Saturday afternoon at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in downtown Toronto, the Six managed to force a game three against the visiting Connecticut Whale, who was looking to end the series.
Emma Woods scored the game-winner less than five minutes into overtime when she managed to beat Abby Ives top shelf glove side with a powerful shot to force a decisive game 3 on Monday night.
The Whale was causing all sorts of issues for the Six with a hot goaltender, not to mention solid on special teams and doing a great job defensively blocking every shot possible. Toronto once again allowed the first goal of the game with less than five minutes left in the opening frame when Kennedy Marchment, one of the Whale's best players, beat Elaine Chuli top-shelf glove side.
Brittany Howard, who scored two goals in the contest, tied the game seven minutes into the second when defender Lindsay Eastwood found her on a short-handed breakaway opportunity.
The Whale regained the lead a minute later on the powerplay when Taylor Girard, who also has been stellar, got a great feed from Shannon Turner and beat Chuli for the 2-1 lead. The goals kept coming as Howard scored her second of the game another minute later, this time getting an assist from Daryl Watts to tie the game once again.
A surprising third period with no goals due to stellar goaltending on both ends of the ice forced the game into overtime, where Toronto won when Woods scored.
After the game, Howard spoke about the win and how they wouldn’t lie down and give in. "We are a united group,” Howard said. "We played as a cohesive unit all the way from our back end to our forwards, and it was a full 200-foot game today."
I also asked her what she feel needs to be done on Monday for the Six to clinch the series and a trip to Arizona to play for the Isobel Cup. “I think we need to keep rolling and keep the momentum, and hopefully, we will get things done on Monday.”
Black Rosie Media also caught up with Toronto head coach Geraldine Heaney and game hero Emma Woods to discuss the win and moving forward to the game on Monday night.
“I think we need to continue building,” said Woods. “ All year, Chuli has stood on her back for us, and we owe her, and we had a lot of good offense, but we need to continue to work on our defensive game and continue to work on our defensive game."
Coach Heaney echoed her player's words and mentioned, “We need to continue with how we played today, and if we can play a full 60 minutes, no one can touch us, and that was our plan.”
Toronto played from behind in the first period but won the second frame with two goals to the Whale's one. The second overall seed placed 29 shots on the net to Connecticut's 25 shots.
With Saturday's win, Toronto earned their first playoff win since joining the then National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) in 2020. The first Canadian team in the league still seeks their first trip to the Isobel Cup Final. They will have their chance Monday night in downtown Toronto. The winner of the thrid and final game will travel to Arizona to face the Minnesota Whitecaps, who swept the Boston Pride Saturday night in Massachusetts.