The Minnesota Whitecaps have made a habit of playing for the National Women's Hockey League championship: winning the Isobel Cup in their first year in the league in 2019, advancing to the 2020 final that was wiped out because of the coronavirus pandemic and falling to the Boston Pride in the 2021 title game.
This year, Minnesota's team in the rebranded Premier Hockey Federation will have some work to do to reach those previous heights. The Whitecaps enter their last home series of the regular season – 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday vs. the Connecticut Whale at TRIA Rink – with a 5-10-1 record in in fourth place in the PHF. All six teams will gather for the playoffs March 25-28 in Tampa, Fla., with the top two receiving byes into the semifinals.
"Of the four years we've been in the league, this has been the most competitive from top to bottom for the league,'' said Jack Brodt, the team's general manager and co-head coach. "That's good for the league.''
The Whitecaps got off to a rough start to the season, going 1-2-1 against Boston and 0-2 against both Connecticut and Toronto. Five times in the first eight games the Whitecaps scored one or no goals.
"It's really hard to win 1-0 games all the time,'' Brodt said.
Beginning with a road sweep of Buffalo in January, the Whitecaps are 4-4 and are averaging 3.9 goals per game.
"Ever since Christmas break, we have started to hit our stride and are working a lot better together and are playing a strong team game,'' said Whitecaps forward Allie Thunstrom, whose 15 goals lead the league.
The Whitecaps finish the regular season March 12-13 with a road series against the Metropolitan Riveters, then head to the playoffs to try to win three games for the championship.
"It's fun to have that playoff environment like a state tournament,'' Thunstrom said. "We're all excited to get down to Florida.''