WHALE WILL FACE BOSTON IN SEMIFINAL AFTER 5-3 WIN OVER BEAUTS
By Mike Murphy
Tonight, the Connecticut Whale punched their ticket to an Isobel Cup Semifinal showdown against the Boston Pride on Sunday with a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Beauts. After a 2-20-2 regular season, the Whale came together to deliver one of the most impressive performances of the year by any team. Tonight’s win marked the first Whale postseason victory since 2016.
Whale veteran Hanna Beattie was named the first star of the game. She scored two goals for the Whale, including the game-winner.
“I'm super excited,” Beattie said after the win. “Our team played a great game and that's my first playoff win in three years. It's a very exciting feeling.”
The Buffalo Beauts got on the board first when captain Corinne Buie finished a brilliant pass from Mikyla Grant-Mentis at the 3:42 mark of the first period. A little over ten minutes later, Hanna Beattie scored her first goal of the night to tie the game. Beattie rifled a long shot through traffic that defected off a Beaut and past goalie Lea-Kristine Demers.
Before the first period ended, the Whale struck again when Katelynn Russ scored the first goal of her NWHL career with just 57 seconds left in the first.
Grant-Mentis got the Beauts back on the board in the first quarter of the second period, but the Whale answered right back with the only power-play goal of the game just four minutes later. Veteran forward Janine Weber made a gorgeous pass across the royal road to set up Russ for her second goal of the game. Then, with less than three minutes left in the period, All-Star rookie Emma Vlasic made what might have been the play of the game.
Vlasic found a way to center the puck with a Beauts defender all over her right to Beattie, who buried the game-winning goal. It was her second of three assists in the game.
"It was awesome!” Vlasic said. “Really proud of this team. We worked really hard, and I think we just keep getting better. It all culminated into this game, and we all played - from top to bottom - really well. We saw the results of that, and now we've just got to keep it going.”
Meg Delay gave the Beauts hope late in the third period when she wired a shot past Wolejko, but the Whale kept their foot on the gas. Connecticut dominated the neutral zone with their forecheck and kept Buffalo in their own zone. With just 21 seconds left in regulation, Allie LaCombe won a big battle along the boards and brought the puck straight to the Beauts’ net to score her first NWHL goal. That goal buried the Beauts and locked-up a historic win for the Whale.
"I think that game gave us a lot of confidence going into the next game,” Beattie shared. “We're improving game after game, so I think we'll have a lot of momentum going in against Boston."
The Whale and the Pride will meet in the Isobel Cup Semifinal on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Mike Hetzel