THUNSTROM THRILLS SELLOUT CROWD WITH HAT TRICK
By Mike Murphy
The Minnesota Whitecaps won a high-scoring affair against the Connecticut Whale tonight in front of a sellout crowd at TRIA Rink. Over 1,100 fans filled the stands and circled the glass to watch the Whitecaps' offense, led by an Allie Thunstrom hat trick, crash over the Whale in a 6-3 final.
The defending Isobel Cup champions came out of the gate swinging, scoring two goals inside of the first two minutes of the first period. Meaghan Pezon (8), who is red-hot right now, capitalized on a brutal mistake made by the Whale in front of their own net 57 seconds into the game. Less than 60 seconds after that gaffe, Thunstrom (22) scored the first of her three goals in the game.
The Whitecaps took a 3-0 lead when Sam Donovan, who began her career with the Whale, scored her first goal with the Whitecaps three minutes past the halfway mark of the first. "It was good, it was really good," Donovan said after the game. "Lisa (Martinson) took a shot and I just took a backhand. It was pretty funny, (Shannon) Doyle came over and gave me a hug and she said that she wished she was hugging me for their goal instead of our goal."
The Whale found their own reason to celebrate with just one minute left in the first. Sarah Schwenzfeier (5) wired a perfectly-placed wrist shot past Amanda Leveille to put Connecticut on the board and give the Whitecaps something to think about during the first intermission.
"We got off to a good start, and scored some early goals which was nice," Pezon said after the game. "We certainly have to clean up in our d-zone. They got a lot of opportunities right off the bat. We've got to clean that stuff up."
The second period was filled with back-and-forth action, but the Whale were never able to catch up with the Whitecaps' high-flying offense. Jonna Curtis (14) and Thunstrom (23) scored for the home team and Whale captain Shannon Doyle (2) and Elena Gualtieri (2) buried goals for Connecticut in the second.
The Whale's resilience was something that the Whitecaps expected, but the visiting team still proved to be a tough test. Tonight was the first game in eight that the Whale scored more than two goals in a game and, despite the final score, Brooke Wolejko had another strong showing.
"Every time they cut it down to two (goals) you knew they were going to keep coming," said Pezon. "I think that's one thing we've talked about all year. We've got to be ready to play a full 60 minutes because we knew they were going to be ready."
Thunstrom (24) struck again early in the third period to complete her hat trick and cap off a four-point game that earned her the nod as the night's first star. Curtis earned honors as the second star with her own four-point game (1 goal, 3 assists) and Doyle was the third star with a goal and two assists.
"You watch Allie and Jonna skate, they're probably two of the fastest skaters in the league, so it just creates a lot of opportunities for us," Pezon shared after the win. "For me, as long as I put the puck in front of them I know they are going to make good plays. We've really been clicking, it's been a lot of fun to play with those two."
The Whitecaps will close out their final game of the 2019-20 season tomorrow at TRIA Rink with a rematch against the Whale. The game begins at 1:00 p.m. CST and fans can buy tickets to that game and the Whitecaps' Isobel Cup Semifinal game against the Metropolitan Riveters (Sunday, March 8) at whitecaps.nwhl.zone/tickets.
Photo Credit: Nick Wosika