Vanisova’s OT goal seals Toronto Isobel Cup; beats Minnesota

Tereza Vanisova scored 4:23 into overtime, and the Premier Hockey Federation’s Isobel Cup is heading to Canada for the first time in its eight-year history following the Toronto Six’s 4-3 win over the Minnesota Whitecaps on Sunday night.

The Six won the title while making their first championship game appearance in three seasons of existence. And they reached the Isobel Cup final by winning their final two games to beat the Connecticut Whale 2-1 in a best-of-three semifinal series.

Playing three aside, Vanisova set up her own goal by out-muscling Liz Schepers in the right corner to force a turnover. Vanisova then drove alone to the net and lifted a shot over goalie Amanda Leveille’s left shoulder to secure the first Isobel Cup final to not feature one of the seven-team PHF’s original four franchises.

Vanisova, a member of the Czech national women’s team, joined Boston Pride captain Jillian Dempsey in becoming just the second player to win three career Isobel Cup titles. Vanisova signed with Toronto after winning championships in each of the past two seasons with Boston.

It was just the third Isobel Cup championship game to reach overtime, and first since Minnesota’s 2-1 win over the Buffalo Beauts in 2019, the Whitecaps inaugural season. Boston also defeated Buffalo 4-3 in OT in the opener of its two-game sweep of the Beauts in the first Isobel Cup final in 2016, when it was a best-of-three series.

Toronto extended its domination over Minnesota by winning its 10th consecutive meeting in a run that began after the Whitecaps beat the Six 3-0 in their first meeting on Jan. 23, 2021.

The Whitecaps failed in their bid to win their second championship, after winning in their inaugural season. The Whitecaps were making the fourth final appearance in their five-year history, including 2020, when Minnesota was scheduled to play Boston in a title game that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toronto squandered a pair of one-goal leads before forcing overtime with 12:04 remaining in the third period when Taylor Woods shoveled in a loose puck inside the left post.

Dominika Laskova and Breanne Wilson-Bennett also scored for the Six, and Elaine Chuli stopped 21 shots.

Jonna Albers scored her playoff-leading fifth goal to give the Whitecaps a brief 3-2 lead by scoring 20 seconds into the third period. The goal was Albers’ 16th career playoff point, tying Dempsey for most in league playoff history. Brooke Madsen and Brittyn Fleming also scored for Minnesota and Leveille stopped 35 shots, including the first six she faced in overtime.

After finishing fourth in the regular season, the Whitecaps reached the championship game with a two-game sweep of Boston in the semifinals.

The championship was played at Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena, which also serves as the temporary home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. It was the second straight year the Isobel Cup was played at a neutral site after Boston defended its title beating Connecticut outside in suburban Tampa Bay last season.