who may well have been Boston’s best player. She led the PHF with an .958 save percentage and 1.41 goals against average. Her numbers are even better in the postseason, where she sits at a .980 SV% and 0.50 GAA.
Player to watch
Boston defenseman Kaleigh Fratkin didn’t have an outstanding regular season (although she did lead the league in penalty minutes with 34). But only last year, Fratkin was the PHF points leader with nine over seven games. That’s the energy Fratkin has channeled to come alive once again in this postseason.
Fratkin notched back-to-back efforts with multiple assists against Minnesota and Toronto, while making standout plays defensively to breathe confidence into Boston’s game. She’s the PHF’s all-time highest-scoring defenseman, and that two-way ability can’t be understated when the Pride are about to face high-flying Connecticut in a winner-take-all tilt.