On Wednesday, Minnesota Whitecaps goalie Amanda Leveille said she knows what it's like to be on both sides of an Isobel Cup final result when gloves and sticks fly at game's end.
On Sunday night, she felt that sting for a second time and so did her teammates, as the Whitecaps lost 4-3 in overtime to the Toronto Six in Tempe, Ariz.
The Whitecaps won their first and only Isobel Cup in their inaugural 2019 season when Lee Stecklein's goal 49 seconds into overtime beat Buffalo 2-1 in St. Paul's Tria Rink.
On Sunday in the desert, they watched the other team celebrate —as Boston did before them in 2021 — after four torrid minutes of 3-on- 3 OT.
"That was a championship game," Whitecaps defender Amanda Boulier said. "A lot of emotion. Both teams trying to settle in and get their legs under them. We were a little scattered, a little bit nervous. That showed in 3-on-3. It definitely was a game that could have gone either way.
"I really thought we'd come out on the other end, but that's championship hockey."
Toronto veteran Tereza Vanisova's goal 4:23 into OT won it. She converted a Minnesota turnover in the corner into a slinky wrist shot that beat Leveille up high.
The Whitecaps have reached four of the past five Isobel Cup finals, winning once, losing twice and having a title game with Boston canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19.
Whitecaps forward Jonna Albers of Elk River scored her fifth goal in three playoff games 20 seconds into the third period when she converted Natalie Snodgrass' pass into a 3-2 lead, the Whitecaps' first lead of the night. That came on a power play that extended from the second period after a Toronto delay of game.
Albers goal tied a Premier Hockey Federation record for most points in a playoff year.
The Whitecaps twice trailed by a goal in the first two periods. Toronto responded in the third just as the Whitecaps had twice before. The Six tied the score 3-3 7:56 into the third period when Taylor Woods scored by getting the puck over the goal line from a tangle of players around Leveille.
Toronto entered the night 13-1 when it has scored the first goal this season. Then in this one, the Six scored it 7:22 into the game.
Czech national team defender Dominika Laskova took Michela Cava's backhanded pass from near the goal line after flying down the left boards with the puck and beat Leveille with a shot coming down the slot before the Whitecaps star could react.
The Whitecaps reached another final despite an uneven season in which they went 10-2 for a stretch, then finished the regular season on an eight-game losing streak.
"Just the resilience of the team coming back," Whitecaps coach Ronda Engelhardt said of the game and the season. "We reset for the playoffs. We came and showed what Whitecaps can do. They played incredible in the playoffs. This game could have gone either way. Frustrating to be on this end, but very proud of the team and how hard they fought to get here."
Seeded fourth after claiming the final playoff spot in the seven-team league, the Whitecaps went to Boston and swept the two-time Isobel Cup winners in a three-game series.
Sunday's game — played at Arizona State's Mullett Arena, which is also the home of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes — was the first time two women head coaches, Engelhardt and Toronto's Geraldine Heaney, faced each other in a Isobel Cup final.
"I was shocked to hear this is the first time, but hopefully we can continue to see this more and more and more," Engelhardt said on Wednesday.
The Star Tribune did not send the author of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.