The Whitecaps were supposed to begin the Isobel Cup playoffs last Sunday, until the weather got in the way. When the Metropolitan Riveters weren’t able to get to Minnesota for the semifinals at Tria Rink, the game was postponed for five days, forcing the Whitecaps to wait a little longer for their postseason debut as members of the National Women’s Hockey League.
“We’ve been practicing regularly and doing some intrasquad scrimmages, trying to stay sharp,” General Manager and co-head coach Jack Brodt said. “You just have to make the best of it.”
Friday, the Whitecaps hope to quickly shake off any rust when they finally host the Riveters in the semifinals. While Brodt welcomed the extra rest, which gave some banged-up players a chance to heal, he’s hoping the two weeks between the end of the regular season and the start of playoffs didn’t dull his team’s edge.
He knows it can’t afford any lapses. The Whitecaps (12-4) began their first NWHL season with four consecutive victories over the Riveters (4-12), putting them on a path to the regular-season crown and top playoff seed. But the Riveters are the defending Isobel Cup champions and have won their past two games, including a victory over second-place Buffalo.
Buffalo, which shut out Boston 4-0 in the other semifinal last Saturday, will play the winner of Friday’s game for the Isobel Cup championship on Sunday at Tria.
“In this league, in a one-and-done format, there’s no question in anyone’s mind that any team could win,” Brodt said. “I’m very optimistic we’ll be ready to play. But everyone is going to have to be at their best.”
The Whitecaps last played on March 3, beating Connecticut 4-1 on the road to extend their win streak to five games. The playoffs began March 7, when the fourth-seeded Riveters beat No. 5 seed Connecticut 5-2 in a play-in game.
The Riveters did not win consecutive games during the regular season. Former Gophers forward and two-time Olympian Amanda Kessel had a league-high 15 assists, but the Riveters scored only 32 goals in 16 regular-season games.
Goaltender Katie Fitzgerald, the most valuable player of last year’s playoffs, has picked up her play after a poor start. The former St. Cloud State goalie has a .915 save percentage in her past five appearances.