LOWELL, MA (January 3, 2024) – Taylor Heise scored an unassisted goal just 3:58 into her professional career as the star forward showed early why PWHL Minnesota selected her as the league’s first-ever first-overall pick.
Heise ripped a shot over the right shoulder of Boston goaltender Aerin Frankel, and the puck went bar-down to go down in history as PWHL Minnesota’s first-ever goal. Teammate Nicole Hensley, Minnesota’s second-round pick, made 33 saves, including on a last-second shot from Boston to secure the victory on the road in Boston’s home opener by a score of 3-2.
Sophia Kunin gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead at 7:54 of the first period, less than 4 minutes after Heise’s mark, by way of another top-right-corner goal, assisted by Brittyn Fleming. Minnesota went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead despite being outshot 11-7 in the frame.
The home team got on the board at the 7:59 mark of the second period when Theresa Schafzahl, another player making her professional debut, corralled a loose puck in the slot from a blocked shot by linemate Jamie-Lee Rattray and snapped the puck past Hensley, much to the delight of the 4,012 in attendance at Tsongas Center. Schafzahl’s goal is officially the first in PWHL Boston history.
Minnesota responded quickly—less than a minute after Schafzahl got Boston on the scoresheet— as Grace Zumwinkle, the third player in the game to score in their professional debut, scored at the 8:54 mark with another bar-down goal for the road team.
After a myriad of chances in the third period were thwarted by Hensley, including a goal called back after video review determined the puck had not crossed the line, Boston finally got to within one goal with less than three minutes to go in the third period. At the 17:20 mark of the final frame, Boston defender and alternate captain Megan Keller blasted a puck to the back of the net from the blue line with her team on a powerplay and Frankel on the bench, to make for a 6-on-4 advantage, to put the score at 3-2.
Hensley stood tall as the clock ticked down, despite Boston controlling much of the play and outshooting Minnesota 13-2 in the third, and Minnesota held on to secure a 3-2 victory.
Frankel made 13 saves for Boston.
Next up, Minnesota’s home opener at Xcel arena takes place on Saturday, January 6 against Montréal, a team coming off a 3-2 overtime victory in Ottawa’s home opener on January 2. Boston will have a second crack at securing the first win in team history as they host Ottawa on Monday, January 8.
- The tilt was the first PWHL game played on American soil — Heise’s goal was the PWHL’s first-ever scored in the United States.
- A home team has yet to win a game so far— New York, Montréal and Minnesota all played spoiler in home openers.
- Nicole Hensley became the first PWHL goalie to make 30+ saves in a game.
- Boston outshot Minnesota in each period (11-7, 11-7, 13-2) for a total of 35-16 edge in shots.
- Loren Gabel led Boston with 6 shots on goal, followed by Megan Keller with 5.
- Minnesota defender and alternate captain Lee Stecklein had 3 minor penalties, the most penalties by a player in a game thus far in the PWHL.
- Kendall Coyne Schofield, named Minnesota’s first-ever captain after today’s morning skate, played in her first game since giving birth to her son Drew on July 1, 2023.
- Lee Stecklein and Kelly Pannek were named alternate captains for Minnesota. Along with Coyne Schofield, all three players signed with Minnesota during the initial free agency period in September.
- Hilary Knight was named Boston’s first-ever captain on January 2 by Boston Bruins legend Patrice Bergeron. The former Bruins captain also announced Rattray and Keller as alternates.
- Eight players made their professional debuts in the game, highlighted by the first-ever PWHL first-overall pick Taylor Heise (University of Minnesota).
- Five Minnesota players made their pro debuts — including Heise, Grace Zumwinkle, Brooke Bryant, Natalie Buchbinder, and Maggie Flaherty also played in their first professional game.
- A total of 3 Minnesota players made their pro debuts: Theresa Schafzahl, Sophie Shirley, and Sophie Jaques. Emma Söderberg from the University of Minnesota-Deluth served as back-up goalie and will have to wait to make her official debut.
- Three players in their first professional game found the back of the net: Heise, Schafzahl, and Zumwinkle — fellow rookie Müller notched an assist.
- Tonight’s game featured an impressive five of the last 10 Patty Kazmaier winners: Jamie Lee Rattray (2014), Kendall Coyne Schofield (2016), Loren Gable (2019), Aerin Frankel (2021), and Sophie Jaques (2023).