PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S HOCKEY LEAGUE PREGAME PRIMER: TORONTO AT MINNESOTA

Minnesota puts perfect record on the line against visiting Toronto

SAINT PAUL, MN (January 10, 2024) – The second week of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) season continues on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. ET when Minnesota welcomes Toronto to Xcel Energy Center.

WHERE TO WATCH

Fans in the United States can tune-in live on Bally Sports North Extra, the Bally Sports app on mobile and tablet devices, ballysports.com when fans authenticate using their pay-TV credentials, and Bally Sports+. The game is also available to viewers on NESN, Sportsnet Pittsburgh, and streamed on the league’s YouTube channel. Canadian viewers can watch live on TSN4 and TSN5. Clay Matvick will call the game’s play-by-play alongside analyst Alexis Pearson.

SETTING THE STAGE

Two teams fresh off opening week victories look to continue their winning ways in their third games of the season. Minnesota (2-0-0) is the only PWHL team without a loss after winning their season opener 3-2 in Boston last Wednesday, followed by a 3-0 shutout over Montréal on Saturday. They currently sit alone atop the PWHL overall standings with six points. Toronto (1-1-0) split their first two games in a home-and-home set with New York, including a 4-0 loss in the season opener at Mattamy Athletic Centre, followed by a 3-2 triumph on Friday at Total Mortgage Arena.

COMEBACK IN UTICA 

During the league’s pre-season evaluation camp in Utica, New York, a 5-4 Minnesota comeback victory over Toronto was a highlight of the scrimmages played on December 5, 2023. Minnesota erased a 3-0 deficit with five-straight goals, including two scored in a span of 42 seconds late in the second period, and two in a 48-second stretch early in the final frame. Taylor Heise led the way offensively with two goals, and defender Lee Stecklein chipped in a goal and an assist. Grace Zumwinkle and Denisa Křížová also tallied goals. Rebecca Leslie scored Toronto’s first two goals, and Victoria Bach and Jocelyne Larocque added singles.

ZUMWINKLE NAMED PWHL FIRST STAR

The PWHL named its inaugural ‘3 Stars of the Week’ on Monday and Minnesota’s Grace Zumwinkle headlined the honorees. The first-year pro scored four goals in two games including the game-winner against Boston and the first hat trick in league history on Saturday. Her four points puts her atop the PWHL scoring race. New York forward Alex Carpenter (2G, 1A) and goaltender Corinne Schroeder (SO) claimed second and third star recognition.

DYNAMIC DUO

Minnesota is the first and only team this PWHL season with two goaltenders who have recorded a victory between-the-pipes. Maddie Rooney stopped all 24 shots faced in Saturday’s shutout against Montréal, and Nicole Hensley turned aside 33 of 35 shots in last Wednesday’s opener against Boston. She ranks third in the league with a goals-against-average of 2.00 and save percentage of .943. Heading into Wednesday’s action, New York is the only other team to star two goaltenders, Corinne Schroeder and Abigail Levy. Toronto’s Kristen Campbell got the start in the team’s first two games and has faced a league-high 59 shots.

BIG CROWD EXPERIENCE

Saturday’s attendance of 13,316 at Xcel Energy Center set a professional women’s hockey record and was the largest crowd to ever watch a women’s hockey game in Minnesota. PWHL players from both teams in tonight’s game have experience playing in two other record-setting crowds. Last season, the Rivalry Series game between Team Canada and Team USA on November 20, 2022, in Seattle, WA, was played with 14,551 in attendance at Climate Pledge Arena, making it the highest attended international women’s game ever played in the United States. Competing in that game was Minnesota’s Kendall Coyne Schofield, Clair DeGeorge, Nicole Hensley, Kelly Pannek, and Lee Stecklein, while Toronto’s Renata Fast, Jocelyne Larocque, Emma Maltais, Sarah Nurse, and Blayre Turnbull suited up for Canada. The NCAA women’s hockey single-game attendance record of 15,359 was set on January 14, 2017, by the University of Wisconsin against St. Cloud State. Minnesota’s Mellissa Channell and Sophia Kunin competed for the Badgers alongside Toronto’s Sam Cogan and Sarah Nurse.

WELCOME BACK TO MINNESOTA

A trio of Toronto players are no strangers to the State of Hockey. Defender Jocelyne Larocque played four seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth that included NCAA National Championships during her freshman year in 2008 and as a junior in 2010. She also served as team captain as a senior in 2010-11. Defender Olivia Knowles was also a captain during her NCAA tenure, wearing the ‘C’ for the University of Minnesota during her fifth and final year in 2021-22. She’ll see former Gophers teammates on the other side of the ice tonight, including Taylor Heise and Grace Zumwinkle, and reunite with reserves Abby Boreen and Lauren Bench. Knowles also played last season with the PHF’s Minnesota Whitecaps alongside Sydney Brodt, Brittyn Fleming, Denisa Křížová, Amanda Leveille, and Liz Schepers. Toronto reserve Jessica Kondas attended Minnesota State University from 2017-22 and suited up as a Maverick with Minnesota’s Claire Butorac, Brooke Bryant, and Brittyn Fleming.

U18 MEMORIES

The 2024 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship is underway in Switzerland and is an event that helped the development of many PWHL players. The first tournament was hosted in Calgary, Alberta, in 2008 where Kendall Coyne Schofield helped the United States win gold over a Canadian team that featured Toronto’s Jess Jones and Natalie Spooner. Minnesota’s Taylor Heise is among the players with the most U18 experience, winning three-straight gold medals with Team USA. She capped the threepeat in 2018 with eight points in five games and was awarded Best Forward and MVP honors. Joining Heise with 2018 gold was Maggie Flaherty. Grace Zumwinkle and Toronto’s Jesse Compher won back-to-back golds in 2016 and 2017 with Heise. Minnesota’s Natalie Buchbinder and Clair DeGeorge were also part of the 2017 team, and Sydney Brodt competed in 2016.

QUICK HITS

Toronto is 1/7 on the powerplay with the lone goal coming from Natalie Spooner which counted as the first in team history…Minnesota is 0/5 with the advantage…Toronto’s Emma Maltais has the only shorthanded goal of the season…Minnesota’s Kelly Pannek and Susanna Tapani have two assists each and are tied for fourth in league scoring…Tapani (+5) leads the league in plus-minus, followed by Natalie Buchbinder (+4), Grace Zumwinkle (+4), Mellissa Channell (+3), and Pannek (+3)…Minnesota’s Lee Stecklein leads the league with 6 PIM…Zumwinkle has a shooting percentage of 57.1% followed by Taylor Heise at 50%…Maltais leads the league with 10 shots…Pannek (53.%) and Liz Schepers (51.9%) are Minnesota’s most effective on face-offs.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

MINNESOTA:

Křížová | Heise | Coyne Schofield
Tapani | Pannek | Zumwinkle
Fleming | Schepers | Kunin
Butorac | DeGeorge | Bryant
Cava

Stecklein | Flaherty
Channell | Buchbinder
Greco | Cook

Hensley
Rooney

TORONTO:

Nurse | Turnbull | Compher
Connors | Maltais | Spooner
Howard | Miller | Leslie
Cogan | Vasko | Willoughby
Jones

Larocque | Fast
Rougeau | Flanagan
Munroe | Knowles

Campbell
Howe

OFFICIALS:

Referees: Alexandra Clarke (Griffith, SK) and Adam Tobias (Buffalo, NY)

Linespersons: Sarah Buckner (Plymouth, MN) and Luke Pye (Belle River, ON)

Follow the league on all social media platforms @thepwhlofficial plus team accounts @pwhl_minnesota and @pwhl_toronto.

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