IN OVERTIME CLASSIC, WHITECAPS WIN 1-0 ON THUNSTROM GOAL TO REACH ISOBEL CUP FINAL
By Dan Rice
For the second time in as many seasons, the Minnesota Whitecaps are heading to the Isobel Cup Final after defeating the Metropolitan Riveters in an instant classic. The defending champs will have a chance to become the first back-to-back champion in the history of the NWHL when they play the Boston Pride in Friday's Isobel Cup Final
The goaltenders were the stars of the afternoon in Minnesota, with Amanda Leveille and Sam Walther matching each other save-for-save through 65 minutes of gameplay. Walther would finish with 30 saves for the Riveters and Leveille made 28 for the Whitecaps. Finally, Allie Thunstrom, the league’s leading goal-scorer (24) who was recently named Co-MVP of the season, was able to stuff a puck past Walther at the side of the net 6:39 into overtime to put an exclamation point on the game. “It’s so fitting that she scored that goal for our team,” said Leveille of the game’s lone goal scorer.
“Them being as physical as they are, they did a really good job of taking our speed away from us,” said Thunstrom. “Luckily, we had Lev behind us to save us when she had to. We hung her out to dry a few times but she always has our back and we knew that we’d somehow find a way to breakthrough.”
On the winning play, Thunstrom cashed in at the tail-end of a 3-on-1 into the Riveters zone after her linemate Jonna Curtis got the puck over to the league’s Fastest Skater. “Winning the Co-MVP that’s really a team thing, I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Thunstrom said, “and my linemates. Jonna and [Meaghan] Pezon, they played unbelievable all year.”
The line of Curtis, Thunstrom, and Meaghan Pezon terrorized the league once they were put together as the calendar flipped to 2020, and on Sunday the deadly trio combined to fire 13 shots on Walther. “There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to walk away with the win,” added Thunstrom. “I would have been happy no matter who put it in."
Both teams were unable to convert on special teams during regulation despite multiple opportunities - the Whitecaps PP was 0-4 and the Riveters went 0-3. “I have to point out one player, I think Stephanie Anderson had at least six blocked shots that I couldn’t see and I heard the puck hit her,” replied Leveille when asked about her squad’s penalty killers on the day.
Leveille was also quick to praise her adversary in the opposing net who played maybe one of the best games in the league this season, mentioning Walther during her postgame interview on the broadcast. “Sam Walther played unbelievable (today), I’ve complimented her all year and it’s for a good reason. She kept her team in the game all day. Their whole team played a great game,” said Leveille.
“(Walther) was phenomenal today,” Thunstrom added. “We’ve had a hard time with her all year. All of the respect in the world to her. She is very, very, very talented and today she showed that; especially in the second period.”
Game Notes: Leveille advances to the Isobel Cup for the fourth consecutive season, tying a league record set by Corinne Buie. There are 13 players on the Whitecaps now one win away from winning back-to-back Isobel Cups. Kate Leary of the Rivs led all skaters with eight shots on goal, Thunstrom led Minnesota with seven.
Dan's 3 Stars of the Game
1) Amanda Leveille (Min): 28 saves
2) Sam Walther (Rivs): 30 saves
3) Allie Thunstrom (Min): OT GWG
Photo Credit: Collin Nawrocki