Whitecaps Confident Despite Sluggish Start to PHF Season

Six games into the 2021-22 PHF season the Minnesota Whitecaps have had more downs than ups, but rest assured this group will bounce back. For a team that has been playing for the Isobel Cup in every season since they joined the NWHL/PHF their 1-4-1 start is certainly not ideal, nor where they want to be. But, it’s a long season and their first six games have been against Boston and Connecticut – the two top teams in the standings.

Minnesota has only led in one of the six games – which is the only game they won (2-0 over Boston). Should fans be concerned or not? Here’s what star winger Allie Thunstrom had to say last weekend after a loss in Connecticut.

“I don’t think it’s cause for concern because if you really look at it, we’ve had two bad periods. The second period in the first game in Boston and the second period here today,” said Thunstrom. “Other than those two periods we have been consistently doing well defensively. So yeah, it has definitely opened our eyes to some things we need to work on in practice; make sure we’re picking up sticks, but I wouldn’t say ’cause for concern’ though.”

Currently, Thunstrom is tied with Jonna Curtis for the team lead in points – four each, and an identical 28 shots on goal each – but the lack of depth scoring has really hurt the Whitecaps early on. Of the players that have played in every game, or only missed one game, eight are pointless right now. And there are some heavy hitters on that list – Audra Morrison (nee Richards), Nicole Schammel, Meghan Lorence, Meaghan Pezon, and Winny Brodt Brown.

But, there are a lot of new players the team is integrating into the group. Small sample sizes so far, but they have each made an impact. “It’s been good so far with a month of practice and now getting our feet under us with some games, I think we’re starting to come together,” said newcomer Ashleigh Brykaliuk, who was an assistant coach at her alma mater, the University of Minnesota-Duluth the past three seasons.

“I think tonight was tough. If you ask anyone in our locker room – we were definitely not happy. We’re working on it, we have a lot of new faces on the team this year and we are slowly putting it together. We’ll keep working together towards playing better.”

Brykaliuk didn’t know many of her new teammates personally, but knew of them and most definitely played against them. “A lot of them I played against in college, but through the hockey world I knew or knew of most of them coming into this,” she told us. “I’ve actually gotten to know them quite a bit over the last month or so even more. It’s been great.”

Thunstrom has been impressed with a lot of the newcomers and the depth the Whitecaps have this season may be beneficial when the games start to have more meaning when the calendar flips to 2022.

“The new players on our team are phenomenal. (Alex) Woken got a goal tonight, Mak Langei, Patti Marshall – they’re all really good players who have been great additions to our team,” said the 2020 co-MVP. “Our returners are strong too and I think we’ll find that stride. We’re just in a little funk right now, but I have confidence in our group that we’ll pull out of it.”

Other than Thunstrom and Curtis, two new players have more than one point – both are defenders, Taylor Turnquist and Langei. Other first-year ‘Caps that have one point: Lexie Laing, Brykaliuk, Marshall, and Woken.

They’ll be okay. They’ve only played two home games thus far and host Buffalo this weekend (Dec. 11-12) and Toronto the following weekend – those are four games they could very easily get right very quickly.

As Thunstrom said – they’ve basically had two bad periods, and goaltender Amanda Leveille has been the hard-luck loser because of that. Her one win was a shutout, but she has faced the most shots in the PHF and consequently made the most saves too, plus her .924 save percentage is out of this world. The penalty kill is a robust 96% right now. The one thing Lev can’t do is score on the power play (maybe she can, I wouldn’t put it past her) which is at a minuscule 5% heading into the Buffalo series.

“For us, it’s still early in the season, only our fifth game – and we’re still trying to find our stride. I’m confident it’ll come,” added Thunstrom.