TORONTO — The Toronto Six, who were one overtime goal away on Saturday from elimination in the Premier Hockey Federation playoffs, are heading to Arizona this weekend to play for the Isobel Cup.
The Six defeated the Connecticut Whale 3-0 on Monday night at Mattamy Athletic Centre to win the third and deciding game of their best-of-three semifinal series to advance to Sunday's winner-take-all final at Tempe's Mullett Arena against the surprising Minnesota Whitecaps.
Kati Tabin had a power-play goal and two assists for the Six on Monday, while Michela Cava had a goal and assist. Leah Lum added the other goal.
The Six led 1-0 after the first period and took a 2-0 lead into the final frame.
Elaine Chuli stopped 31 shots to post the shutout.
The Whale won Game 1 of the series 5-3 on Friday, and led Game 2 on Saturday 2-1 in the second period before the Six rallied with two goals, including an overtime marker by Emma Woods at 2:31 of the extra period.
The Toronto Six finished second in the seven-team women's professional hockey loop this season, eight points ahead of the third-place Whale.
Defenceman Shannon Turner, the captain of the Whale, was in tears following the game, saying she was proud of her team and its growth, but admitted: "It really sucks we're not going to Arizona. We were so close."
Whale coach Colton Orr said Chuli's goaltending proved to be the determining factor for his crew in the do-or-die game.
"Chuli is just one of those elite goalies who if you don't score on early, it gets tougher as the game goes on. She was excellent tonight and we just couldn't score despite having our chances and applying pressure."
For her part, Chuli was praising teammates post-game for blocking shots and sacrificing everything they needed to win Game 3.
"Super effort by our team, and super proud of them. They just never quit. They made my job easier tonight," said Chuli, who admitted playing three tense games in four nights was tough.
The Six captain Shiann Darkangelo said Chuli was a "brick wall back there" all season and got stronger during the intense playoff series with Connecticut, adding "and we're not done yet."
This will be the first championship appearance in Toronto's franchise history, and the first time in PHF history that a Canadian team will play for the Isobel Cup.
Most puck pundits expected to see a Six-Boston Pride showdown for the Isobel Cup championship, but the Whitecaps swept the Pride in their best-of-three series with 5-2 and 4-1 victories.
The Whitecaps finished fourth during the regular season, 18 points behind the Six, and 21 behind the top-ranked Pride.
"Every team has gotten stronger, and in Arizona it's one game, so I wouldn't underestimate Minnesota at all," said Darkangelo, adding her team never looked past the Whale or gave much thought about a Pride-Six showdown for the Isobel Cup.
"We just have to focus on another 60 minutes now to finish the job."
Head coach Geraldine Heaney was all smiles at the post-game news conference, saying the difference in Game 3 was her team played strong from start to finish.
"The first game we played one period, the second we played two, and I thought today we played a full 60 minutes and was rewarded for it," said Heaney.
The coach added that it was "huge" to score first in Game 3, noting that slow starts has been an issue with her team all season.
POKE CHECKS: Sunday's final starts at 9 p.m. ET and can be seen live on TSN5. … The Whitecaps won the Isobel Cup in 2018-19, and were runners-up in 2021. … The Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Cup, often shortened to Isobel Cup, is awarded annually to the PHF playoff winner. It is named after Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy, one of the first known women to play the game and daughter of Lord Stanley, the namesake of the Stanley Cup, and former governor general of Canada.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2023.
The Canadian Press