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Isobel Cup Playoffs: A postseason primer for each PHF team

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Isobel Cup Playoffs begin Friday, with all six Premier Hockey Federation teams colliding in Tampa. Just Women’s Sports has a primer on every team in the lead-up to the postseason.

The Connecticut Whale and Toronto Six each earned a first round bye after finishing atop the league standings in the regular season. The rest of the weekend’s schedule and matchups can be found here.

No. 1 Connecticut Whale

Connecticut will be looking for its first PHF title. The team is the only one among the league’s original four to have not won the Isobel Cup. After finishing atop the standings for the first time, they certainly have the talent to do so this season.

Kennedy Marchment has been on a tear for the Whale in her first PHF season. The forward ended the regular season as the league leader in points (33), assists (20) and points per game (1.7). She also tied for second in goals with 13 through 20 games played.

Marchment was named the PHF Player of the Month for March after notching four goals and 10 assists through six games. In the final game of the season, she set a single game record for the Whale with four assists in a 5-0 victory over Toronto. Her performance helped the Whale secure the top seed in the playoffs.

The road to No. 1 wasn’t easy for the Whale, as the team dropped three out of its first five games. But they only lost two more games through the rest of the season, including an 11-game winning streak.

“It took us a little bit [of time] to find our stride,” Marchment said. “We’re still getting better each and every game. We had a bit of a rough start but we finished strong, we finished at the top, and we’re not done yet.”

Taylor Girard and Amanda Conway bolster the Whale offense, which helped the team finish the season with a plus-30 goal differential. While Connecticut still has a lot to prove in the playoffs, it is one of the most complete teams in the league.

No. 2 Toronto Six

One year after losing in the semifinals to the eventual champion Boston Pride, the Six are right back near the top of the league.

In her first full PHF season, Toronto’s Mikyla Grant-Mentis was hot on Marchment’s heels, finishing second behind Marchment in points, assists and points per game. As the reigning league MVP and Newcomer of the Year, she led the league in game-winning goals, notching six on the season, and finished with 30 points.

Elaine Chuli has been outstanding in net for the Six, holding a 1.82 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. She also leads the league in wins, having held down the net in all 16 of the Six’s victories.

While the Six didn’t lose often during the season (just four times), each time they did they rebounded with a win. After a 5-0 defeat to the Whale to end the season, look for Toronto to bounce back in the PHF semifinals and make a run for the final.

“We had a great start and a couple of bumps in the road,” Six coach Mark Joslin said. “But we rebounded every time we lost a game and I’m happy with our response every time. If the trend continues, we’re gonna be golden this weekend in Tampa.”

No. 3 Boston Pride

The Pride certainly didn’t end the season the way they wanted, dropping five games in a row en route to the third seed in the playoffs. They’ll be facing off against No. 6 seed Buffalo, the team that beat them in the final two games of the regular season.

“I don’t think there’s many teams that have gone into overtime five games in a row and lost, but I think our team has the right mindset going into Friday,” said coach Paul Mara, noting that the team has known for a while that Buffalo would likely end up being their first round opponent.

“We’ve been preparing for them for a long time,” he added.

There’s hope for the Pride in the fact that their last five games were lost in overtime and on the road. The neutral site in Tampa could help them snap the streak.

“Playoffs is always the start of a new season,” captain Jillian Dempsey said. “So it’s a fresh start for us. We’re really excited to go in with a do-or-die situation, backs against the wall and really find out what we’re made out of.

“We feel we’ve been building that mental toughness all season, but especially this past month. We’re battle tested so it’s going to be a great opportunity on Friday.”

The defending champion Pride do boast the season’s best goaltender in Katie Burt, who led the league in goals against average (1.41) and save percentage (.958). They also have a lot of depth and an aggressive zone defense.

Their experience in the postseason – with two Isobel Cup wins, the most of any team in the league – could help them make a run.

No. 4 Metropolitan Riveters

The Riveters had an up-and-down season, finishing with just seven wins and a minus-11 goal differential. They split the regular season series against their preliminary round opponent Minnesota 2-2.

Metropolitan captain Madison Packer is capable of leading her team to victory, including a 3-2 overtime win in early March against Boston. Kendall Cornine, Theresa Knutson and Emily Janiga all managed double-digit points totals this season.

Still, the Riveters have an uphill battle ahead of them if they want to lift the Isobel Cup.

No. 5 Minnesota Whitecaps

Minnesota lost a lot of depth from last season, which has resulted in some growing pains. But the Whitecaps do have some bright spots, including captain Allie Thunstrom, who is one of the fastest skaters in the league. She also scored a league-high 18 goals on the season.

The captain is joined by Jonna Curtis, who tied for the third-most points on the season with 24. Curtis also notched 15 assists and averaged 1.2 goals per game, making her a threat in any game.

Thunstrom said Tuesday that over the course of the season the team has grown together and grown resilient, something that could help the Whitecaps on Friday against the Riveters.

“Everybody on our team feels really confident in who we have in our locker room and who we have out on the ice,” she said. “There’s a lot of belief in each other.”

No. 6 Buffalo Beauts

Despite a minus-29 goal differential, don’t count the Beauts out in Friday’s matchup with Boston. They took a 3-2 overtime victory over the Pride to end the regular season.

Offensive defenders Dominique Kremer and Anjelica Diffendal each have the ability to find the back of the net and are followed closely behind by Autumn MacDougall and Kennedy Ganser. Captain Taylor Accursi is another threat to opposing teams, having scored three times on the season and recorded eight assists.

Consistency has been an issue this season, but Buffalo has gone up against the league’s best and given them a run for their money. The Beauts have the potential to play spoiler as the postseason gets underway.