WESLEY CHAPEL, Florida -- The Boston Pride's reign goes on.
Boston captured its second straight Isobel Cup, defeating the Connecticut Whale, 4-2, in an all-New England final Monday night.
Goalie Katie Burt made 31 saves in the victory and Pride captain Jillian Dempsey finished with a goal and an assist.
Boston overcame a one-goal deficit and took the lead for good midway through the third period with goals 18 seconds apart.
Evelina Raselli capitalized on a rebound at the edge of the crease to tie the game at two apiece at 6:39 of the third. Moments later, the Pride rushed the net again and Taylor Wenczkowski slid a rebound in on an open left side past Connecticut netminder Abby Ives.
"Down a goal, it's a tough position to be in," Wenczkowski said. "We knew we had to get the first one. If we got the first one, we'd win the game and we got two quick ones."
"We knew in the third period that with the depth that we have, we kept rolling, we kept rolling, we got one, we got two and obviously the empty netter," Pride coach Paul Mara said. "I think every player in that room, all the staff members know what we're capable of doing. It didn't click at points, but the last four or five days it clicked and that's when you need it most."
Wenczkowski, who registered three goals -- including two game-winners -- in Boston's three postseason victories, earned most valuable player honors.
Jillian Dempsey got the Pride on the board 4:16 into the first period. The Boston captain moved the puck between defender Taylor Marchin's legs, then scored on a wrist shot between goaltender Abby Ives' pads.
Connecticut squared it at one apiece with 3:15 left in the opening period. Amanda Conway settled a bouncing puck, as she skated toward the right circle and wristed a shot on net. The puck hit the far post and went in.
Rookie Taylor Girard gave the Whale their first lead of the game 33 seconds into the middle stanza. Kennedy Marchment collected a chip-in by Alyssa Wohlfeiler and sent the puck toward the crease. Girard crashed the net and redirected the puck past goalie Katie Burt.
Jenna Rheault sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 90 seconds remaining in the contest.
While ahead 2-1, Connecticut's best chances to extend their lead came in the second period.
A little more than two minutes into the second period, Connecticut had a five-minute power play when Dempsey was called for cross-checking Cailey Hutchison from behind. Tight defense kept the Whale from capitalizing on the advantage.
"That was the longest five minutes but I was getting jacked up from seeing how awesome the kill was doing," Dempsey said. "Everybody was out there fighting and making sure to kill off that power play. The Whale have a great power play, so I think that was a real momentum builder for us. That clock seemed to really drag on for that whole time, but I was so proud of the team for making sure nothing went in the net."
"You don't see five-minute majors in a Game 7 too often. Obviously it happened to us." Mara said. "It's another testament to our character. When we needed to, we bear down when our backs are against the wall. That's when we played our best. We knew we had to kill those five minutes."
Amanda Conway nearly doubled the lead off a 2-on-1, but hit the crossbar with with 8:28 left in the second period.
Kennedy Marchment also had a chance to put the Whale up by two with 4:40 left in the second, deking through Boston's Mallory Souliotis before being denied by Burt, who stuck out her left pad in time.
"Katie was phenomenal for us," Mara said. "I think she's the best goalie in this league, and she's one of the best goalies in the world. She showed that this week. She put us on our shoulders and carried us and made the big saves when needed them."
Marchment had another opportunity in the third with just over six minutes left, but hit a crossbar.
"We hit three crossbars tonight. That's tough." Marchment said. "Unfortunately tonight wasn't our night, but I don't think we're the worst team. I don't think we're a second-place team."
Boston becomes the first Premier Hockey Federation franchise to capture back-to-back titles. In 2021, the Pride topped the Minnesota Whitecaps for their second title. Boston also won in 2016, during the league's inaugural season when it was then known as the National Women's Hockey League.
The PHF's No. 3 seed entering the tournament, Boston bested the No. 6 seed Buffalo Beauts, 6-0, in the opening round on Friday before downing the second-seeded Toronto Six, 5-1 on Sunday.
A rejuvenated power play drove Boston's success in the tournament. After finishing last in the league with just a six-percent rate (4 of 66), the Pride converted on 50 percent (5 of 10) in the postseason.
Boston benefitted from the continued outstanding play of goaltender Katie Burt. The PHF leader with a 1.41 goals-against average and .958 save percentage during the regular season, Burt allowed just three goals on 85 shots in three postseason contests.
Connecticut, which earned an opening-round bye, advanced to its first finals with a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Whitecaps on Sunday. It marked the first finals appearance for the Whale, who finished as the league's top team with a record of 15-3-2.
"Continuing on, I think the Whale will be good, and the Whale will be known for this. This may be the turning point and it's awesome to be a part of." Marchment said.
The finals appearance capped a turnaround for a franchise that had struggled since the league's inception. Since posting an impressive 13 victories in their inaugural 2015-16 season, Connecticut has earned no more than five wins in any of the five seasons following.
But their fortunes changed with a significant roster turnover of 11 new players, including Swedish Women's Hockey League veteran Marchment, No. 1 draft choice Girard, two-time All-Star Emily Fluke and veteran defender Rebecca Morse.
Marchment went on to capture this season's scoring title with 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) in 20 games. Girard led all rookies with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists), also in 20 games.
"We all want to play together again and we all want to kind of right the ship and bring a championship to the Whale," Ives said. "I'm sure that's definitely what we'll be thinking about in the next few days. Hopefully, it works out."