In their final meeting of the regular season, it appeared as if the Connecticut Whale had finally figured out a way to beat the Boston Pride.
That dream lasted 55 minutes, but the Whale couldn't hold on for the final five. In a strange and uncharacteristic game for the Pride, their passing was inaccurate, Brittany Ott looked shaky in net, and they failed to score in any of the seven power play opportunities they had on the afternoon. Luckily, the Whale were nice enough to have a Bruins-esque third period collapse that led to the Pride's 5-3 victory.
The Pride did not have a lead in the game until the final minutes of the third period. The Whale’s Micaela Long, who hadn’t scored a goal all season, notched her first halfway through the opening period. The Cross Ice Pass stream was notoriously bad throughout the game, so no one actually saw this goal because the feed cut out. That's fine, I didn’t want to see it anyway. Just seconds later, Brianna Decker evened the score at one with her 11th goal of the season, but that’s all the Pride would get until the final frame.
Neither team scored while on the power play the entire game, wasting a total of 13 man advantages. The Pride’s power play has been the strongest in the league all season, making Sunday afternoon’s game a rare instance in which they lacked production. In fact, the Pride were notably more dangerous while shorthanded than when they had the upper hand. At one point, they had a five-on-three opportunity for nearly 40 seconds which they squandered.
But, as we all know, this team is too good to lose 3-1 in such a crucial game. With a roster full of Team USA players who are used to this kind of pressure, it wasn’t a question of if they would make a comeback, but when it would happen. The Whale were able to delay it until late in the third, adding two more goals of their own during the second period. Long scored her second of the game early on, sneaking it by Ott.
Kelli Stack made it 3-1, unassisted, another goal which no one saw because the stream skipped it. Oh well. Meanwhile, the Pride bombarded Jamie Leonoff’s net with 20 shots during the middle frame. Despite their efforts, Leonoff was outstanding, stopping chances that the Pride normally score on and frustrating the offense for the entire game. According to the NWHL’s stats, the Pride racked up 47 total shots and Leonoff was able to save 42 of those.
Late in the third, Decker scored the first of two shorthanded goals from the Pride, because this game made no sense and possibly occurred in an alternate universe. Emily Field’s snapshot tied it as she sprinted down the ice on a breakaway, leaving two Whale defenders in the dust.
It was, of course, Hilary Knight who scored the game-winner 90 seconds later.
Decker added an empty-netter to seal the victory, first place, and her second hattrick of the season.
The captains combined for seven total points on the afternoon, Knight assisting Decker’s first two goals. Knight leads the league in both goals (15) and points (30) and is on a 10-game point streak, during which she has scored nine points against Connecticut. She as well as many of the other regulars who log a lot of minutes for the Pride may get some rest next weekend in the regular season finale in preparation for the playoffs. The playoff picture finally crystalized today: The first-place Pride will host the fourth-place New York Riveters and the Whale must face the unpredictable Buffalo Beauts.
While the Pride had two back-to-backs this season, they have never played three games in a row, which they may have to do during the playoffs. Even though the Riveters finished in last, two of the Pride’s three losses on the season came at the hands of New York in November. Meanwhile, the Whale will surely have their work cut out for them with Buffalo, who forced the game to overtime in three of their six match ups.
Tickets for both of the semifinal rounds are available now! See you in Beverly.