Lots of hockey played and more to come
Whitecaps win battle of unbeatens, NWHL season is well underway in Lake Placid
LAKE PLACID — By the end of Tuesday evening, the National Women’s Hockey League had played eight of the 24 games it has on the schedule for its two-week condensed season in a “bubble” being played at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid.
And after all six teams in the league had stepped on the ice at least twice, Minnesota was the lone squad emerging unscathed after the Whitecaps started their possible run toward the Isobel Cup with a 3-0 record.
The Whitecaps notched their third victory in dramatic fashion, winning a battle of unbeaten teams when they netted the only goal of the game with 10 seconds left in regulation to take down the Metropolitan Riveters by a 1-0 score.
Tuesday featured a doubleheader of high-intensity hockey after the league took a day off on Monday. NWHL action kicked off at the Olympic Center with all six teams taking part in triple-headers Saturday and Sunday at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena.
The Whitecaps and Riveters battled in Tuesday’s first game and the stars of the matchup came mostly from between the pipes. While players on both sides combined to put 75 pucks on goal, only one one shot wound up finding the back of the net as Minnesota’s Amanda Leveille and Metropolitan’s Sonjia brought their “A” games tending goal, withstanding shots and sliding players from all sides.
As the game progressed, the energy increased as both teams were anxious to take the lead. The first and second periods went scoreless with only a few penalties. However, as the players grew more determined to notch a goal, more penalty calls were made, with exasperated yells from the ice and bench on both sides. In the end, special teams play were a determining factor, as Haley Mack found the back of the net for the Whitecaps with 10 ticks left on the clock while her team skated with a 5-on-3 advantage. Meghan Lorence and Sydney Baldwin assisted on Mack’s game-winning goal for Minnesota.
While both teams played with fervor, the pair of goalies easily took the “stars of the game” positions. Shelly only let in one of 37 shots on net, posting a save percentage of .973, and Leveille of the Whitecaps earned herself a shutout, stopping all 38 shots she faced.
In a post-game Zoom interview, Mack, Lorence and Leveille recognized the outstanding goalie performances on both sides.
“Sonja Shelly today was unbelievable,” said Leveille. “I don’t think that was a one-nothing game; we probably should have had three or four more, but she played phenomenal. But that was something we were expecting, so we weren’t nervous or anything going into the third period, and I had total faith in my teammates that we were going to score in that five on three.
“My mindset for every shot is to just stop the next one from coming at me,” Leveille added. “Watching Sonja play today, like I said before, was just incredible. She put on a show. We had so many opportunities on the backdoor where I don’t even know how she came across. She came across nice and compact, and she made everything look easy, and that’s the true testament of a strong goaltender.”
The Whitecaps recognized the Riveters as a tough opponent in general and were very happy they came out on top of the face-paced match.
“Whenever we play the Riveters, it’s always a close game, and it’s always a battle to the finish,” Lorence noted. “Being able to draw out that penalty and capitalize on it was huge, so we’ll move forward with that.”
The Boston Pride and Toronto Six squared off in the second game, which saw Toronto come out on top 2-1 to claim a historic first win in its inaugural season in the NWHL.
Boston’s Christina Putigna notched the first goal 11:59 into the contest, but the lead didn’t hold up as Toronto played a much tighter game. The Six led in shots the whole game, and when the Pride got a hold of the puck, they were pestered defensively as the Six continually cut short their passing and turned around their shots.
Trailing 1-0 after two periods, Toronto took control and ultimately claimed the win by scoring twice in less than a span of two minutes early in the third. Brooke Boquist deadlocked the contest 1-1 on a power-play tally 3:31 mark of the third, and Mikayla Grant-Mentis netted the game-winner 1:25 later off an assist from Amy Curlew.
The two teams were whistled for a combined 13 minor penalties.
In a similar fashion to Tuesday’s opening game, the Six-Pride contest featured solid goaltending. Despite ending up on the losing side of the scoreboard, Pride goalie Lovisa Selander was particularly tough, only letting in two of the 38 shots she faced. At the other end of the rink, Elaine Chuli earned the win between the pipes for the Six, allowing just one goal while recording 24 saves.
The Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale are the other two teams competing and both were off on Tuesday.
Games for the NWHL teams were scheduled to continue Wednesday and Thursday with doubleheaders before taking a day off Friday. Like a week ago, triple-headers are on tap for both Saturday and Sunday at the Olympic Center.