The Year of the Whale came to an end on Sunday night, as the Connecticut Whale fell to the Minnesota Whitecaps by a final score of 7-0. Connecticut was without a few key pieces such as Makayla Lancaster and Janine Weber, meanwhile, head coach Colton Orr was also absent for Championship weekend. Minnesota will now face the Boston Pride in a rematch of last year’s Isobel Cup Final that was postponed due to COVID-19. One could say this is the best Connecticut Whale team in franchise history, and when asked about this group of girls, captain Shannon Doyle said after her last game, “It’s obvious talent-wise.”
Whale Fall Short
Connecticut fell short on Friday night at Warrior Ice Arena, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Haylea Schmid opened the scoring for the Whitecaps at the 6:26 mark of the opening frame. The Whale would control the pace of play for most of the period and almost tied it up on a shot from rookie forward Kayla Friesen. Just out in front of the crease, the puck seemed to have trickled past Amanda Leveille, which appeared to be the turning point in the semifinal matchup. “I don’t think it changed it, but I definitely think things would have gone differently if it had counted,” said interim head coach Laura Brennan.
During the game’s middle frame, it was blown wide open by the Whitecaps offensive core. Despite giving up five goals, Whale goaltender Abbie Ives looked solid, but wasn’t backed by her team, as most of Minnesota’s goals would come on odd-man advantages or on the breakaway. Audra Richards would take center stage, as she picked up a hat trick to lead her team back to the Isobel Cup Finals. Connecticut put up 44 shots, all of which Leveille would stop in a shutout performance.
Falling to the Whitecaps 7-0, the loss would also mark the end of an incredible career for Shannon Doyle. When asked after her emotional exit if she could see a return later on in a coaching role, the native of Sutton, Ontario said it wasn’t something she had really thought about.
Speaking to Connecticut’s efforts, bench boss Laura Brennan said of the full-team performance, “It was a great game and a lot of chances out there. Unfortunately, the puck did not want to go in the net for us tonight. We did have a couple of costly mistakes in the defensive zone that, you know, the Whitecaps were able to capitalize on, but, you know, we kept pushing hard all game. We showed a lot of resiliency in the bubble and even tonight. We battled out there. We didn’t give up.”
With that, Minnesota moves on to play the Boston Pride in the Isobel Cup Final. The game goes at 7:00pmET on Twitch.tv and NBCSN.