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The Minnesota Whitecaps turned heads when they swept the powerful Boston Pride in the Premier Hockey Federation playoffs.
And they really captured the Toronto Six’s undivided attention when they went ahead 3-2 early in the third period of the Isobel Cup championship match at Mullett Arena on Sunday night in Tempe, Ariz.
But the Six, who concluded second overall in the seven-team women’s professional hockey circuit this season and became the first Canadian team to appear in the championship game, didn’t panic, eventually tying the game 3-3 to force overtime.
After numerous close calls in overtime, in which the Six dominated the first four minutes, Tereza Vanišová scored at 4:23 of the three-on-three extra period to give the Six a thrilling 4-3 triumph.
“I’m so proud of the girls, just to see them accomplish this goal it’s unbelievable,” Six head coach Geraldine Heaney told reporters.
“This has been three years in the making of where we’re at now,” added captain Shiann Darkangelo. “I’m super excited and proud of the group that’s been here and the girls that have been a part of it to bring the Isobel Cup back to Toronto.”
Vanišová, who was named player of the game, set up her own goal by outmuscling Liz Schepers in the right corner to force a turnover.
Vanisova then drove alone to the net and lifted a shot over goalie Amanda Leveille’s left shoulder to secure the first Isobel Cup final to not feature one of the PHF’s original four franchises.
Vanišová, a member of the Czech national women’s team, joined Boston Pride captain Jillian Dempsey in becoming just the second player to collect three career Isobel Cup titles. Vanišová signed with Toronto after winning championships in each of the past two seasons with Boston.
The Six opened the scoring at 7:22 of the first period on a slick goal by Dominika Laskova. Brittyn Fleming tied it at 4:02 of the second period, and the Six regained the lead at 10:27 when Breanne Wilson-Bennett got a fortunate bounce off the end boards and beat scrambling Whitecaps goalie Leveille before she could get back into position.
Brooke Madsen tied the game 2-2 on a beautiful shot from the wing that cleanly beat Six goalie Elaine Chuli at 16:06.
With 91 seconds left in the second period, the Six were assessed a delay of game bench minor. That penalty allowed the Whitecaps to take a 3-2 lead 20 seconds into the third period as Jonna Albers scored on the power play. Natalie Snodgrass picked up her second assist of the game on the play.
Taylor Woods pulled the Six even at 3-3 at 7:56 of the third. Michela Cava picked up her second assist of the game on the goal.
Toronto outshot Minnesota 39-24.
“That was a championship game,” Whitecaps defender Amanda Boulier told the Star-Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis, Minn. “A lot of emotion. Both teams trying to settle in and get their legs under them. We were a little scattered, a little bit nervous. That showed in 3-on-3. It definitely was a game that could have gone either way.
“I really thought we’d come out on the other end, but that’s championship hockey.”
Heaney said the team can’t wait to bring the party back home to its fans.
“It’s going to be amazing, maybe we’ll have a big parade in Toronto,” the coach said. “That will give the young girls in Toronto something to dream about as well.”