Whale drop out of NWHL season, leaving 4 teams

Boston, Buffalo advance to Isobel Cup playoffs

Connecticut Whale skaters Laurel Hill (10) and Mackenize Lancaster hit the ice attempting to control the puck while Pride players Mary Parker (7) and Taylor Wenczkowski move in on the play during the Jan. 27 NWHL game at the Olympic Center. (Rachel Sharples photo)

LAKE PLACID — A second team has dropped out of the National Women’s Hockey League “bubble” season at the Olympic Center.

The Connecticut Whale forfeited a game against the Minnesota Whitecaps Monday and dropped out of the condensed two-week season, leaving four teams to vie for the Isobel Cup.

No reason was given for the Whale’s forfeiture or for dropping out of the tournament, either by the NWHL or the Whale. As of Tuesday evening, the Whale had not acknowledged the decision on the team’s website or Facebook page.

“The NWHL has accepted the decision of the Connecticut Whale to forfeit their game scheduled for earlier tonight against Minnesota and to withdraw from the tournament,” said a Monday evening statement on the NWHL’s Facebook page.

League officials could not be reached for further explanation, and others involved in the season declined to speak.

The NWHL season began on Jan. 23 with six teams. Five days later on Jan. 28, the league announced that the Metropolitan Riveters had withdrawn from the season after several members of the team tested positive for COVID-19.

And now the Whale is out, too, but with no reason given.

As a result of the Whale’s departure, the Buffalo Beauts advanced to the semifinals despite losing 7-1 to the Boston Pride Monday night. The teams were the lowest seeds remaining, and following the Riveters’ departure last week, the NWHL had adjusted its format so the Beauts and Pride entered a best-of-three series, with the winner moving into the semifinal round. Boston’s triumph on Monday gave it a 2-1 series victory, which would have sent the Beauts back to Buffalo. Instead, with the Whale gone, Buffalo remained alive and advanced into the semifinal round.

The Toronto Six (4-1-1) holds the first seed in the playoffs, ahead of the Whitecaps (3-1-0), Pride (3-4-0) and Beauts (1-4-1).

On Tuesday evening, NWHL confirmed that the semifinal and championship games are still scheduled for their original times on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday’s semifinals are slated for 5:30 and 8:30 p.m., with top-seed Toronto and No. 4 seed Buffalo squaring off in in the first matchup, and No. 2 Minnesota facing third-seed Boston in the doubleheader nightcap. Friday’s championship game is slated for 7 p.m. All three games are scheduled to be aired live on NBCSN.