Photo courtesy of @NWHL Twitter
The NWHL is celebrating the sixth season of the league’s history in a big way. Playing a two week tournament in the self dubbed “NDubble” of Lake Placid New York, home of the historic 1980 USA Olympic Champions, the National Women’s Hockey League took the stage Saturday on Twitch.tv with a rising surge in anticipation and excitement for what the league has in store during this run.
and it did not disappoint.
An opening weekend of fantastic hockey, combined with a terrific broadcast stream on the NWHL Twitch account that was viewed by over 89 thousand viewers put the women’s league on center stage with viewers checking in worldwide during the broadcasts.
For a league that has battled a bad image for past treatment of players, been criticized ruthlessly for the handling of players, healthcare, contracts and more (including by myself here) the NWHL has found a way to push forward and make their game stronger even with the majority of women’s stars breaking off to form the PWHPA. Credit needs to be given where it is due and the NWHL has certainly showed it is trending in a positive direction. Whether it is the strong partnership that have been formed with major sponsors both for on and off the ice, the NWHL has quickly crafted a position of strength and perseverance even with the added stress of COVID-19. Given all the drama in the past surrounding the league, it is nothing short of remarkable what they have been able to accomplish.
Back on the ice, the two week sprint to the Isobel Cup featured six games and the debut of the Toronto Six franchise taking the stage in Lake Placid. Sonjia Shelly was the early star of the show, backstopping the Metropolitan Riveters with a 40 save shutout over Toronto in the opening game. Right after, the Minesota Whitecaps who won the Isobel Cup in 2019 would kick off their campaign with a 2-1 win over Boston. The penalty filled game would see another goaltender Amanda Leveille star in a 36 save performance. The CT Whale would cap off the opening day with a solid 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Beauts.
Day two would see a large boost in scoring as 24 goals would be scored in the 3 games compared to 9 in day 1. Breanne Wilson-Bennett of the Toronto Six and Jillian Dempsey of the Boston Pride starred for the day as the only two multiple goal scorers on the sheets. Shiann Darkangelo, Sarah Steele, Brooke Boquist of the 6 would cap multi-point assists as well as Christina Putigna and Kaleigh Fratkin of the Boston Pride. The big story from the second day of action was the opening game between the Toronto Six and Minnesota Whitecaps. The Six jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to Darkangelo and Wilson-Bennett before Minnesota would be able to make a dent in the lead. The Six would expand the lead further to 5-1 after Wilson-Bennett’s second of the game and Sarah Steele leading the way on assists. All appeared to rolling in the way of The Six picking up a huge win on the weekend until Minnesota mounted an outstanding comeback netting four straight goals with two coming from special teams (1 PP 1 SH) to tie the game. The game would be settled off the shootout with Haley Mack sealing the comeback victory for Minnesota. The rest of the day would see offensive outbursts from three of the four teams with the Metropolitan Riveters vs. CT Whale being a tightly back and forth contested battle. The Buffalo Beauts were the only team to held in check mostly on the scoresheet as the Boston Pride pulled away in the final game of the day, scoring 4 straight to win 5-1.
All in all, it was an exciting opening weekend for the NWHL, its players and its fans. The league has launched this two week tournament in a bold and strong way.
The action continues with a busy week starting tonight as Minnesota will take on Metropolitan at 5:30 PM EST. There are two games per night through Thursday evening until the gauntlet enters the round robin play on Sunday.
2021 National Women’s Hockey League Schedule – remaining games
(all times ET, all games in Lake Placid)
Tuesday, Jan. 26
5:30 p.m. – Minnesota Whitecaps at Metropolitan Riveters
8:30 p.m. – Toronto Six at Boston Pride
Wednesday, Jan. 27
5:30 p.m. – Boston Pride at Connecticut Whale
8:30 p.m. – Metropolitan Riveters at Buffalo Beauts
Thursday, Jan. 28
5:30 p.m. – Buffalo Beauts at Toronto Six
8:30 p.m. – Connecticut Whale at Minnesota Whitecaps
Saturday, Jan. 30
12:00 p.m. – Connecticut Whale at Toronto Six
3:00 p.m. – Minnesota Whitecaps at Buffalo Beauts
6:00 p.m. – Boston Pride at Metropolitan Riveters
Regular Season Round Robin
Sunday, Jan. 31
2:00 p.m. – Seed 4 at Seed 3
5:00 p.m. – Seed 6 at Seed 2
8:00 p.m. – Seed 5 at Seed 1
Tuesday, Feb. 2
5:30 p.m. – Seed 6 at Seed 1
8:30 p.m. – Seed 4 at Seed 2
Wednesday, Feb. 3
7:00 p.m. – Seed 5 at Seed 3
Isobel Cup Semifinals (Teams re-seeded in order of best records after the 7 games)
Thursday, Feb. 4
5:30 p.m. – Fourth-Place Team at Regular Season Champions
8:00 p.m. – Third-Place Team at Second-Place Team
Isobel Cup Final
Friday, Feb. 5
7 p.m. – Winners of the Semifinals