…. with her woes….. yes I am starting this off with a Drake joke. I am in mourning don’t judge me.
Folks, on March 26th 2021 the Toronto 6ix’s inaugural season came to a close.
A semi-final appearance in your first season is impressive in any year. Doing it during “unprecedented times” is even better. Quantifying the exact scale of work needed to build a team from the ground up is not in my skillset. I know nothing about finding and hiring staff, finding an arena to play in, practice schedules, contracts for players, social media teams, etc. What I do know is that doing all of that over zoom is definitely even harder (wearing sweatpants instead of fancy uncomfortable pants all day kind of evens the scales right?).
So in honour of all that: hats off to Digit Murphy, who is the team president and head coach (and seemingly now also the GM since Mandy Cronin was let go in mid February of this year). Her tactics are excellent, she’s an incredible motivator and a master of the mini hands internet phenomenon.
Hats off also to Alyssa Turner (@aturnz11 on Twitter) who has been integral in expanding the social media presence of women’s hockey. Specifically with Toronto she has amassed a loyal fanbase out of thin air and deserves all the credit in the world. She will be leaving her position with the 6ix and Riveters at the end of the month and the hockey world will miss her greatly. Her work will last forever.
So what about my usual post game recaps with an abundance of tweets? We’re getting there don’t worry, I would never deprive you of my amazing humour and analysis (I dodged the tomatoes you tried to through at me in your mind there).
I want to highlight one last thing:
These star level athletes also have full time jobs. In the case of the 6ix, they had to leave work, quarantine, practice, attend the bubble in Lake Placid, leave, quarantine again, practice, all within two months. After all that, before the game last night they had to drive 10 hours to Boston. Imagine the position they are putting themselves in here, and the passion they must have for the sport. If you told me they actually went to the moon I would absolutely believe you.
SO, HOCKEY??? YES HOCKEY!
To refresh your memories Toronto was the number 1 seed in the 2021 NWHL Isobel Cup. Grant-Mentis lead the league in goals, points and coolest highlight reel this season. They played with such a high paced system and with such full team commitment that they truly exceeded expectations for a full rookie squad (only 4 players on the team had any NWHL experience, and only Darkangelo had ever won the Isobel Cup before). We were never sure what we’d get from someone like Boquist or BWB or Elaine Chuli, and they all CRUSHED IT. They were heading into the semi-final missing Clairmont and MacNeil (who could not join the team due to work commitments, such a shame we even need to type that sentence), playing with 10 forwards as they had done the last two games in the bubble.
This gave them the extremely unfortunate draw of the Boston Pride (4 seed). It’s unfortunate because the Pride finishing fourth was an absolute shocker. The previous season they had 2 losses all year, over 20 wins. They have the best NWHL player perhaps ever in Jillian Dempsey, and by all metrics one of the best current forwards in hockey: Sammy Davis (her numbers are rivalled only by our very own Grant-Mentis, who should absolutely be looked at for the Canadian Olympic Team). No matter how you look at it Boston is a beast, and if they woke up, Toronto was going to be in trouble. That’s exactly what went down.
As soon as the puck dropped Toronto put on their rocket skates and went to work. They dominated possession and scoring chances for a the first half of the period. Boston looked rusty, disjointed and unstructured. Aside from needing a fantastic glove save by Chuli, Toronto dictated play.
In the peak of their dominance for the night Julie Allen ripped a shot that took some weird bounces off the goalie, hit the crossbar and stayed out. Or did it? No it stayed out …. unless??? No it definitely stayed out and we can be sure because the refs got to review it.
That is right around where things capsized for the 6ix, or should I make a Suez Canal joke here? Either way, something bad with a boat happened.
Immediately after the review the Pride took advantage of a rush through a perfect cross-crease pass, and a shot that slid through Elaine Chuli’s stretched out pads.
It’s okay, one goal is not a big deal——- oh my god they scored again. Jillian Dempsey bats a rebound out of midair and the Pride are up 2-0 in a matter of seconds.
Less than ideal after that great start. But not to worry, Grant-Mentis and BWB are on the 6ix, there’s a lot of hockey left.
Just like she’s done all season, Grant-Mentis fed on a defender for lunch (or an early dinner for a 5pm game time). Driving wide she unleashed a backhand with such force I’m surprised it didn’t rip a hole right the goalie’s chest protector, through her body and into the net. That didn’t happen, but it did leave the puck sitting there for sneaky elite forward BWB to pot in the rebound.
My notes here were straightforward: keep pushing, don’t let in an early goal and the 6ix can do this.
Good thing I’m always right about everything and have never once been the bringer of omens to my favourite teams. *cue the Jaws soundtrack*
As the play by play commentary was talking about her work in the science world and her research on the Coronavirus, Souliotis absolutely uncorked a slap shot and snuck by Chuli. The goal was great, the fact that we were causally hearing about a STEM genius also shoot so hard I flinched (from the comfort of my bed where I have spent most of this pandemic) made me think about my place in this universe. Save some of the talent for us Soulitis, you can’t be that good at hockey and also be a cool scientist. That’s like if Superman was also George Clooney (and not nipple suit Batman George Clooney, George Clooney from the Ocean’s series).
Good to learn from our mistakes, right Toronto? Come out and get one back—— oh my god they scored again, AGAIN.
A Toronto vs Boston playoff elimination game with a score of 4-1?????? We can rewrite history. We can take the joke back from us. NO LEAD IS SAFE IN HOCKEY.
Pretty much exactly how I felt. The game did not improve for the 6ix. The beast was fully awake and feeding on its prey. The Boston Pride are not to be meddled with.
As the game drew to a close my friend Holly encompassed our analysis of the game.
By now you’ll have noticed that the score was beyond reach. Chuli was pulled and replaced by Ridgewell, who could not stop the bleeding. Neither was to blame, nor was the 6ix. Sometimes you get put against a dragon, and not everyone can be St George.
Grant-Mentis would score a goal late in the game, but it was too late.
The 6ix should be proud. This season was a resounding success. They made fans for life, brought the NWHL to Canada and won the first regular season they participated in. Not only that but they built a young core they can bring back next year and compete with.
The story is not over for 6ix and Digit Murphy, this is just the beginning, and what a ride this will be. I look forward to covering them for as long as I can, as well as the new Montreal team coming soon!
Women’s hockey cemented its place in the world this year. It is here to stay, and we are all better for it.