The Boston Pride finally won the trophy that managed to elude them for each of the past five NWHL seasons, capturing the 2021 Isobel Cup by defeating the Minnesota Whitecaps in a thrilling 4-3 game. Captain Jillian Dempsey. the only player left on the roster from the first-ever Isobel Cup championship team (2016) in Boston, and was named MVP of the 2021 Isobel Cup Playoffs.
The matchup was 379 days in the making and the two teams didn’t disappoint in a game that was televised in the US on NBCSN – the first time a professional women’s hockey league had its games reach so many people so easily. The Isobel Cup was finally handed out 741 days after the Whitecaps won it in 2019, making the Pride the first NWHL team to win the Cup twice.
“It’s extremely special, this is one of my favorite victories, to be honest with you,” said head coach Paul Mara after the championship a year in the making. “Working with these ladies the last three years, especially putting this team together back in April, and the amount of hard work that they put in – they deserve everything.”
“For me to watch them grow, watch them improve, watch how hard they work, and the dedication that they put in… it’s second to none,” added Mara, sounding like a proud papa bear. “It’s just awesome to be part of this.”
“I told a bunch of people today – I think it’s harder coaching than playing. You put the players on the ice but you have no control over the actual game being played. I was nervous all day.”
“It’s one you’ll never forget.”
How It Happened
Minnesota took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to a breakaway goal by Allie Thunstrom 7:25 into the game. But Boston made their move in the second period where they netted three goals, the last two which came in a span of 2:26.
First, Mary Parker evened the game with a power move at 2:41 after a face-off win by Tereza Vanisova. Then later in the period, Dempsey gave her team a lead they would never relinquish, which was quickly followed by Lexie Laing’s 5-on-3 power-play goal.
“I was fired up. Just a phenomenal play by Taylor Turnquist on the wall” said Dempsey of the play that led to her goal. “She pinched in and forced that play to stay in the zone, she was patient making that play with the pressure on her.”
“I was in, I guess one of my sweet spots. I like shooting from that spot and (Amanda) Leveille is an amazing goalie so that goal definitely got us fired up,” said the smiling captain. “Mary got everything started with that first one, but once again we had contributions from everyone. Everyone went out there, did their job, owned their role, and battled hard one shift at a time.”
The third period was about as wild as it gets. We had another Thunstrom goal at 7:46, after a questionable hand on the puck in the crease call eight seconds earlier that led to a failed penalty shot by Boston’s Tori Sullivan, another Boston power-play goal (Taylor Wenzcowski with the eventual Cup-winning goal) at 13:32, a major penalty/game misconduct on Vanisova at 17:36, and a power-play goal by Minnesota’s Meaghan Pezon with 19.4 seconds left.
“The longest 19 seconds ever,” said a relieved Kaleigh Fratkin after the game. “19.4. We were waiting during the tv timeout, I was talking with Lexie and LK (Lauren Kelly), asking Lexie if she was going to win the draw back or forward.”
“We were talking about a million scenarios and at some point, I was like, ‘Holy sh*t, can we just drop the puck already!’ Let’s get this over with.”
All of that added up to a 4-3 win by the Pride, setting up what will likely be a celebration that lasts long into the summer. They’ve earned that clout, after dominating the NWHL last season (24-1-0) and having covid take away their chance at a Cup. Now they have it, and they can be proud of the team they became through it all. Something tells us this may be the start of something very special in Boston.
2021 Cup Champs
Kaleigh Fratkin, the first Canadian-born player to sign in the NWHL way back in 2015, finally won her first Isobel Cup and was a big part of the win with two power-play assists.
“I kind of blacked out,” replied Fratkin when asked how heavy or light the Cup felt when she finally got to hoist it. “I was just hoping I didn’t drop it, but the kiss felt nice.”
Mary Parker, with the Pride for five seasons (who also left the games in Lake Placid for fear of infection), wins her first Cup. She easily could have been the playoff MVP with a goal + assist in each of the two games.
Lexie Laing, who’s sister Denna was a part of the first Boston Cup team, wins her first Isobel Cup in her second season.
Paul Mara (winner of a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics as an assistant coach) wins his first Isobel Cup as a head coach.
Eight players made their NWHL debut for the Pride this season, and all eight are now Isobel Cup champions.
Netminder Lovisa Selander joins Brittany Ott, Brianne McLaughlin, Katie Fitzgerald, and Leveille as starting goalies to win an Isobel Cup.
“Lolo is our rock,” said Dempsey. After two seasons as a pro, she is now 3-0 in postseason play and 20-4-0 in the regular season. She becomes the first Swedish player to win the Isobel Cup.
“We drafted her (in 2019) and she is everything we thought she would be,” Mara said of his goaltender. “She is an awesome, awesome, awesome hockey player. She is a great kid and everything you want in a goalie. She made some big saves when we needed her to.”
As each member of the Pride – players and staff – have their day with the Isobel Cup this off-season there will be a lot going on. At some point it is expected that the NWHL will announce its seventh franchise in Montreal (first reported by Marisa Ingemi), the league will also announce the date of the 2021 NWHL Draft, the start of free agency, and who knows what else!
Things change pretty quickly, more so in women’s hockey because the players aren’t paid well enough to make a living yet. But we’d be shocked if a large part of the 21 players on the Pride roster aren’t back to defend the Cup in an attempt to become the NWHL’s first team to win back-to-back champions. Also expecting to see similar things happen in Minnesota.
So…same time next year? Maybe we see Boston-Minnesota part deux.