EVEILLE LEADS WHITECAPS TO WIN IN REGULAR SEASON FINALE
By Mike Murphy
A sellout crowd at TRIA Rink was treated to an intense regular season finale for the Minnesota Whitecaps. After last night’s nine-goal affair, the Whitecaps and Whale both brought a playoff-caliber intensity to today’s contest, particularly in the defensive zone and the goal crease. Thanks to some all-world goaltending by Amanda Leveille and a big night for the power play, the Whitecaps prevailed by a final score of 3-1 to finish the year 17-5-2.
“The second game is always harder in a series and after the game yesterday we knew they were going to come out here and be ready for us,” 2020 NWHL All-Star Meghan Lorence shared after the game. “It was a good game to get under our belt and to get out of there with a win.”
Lorence scored the only goal in the first 40 minutes of play halfway through the first period. Lorence scored her ninth goal of the season just eight seconds into the Whitecaps’ first power play of the game. However, the storyline of the first two periods was the play of Leveille and Whale goaltender Sonjia Shelly.
In the second period alone, Leveille and Shelly stopped a combined 35 shots – many of which were show-stoppers – in the tightly contested game. At the end of the second period, Leveille had 30 saves and Shelly was right behind her with 29 of her own. “Lev's been rock-solid since college, so we have all the confidence in the world in her,” said Lorence. “We know she's one of the best goaltenders in the league, if not the best. She has our back and we're very confident in her.”
Nicole Schammel scored Minnesota’s only even strength goal of the game just a few minutes into the third period when she and Haylea Schmid suddenly found themselves in a two-on-one situation right in front of Shelly’s crease. Schammel slapped her stick on the ice to call for the puck and made no mistake tucking the puck past the Whale goalie. It was her 11th goal and 25th point of the season.
As the game progressed, Leveille continued to come up with stop after stop, but the Whale finally broke through with 4:36 left in regulation. Sarah Schwenzfeier (6) parked herself in front of the net and deflected a point shot by Taylor Marchin past Leveille to make it a one-goal game. It was Schwenzfeier’s second goal of the weekend.
The Whitecaps answered right back after Schwenzfeier was sent to the box for tripping Amanda Boulier. Allie Thunstrom slipped the puck from behind the net right to Audra Richards who buried her ninth goal of the season through the five-hole to put the game away.
“Yeah, our power play definitely needed to put some points up today so just digging deep and putting the puck in the back of the net was huge,” Richards shared after the game. “It'll help bring a lot of confidence along the way.”
Leveille finished the game with 48 saves to earn a .980 save percentage. Lorence and Jonna Curtis led the way for Minnesota’s offense with two points apiece.
The Whitecaps will now prepare for their highly anticipated Isobel Cup Semifinal showdown against the Metropolitan Riveters on Sunday, March 8. Meanwhile, the Whale return to action on Friday for the Play-In game against the Buffalo Beauts. Tickets for all 2020 NWHL Isobel Cup Playoff Games are available at nwhl.zone/tickets. Fans can watch all of their NWHL playoff hockey on Twitch streaming live and free, available on any device that can connect to the internet.
Photo Credit: Nick Wosika