By: Jake Solomons | Follow Me on Twitter @jake_solomons
All good things must come to an end. That includes the Boston Pride’s undefeated streak. The Pride traveled to Danbury, Connecticut, over the weekend, where they faced the Whale in a pair of games, splitting the series 1-1. Boston may have gotten their first taste of big-league competition; this past weekend in Connecticut, which may have exposed areas that they can improve on. This isn’t always a bad thing, especially at the beginning of the season. Going into their second meeting with Minnesota on November 20, they’ll need to fix any errors before they can hit the ice and expect to win.
The first game of the weekend was action-packed. A back and forth battle which saw the Pride take a 4-3 victory in overtime. A physical game all around, with ten penalties on the day, Boston was able to get the upper hand on the scoreboard. Game Two was a display of a dominating offense by Connecticut with a 3-1 victory. Surely with all the scoring chances the Whale had Saturday and Sunday, the Pride will look to cut down those chances and work on a new game plan ahead of this coming weekend.
The overtime victory for Boston was not complete without a few penalties, with Kaleigh Fratkin leading off things in the sin bin for a cross-check at 10:44. The Boston PK unit is simply a force to be reckoned with because they have been successful on almost every attempt this season. Nothing came of the Connecticut powerplay, but the Pride offense began showing signs of life early in the period.
All of Boston’s lines were working well in the zone, but a perfectly executed breakout play by the third line created options for a scoring chance. A cross-ice pass by Amanda Boulier to Meghara McManus, alone on the far wing, cut in to challenge Whale goaltender Abbie Ives with a wrist shot that connected with the back of the net at 13:55. The early lead gave Boston the momentum for another goal by Taylor Wenczkowski at 15:15 to extend the lead 2-0. A little pushing and shoving created by Wenczkowski’s presence in the crease allowed her to catch the puck on a rebound and flick it past Ives for the goal. Her second goal of the season.
Shortly after the goal by Boston, Evelina Raselli was charged with a body checking penalty at 18:08. Connecticut was unable to capitalize on the powerplay, which allowed the Pride to keep a two-goal lead heading into the second period.
End of first period: Boston – 2, Connecticut – 0.
Connecticut does not like losing, and they proved that in the second period. The first three minutes were all offense for the Whale, with an attacking zone that overwhelmed Boston’s defense. Shots on net is a key strategy that the Whale often uses, with Emily Fluke putting her stick to use on a rebound to flip the puck past Lovisa Selander at 2:39 to open the period.
Cutting the lead in half puts the Whale’s chances at winning in a better light, but certainly not a guarantee. They just have to tie the game first. Well, Kennedy Marchment would like to have a few words. Or a few goals, I should say. Boston’s second period was very “blah” with no real jolt or burst of energy, which maybe came from having a lead and thinking they could coast the rest of the way. Marchment made a presence in the crease with a feed down low from Emma Vlasic and tucked a backhander by Selander for the game-tying goal at 5:57.
A little while later, the physicality began to ramp up as the goals were becoming scarce to find a lead for either team. Kayla Friesen went to the box on a cross-check at 17:05, which gave Connecticut a much-needed advantage for a potential go-ahead goal. Sure enough, an offensive attack by the Whale saw Amanda Conway fire a shot on net, with a well-placed stick by Marchment to deflect the puck into the net to take the lead 3-2 at 16:46.
The lead by Connecticut late in the period would carry over to begin the third, looking to give Boston their first loss of the season.
End of Second: Connecticut – 3, Boston – 2.
The overall vibe of the third period was neutral, both teams trying to keep momentum at hand and Boston really trying to send this game into overtime. A few extracurriculars sent Connecticut to the bin for five penalties throughout the third, none of which the Pride could capitalize on. Three of the five penalties were by way of tripping, which means the poke checking strategy was ineffective for the Whale.
However, one component that was effective was the Boston Pride sharpshooter Christina Putigna. The late minutes of the third period is the most exciting because you can either have everything to lose or everything to gain. For Boston, they had everything to gain, including an overtime opportunity. Relentless pressure deep in the attacking zone caused Connecticut to tire out quickly and bunch up, not giving each other room to prevent scoring chances. A little traffic in front with a screen by Jillian Dempsey gave Christina Putigna the green light to fire a short-range wrister for the tying goal at 19:20.
Putigna has been a force that cannot be stopped, and teams really haven’t picked up on that fact yet, which is good for Boston for the time being. With two goals now on the season, the Pride’s red line is undoubtedly proving to be a thorn in everyone’s side. As the clock ran down to zero, both teams headed to the locker room for a sure-to-be hard-fought overtime period.
End of Third: Boston – 3, Connecticut – 3.
If you thought the third period of hockey was intense, overtime is certainly an exciting environment to behold. This proved to be the case on Saturday afternoon in Danbury, Connecticut. Pressure is the name of the game when creating scoring chances, and Boston was keen on the subject.
A few quick minutes of back and forth hockey was worth the price of admission, but the last final moments of the overtime period was the icing on the cake. A 3-on-2 rush in the attacking zone for Boston gave them an advantage with a shot put on by Sammy Davis that missed the mark. The save made by Ives brushed the puck aside only to meet Christina Putigna’s stick for a one-timer into the back of the net. Her third goal of the season.
Boston’s offense is not to be taken lightly, and for the steady competition from Connecticut, they’ve finally been tested and succeeded in their first try. However, the first game was a measuring stick in terms of how the season would play out, but more importantly, we hoped it would be a positive foreshadowing for game two on Sunday.
Saturday’s game was the first to require extra time so far in the 2021-22 season and showcased the PHF’s new 3-on-3 overtime format. The change was introduced to create more scoring opportunities to decide games ahead of a shootout.
End of Overtime.
Final Score: Boston – 4, Connecticut – 3.
The final game of the series was one that was close in terms of conditioning, scoring opportunities, and penalties. The first period was pretty clean, with no powerplays for either team. The Whale had a few spurts of offensive rushes but couldn’t connect with the net. After a few breakouts, Emily Fluke kept her points streak intact with a rebound wrister at 11:36 to take the lead 1-0. Boston’s laziness or incoordination allowed the Whale to spread out the attack and create openings where Boston couldn’t cover them.
It was a stalemate in the first with not much excitement, but on the scoreboard, it was very much one-sided heading into the second period.
End of First: Connecticut – 1, Boston – 0.
Taylor Girard opened up the second-period festivities with a holding penalty for Connecticut at 1:09. The Pride came out relatively slow, which resulted in an unsuccessful powerplay. A quiet game is a deadly game, and with zero goals scored in the second period, the final frame of play is an even playing field – even with Boston down by one.
End of Second: Connecticut – 1, Boston – 0.
Momentum was a critical factor in the third period, and for the Connecticut Whale, the momentum was entirely in their favor. A quick even-strength goal by Emma Vlasic at 3:12 put the Whale up 2-0, giving CTW the upper hand to hopefully extend the lead further. A bench minor penalty on Boston Head Coach Paul Mara for Unsportsmanlike Conduct at 3:12 was served by Katelynn Russ.
The Pride gave that powerplay away at a very inopportune time as the Whale were already running away with the game. The Powerplay unit went right to work as Alyssa Wohlfeiler fired a top-shelf wrister at 4:37 to send the Whale up 3-0 and give themselves some breathing room for the rest of the period.
Two minor penalties for Connecticut were enticing for the Boston powerplay but not enough to capitalize and score on those chances. Lauren Kelly added to the penalty party for the Pride with a cross-checking minor. Thankfully for Boston, the Whale didn’t score on that powerplay.
The last few minutes of the period were filled with opportunities for Boston to make something happen, but of the various chances, none were successful. However, the trusty strategy “crash the net” rings true to an effective game plan yet again. The red line offense of Wenczkowski-Friesen-Putigna made a last-ditch effort to get the Pride on the board. A shot from the dot by Mallory Souliotis bounced off Abbie Ives’ pad toward Kayla Friesen and slid it past Ives for the first goal of the day for Boston at 15:33. The second goal of the season for Friesen helped the Pride show signs of life in the final minutes, but it simply wasn’t enough to keep them in the game. The clock struck zero, and the Boston Pride’s 3-0 undefeated streak came to an end.
Final Score: Connecticut – 3, Boston – 1.
Who’s Up For Round Two?
The Boston Pride have a week to shake off their loss against the Whale as they get set to travel to Minnesota to face the Whitecaps in the second meeting between the two teams in three weeks. The Whitecaps had a bye week this past weekend which is good and bad. From a fatigue standpoint, it allows them an extra week to regain the energy lost in their first-weekend game and practice this past week. The downside, however, is that they’ve spent two whole weeks without competition aside from scrimmages in practice. This is where Boston can capitalize on the rust Minnesota built up in that short time.
There are two strategies that Boston can work on to make sure they’re ready to face Minnesota and fall back into the win column. The first strategy is to spread out and give each other room to set up plays in the attacking zone. There simply wasn’t enough space to the credit of Connecticut’s defense. But a professional team and defending champion Boston Pride can adapt and overcome any gameplan offensively or defensively. The second strategy is to apply pressure on the powerplay. Too many opportunities have come and gone with the player advantage, and no goals were scored. That cannot happen. Not as often as it does. With that said, we’ll see how this weekend will play out as the road trip continues in St. Paul, MN.
Boston will travel to Minnesota as they face the Whitecaps on Saturday, November 20, 2021, at 8pm EST. Puck drop at 8:03pm. Game two will take place on Sunday, November 21, 2021, at 3pm EST. Puck drop at 3:03pm. Live streaming is available on ESPN+ and TSN International.