TORONTO, Ontario -- The Connecticut Whale earn a 1-0 series lead with their 5-3 win over the Toronto Six in Game 1 of the Isobel Cup semifinals at Mattamy Athletic Centre in downtown Toronto Friday afternoon.
Whale forward and two-time PHF all-star Taylor Girard scored two goals and was named Player of the Game. Connecticut forwards Justine Reyes, Melissa Samsokevich, and Lenka Serdar also recorded goals.
Toronto got its goals from Emma Woods and Michela Cava, who scored two goals for the Six to bring the score to 4-3 late in the third. However, the comeback was nullified by an empty net goal from Girard and assisted by Kennedy Marchment, who continued her points streak to 19 consecutive games.
Girard was super happy with her and the team's performance, “It’s awesome to be here, and we were excited to make it to the semis,” she said. “We came in with a good mindset, and we trust each other and went out there to battle, and we had a lot of composure.”
Whale head coach Colton Orr was pleased with the win while acknowledging his team must clean up a few things ahead of Game 2. “I thought early in the game we were going, and we had control of the puck and possession,” Orr said. "But at 4-1, we took our foot off the gas, and we put ourselves in a tough spot."
After the game, Toronto Six head coach Geraldine Heaney felt the team got off to a slow start and never recovered.“We were playing catch-up the entire game, and we came close. I felt we outplayed them in the third period. But we fell short, and we need a better start tomorrow,” the first-year head coach and Hockey Hall of Famer said postgame.
Cava, Toronto’s leading scorer (2 goals), was disappointed in the loss in front of a home crowd but knows her team must turn the page. “It’s not over yet, and we need to learn how to come back better, and it’s disappointing, and we need a better 60-minute performance tomorrow,” Cava said.
I also caught up with Toronto captain Shiann Darkangelo, who echoed her teammates' sentiments.
“We came out slow,” she said. "We need to continue to play how we played in the third period, and good things will happen.”
The win puts third overall seed Connecticut in the driver's seat for the best-of-three series. Second overall seed Toronto is now on the verge of elimination, and dropping one more game would be the third consecutive first-round exit in as many years in the league.
Despite the Game 1 win, Connecticut has room for improvement. Marchment, who has been one of Connecticut's best players, spoke about the computer she and her teammates will need to close out games in the playoffs.
“I think we let our emotions get the best of us,” she said. "We jumped out to a 4-1 lead and got too excited, and we need to do a better job of keeping our emotions in check and keeping our foot on the gas, for sure.”
The puck drops for Game 2 Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm Eastern. Fans can watch the action on TSN in Canada and ESPN+ in the United States.