Amanda Leveille remembers walking out of the rink that Wednesday night, the one when everything changed. Her teammates, by her side, were hooting and hollering, trying to get everybody riled up.

It was March 11, and the Whitecaps were scheduled to head to Boston the next day to compete against the Pride for the Isobel Cup in the NWHL’s championship game. But that joyful moment quickly faded to disappointment with the news, less than 90 minutes later, that the game would be postponed due to the spread of COVID-19.

Originally, there was hope that the game could be made up. Months later, the league made the call for good: There wouldn’t be a championship game, triggering another wave of disappointment for the Whitecaps. Ten months later, they’re back.

Minnesota’s professional women’s hockey team will begin a condensed, five-game regular season followed by the playoffs in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Saturday with a 3 p.m. puck drop against the Pride. All games will take place at Herb Brooks Arena and the season will conclude on Feb. 5. Games can be streamed live at

“It was something that we weren’t sure was going to happen, and now that it’s happening, it’s super exciting,” Leveille, the Whitecaps’ goalie, said.

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In preparation, the Whitecaps have ramped up from two practices a week to six, including a couple of scrimmages to help get them ready for their first competition since last March.

The Whitecaps got off to a slower start last season before finishing strong, and with such a tight schedule, avoiding something similar will be of critical importance for them. Instead of a sell-out crowd at TRIA Rink in St. Paul, the Whitecaps will be playing without fans in attendance. But forward Allie Thunstrom, last year’s NWHL co-MVP, said the compact schedule will bring added intensity with little room for slip-ups.

“I think it’ll just be interesting. It takes away that home-ice advantage that one team may or may not have, and we’re all kind of in it together,” Thunstrom said. “I think it’ll be interesting to not have that fan noise and the cheering and whatnot, but we’re pretty loud on the benches and other teams are, too, so I think we might make up for a lot of that.”

In lieu of fans, cardboard cutouts will line the seats in the arena. More than 75 Minnesota athletes, coaches and sports figures — including players from the Vikings, Twins, Wild, Timberwolves and Lynx — will be “in attendance,” when the Whitecaps take the ice.

Away from the ice, players will follow strict rules to ensure the safety of the bubble. Co-coach Jack Brodt estimated about 90 percent of the time would be spent either in hotel rooms or at the rink. The other 5-10 percent, he said, might be spent out on walks — one of the few activities allowed.

“I think everybody’s really excited to play the games,” Brodt said. “I don’t think we’re really excited to be in the bubble but that’s what COVID creates, so the only way we can play the games is to be in the bubble.”

For many of the players, that time in isolation will be spent working remotely because most of them hold other jobs. Leveille, a goalie coach, said she planned to video chat with some of the goaltenders and teams that she works with while in New York, doing as much as she while away from Minnesota.

Brodt said four players couldn’t get out of work obligations to join them in the bubble, and they’re not the only team dealing with a similar situation. But even with the extra challenges thrown in, the Whitecaps are prepared and looking forward to the experience. And it begins, albeit with lower stakes, with the game they didn’t get to play at the end of last season.

“Of all teams, we get to play Boston first, which is really fitting,” Leveille said