By Janet Schultz, NYHOL
Has the Bubble Burst?
The Bubble in Lake Placid may have sprung a leak.
Earlier this week the Metropolitan Riveters withdrew from the Season due to Covid 19 protocols. Then we received last minute notice that the Whale had forfeited with no reason given. (NYHOL has submitted questions to the NWHL regarding he events of the past couple days and will update when answers are received).
The NWHL announced in November that they would hold their 2020-21 season in Lake Placid in a Bubble. Meaning all players, coaches and staff traveling with the teams would be Covid tested and that the teams would be separated unless they were playing a game. Meals would be brought in, they had one floor per team in their hotel and would not be allowed to “walk” around Lake Placid. No fans and no additional personnel or media would be allowed.
According the Buffalo’s management, they felt completely safe doing this and looked forward to the season, stating that the Covid Protocols were very strict.
Off they went to the scene of The Miracle on Ice on Herb Brooks Arena. This time the NWHL will be making their own history.
The Beauts started out their season with a 2-1 loss to Connecticut as the third game in the season schedule. Kristen Lewicki tied the game at 5:14 of the third period on a powerplay goal, assisted by Alyson Matteau and Marie Jo Pelletier. She sent the game into a scoreless overtime and finally a shootout, with Katelynn Russ scoring for the Whale.
On Sunday, Jan. 24, the Beauts lost a 5-1 decision to Boston. Jordan Juron named second star after a great performance and scoring Buffalo’s only goal.
Buffalo gets a two day rest and takes on the expansion Toronto 6. Autumn MacDougall is named second star after scoring both goals for the Beauts in a 4-2 loss.
The “regular” season ends and the playoff begins.
At this point Buffalo’s Rookie Goaltender Carly Jackson has been in goal for the series and faced 170 shots before going into the playoffs.
According to Coach Peter Perram, “we will go with her until we don’t.” And he did.
Buffalo met Boston and wins their first game of the season giving hope to everyone that they were on a comeback. Boston got on the board first and the first period ends 1-0 in favor of the Pride. MacDougall ties the game in the second and that period ends. In the third Buffalo’s Lisa Chesson, who had just returned to action, scores putting Buffalo up 2-1 and upsetting Boston.
The second game of the “Best of Three” series found Boston and Buffalo tied 0-0 after the first period. Things broke open in the second and Boston put in three followed by another three in the third for a 6-0 loss for the Beauts.
What was to be the third of the Best of Three turned into a seeding position game instead. With no knowledge of what had happened just minutes before they took the ice, both teams were under the assumption they had to win in order to stay in the playoffs. Instead, the Connecticut Whale forfeited their game and now Buffalo and Boston play for the 3rd and 4th seed. Even coaches had no idea until they were on the bench.
Boston’s Sammy Davis scored at 11:07 of the first, followed by a powerplay goal by Jillian Dempsey and a final goal by Davis at 16:19. The second opened with the Beauts Lewicki popping one in and it popped back out; with the play continuing with no whistle and the Beauts shouting that it was a goal. After several minutes of play the whistle goes and the officials gather to discuss whether it was a goal. After talking with several players and the person manning the goal light, they declared it a goal and Buffalo is on the board. However Boston answers back at 16:59 with a goal by MaManus and the period ends 4-1. The third opens with Boston still on the powerplay which Buffalo killed off. Lainge scores on a breakaway at 3:24, that is followed by goals by Souliotis and Rickard and the game ends 6-1 in favor of the Pride.
Boston now faces Minnesota for a spot in the Isobel Cup final and Buffalo will faceoff against Toronto.
Lewicki discussed life in the bubble briefly, explaining that its a lot of hockey but its still hockey and they stay focused on the game.
“We all do different things to prepare for practice and games and you adapt to the rules,” she said.
As they prepare for Toronto Coach Perram sees the two teams as well matched and acknowledged Digit Murphy as one of the best coaches in the world.
“We will be prepared,” said Coach.
This is a season that will be remembered. We stream the games and are able to “chat” with each other, our media press conferences are via Zoom with some humor as we sit in our homes with our cats and dogs making special appearances in the session, the traditional “Kiss Cam” is being done virtually and then they through in the “Seventh Inning Virtual Stretch” and a virtual tee shirt toss. The neutral zone and goal posts are lavender, per a corporate sponsor.
On the ice the rookies played like seasoned professionals. The larger ice surface may have caused issues with the powerplay, since not many were able to capitalize on the opportunity. Goaltending was the key with Buffalo Rookie Carly “CJ” Jackson making hundreds of saves in her first professional appearance this season.
Two teams go home, giving opportunity for another team to make the playoffs. An expansion team that seems to be mirroring the NHL Las Vegas Knights with a big chance to take it all home by claiming the Isobel Cup.
While it is a unique experience and I look forward to the Isobel Cup Final; I do long for a return to the rink in 2021-22.