NWHL Preview: 2021 Isobel Cup Playoffs

The Toronto Six are the top seed heading into the 2021 Isobel Cup playoffs
Michelle Jay

Later this week in Lake Placid, New York, the sixth season of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) will conclude with the Isobel Cup playoffs, live on NBCSN. Four teams (Toronto Six, Minnesota Whitecaps, Boston Pride, and Buffalo Beauts) remain in contention for the 2021 Isobel Cup.

New to the NWHL? The current state of professional women’s hockey, explained

Here are a few of the biggest storylines ahead of this week’s Isobel Cup playoffs:

Which teams are in the running for the 2021 Isobel Cup?

The 2021 season was slated to begin with a round-robin tournament featuring the league’s six teams, but that format was upended last week when the Metropolitan Riveters withdrew after “several members of the organization tested positive for COVID-19.” The NWHL regrouped and announced that the top three remaining teams (Minnesota, Connecticut and Toronto) would face each other to determine playoff seeding, while the bottom two teams (Boston and Buffalo) would compete in a best-of-three series to determine the final playoff spot. However, with one victory each, last night’s win-or-go-home game between Boston and Buffalo ended up being somewhat less significant. Five minutes after the game got underway, the NWHL announced that Connecticut was also withdrawing from the tournament. No reason was immediately provided and the NWHL did not reply to a request for additional information.

Here are the seeds heading into the semifinals:

    1. Toronto Six
    2. Minnesota Whitecaps
    3. Boston Pride
    4. Buffalo Beauts

[Read more: NWHL heads into semifinals after second team withdraws from tournament]

Let’s talk about the Toronto Six

It’s the inaugural NWHL season for the Toronto Six, but the team enters the playoffs with the most momentum. After losing the first two games of the season, Toronto rebounded to win four straight, including a 6-0 victory over Connecticut on Sunday.

[Read more: Digit Murphy’s star only keeps shining brighter in the NWHL]  

Heading into the playoffs, Toronto forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis leads the league in goals scored (5) and game-winning goals (2).

What’s the history of the Isobel Cup?

Since the NWHL was founded in 2015, the Isobel Cup has been awarded four times. (Last year’s championship game between Boston and Minnesota was originally scheduled for March 13, but was postponed and then ultimately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)  This week in Lake Placid, three teams (Boston, Buffalo, and Minnesota) have the opportunity to become the first NWHL team to win the trophy twice.

Isobel Cup Champions:

    • 2015-16: Boston Pride (inaugural NWHL season)
    • 2016-17: Buffalo Beauts
    • 2017-18: Metropolitan Riveters
    • 2018-19: Minnesota Whitecaps (Minnesota’s first season in the NWHL)

How to watch the 2021 Isobel Cup Playoffs: 

The Isobel Cup semifinals and final will air live on NBCSN, marking the first time that women’s professional hockey games will be shown live on a major national cable network in the United States. The games can also be streamed on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  Coverage Time
Thu., February 4 Isobel Cup Semifinals – Game 1: Toronto vs. Buffalo  5:30 p.m.
Isobel Cup Semifinals – Game 2: Boston vs. Minnesota  8:30 p.m.
Fri., February 5 Isobel Cup Final  7 p.m.

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