For the second time in less than a week, the Connecticut Whale squandered a three-goal lead and ended up taking the loss. Last Sunday, it was against the New York Riveters, and on Friday evening, it was at the hands of the Boston Pride.
In their sixth and final matchup of the regular season, the Whale did something no other team has done this season: they chased Boston’s top goalkeeper, Brittany Ott, from the game in the first period.
The Whale drew first blood, Nicole Kosta shooting from the point and catching Ott completely off guard.
Here's goal #1 of that period from Nicole Kosta: pic.twitter.com/WlGI93Jop6— Connecticut Whale (@CTWhale_NWHL) February 25, 2017
Less than a minute later, Brianna Decker tied it up and the Pride began to put the pressure on Whale goalie Nicole Stock in earnest. Boston had 16 shots on goal in the first period to Connecticut’s 10, but it’s the goals that count. Halfway through the period, Kelli Stack gave the Whale the lead once again, sniping it past Ott on her glove side.
Just minutes later, Kelly Babstock drew Ott from her net, shooting over her shoulder and sending her to the bench.
The Pride have been slow starters all season, scoring the vast majority of their goals in the second period, but this was one of their worst periods of the season. The Whale forced the Pride to play dump-and-chase hockey, which is not the Pride’s style, and wearing down their defenders. The seven penalties the Pride served in the game put extended pressure on the defense, leading to turnovers and misdirected passes.
When former Pride forward Zoe Hickel made it 4-1 early in the second period, it looked as if Boston’s win streak would be coming to an end. The Pride’s frustration got them into penalty trouble as Jordan Smelker, Lexi Bender, and Meghan Duggan were all sent to the box in the first eight minutes of the frame.
However, the Boston offense should never be counted out. In the span of four minutes, the Pride scored four goals, two of them shorthanded. Jordan Smelker scored on a redirect from Bender during a Pride power play to make it 4-2. Shortly after, Duggan was whistled for a penalty, to which Hillary Knight said, “so what?” and scored shorthanded and unassisted to bring the Pride within one. Less than a minute later, Knight provided the assist on Gigi Marvin’s game-tying goal.
According to the NWHL, this sequence set two league records: “Fastest three consecutive special team goals by one team, and the first time two shorthanded goals were scored on the same penalty kill.”
Decker capitalized on a Whale turnover and dished it to Emily Field for what would be the game-winning goal.
The Pride have won all 14 games of the 2016-2017 campaign, and with only three games left to play in the regular season, a perfect season is within reach. They’ll host the Riveters on March 4 at Warrior Ice Arena and the Buffalo Beauts less than 24 hours later in what will surely be a challenging back-to-back. Tickets are available now for both of those games, as well as the first Isobel Cup Semifinal and the Championship Game.