PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S HOCKEY LEAGUE (PWHL) PLAYOFF PRIMER: TORONTO AT MINNESOTA

Toronto leads Minnesota 2-1 in semifinal series

 

SAINT PAUL, MN (May 15, 2024) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) Playoffs continue tonight with Game 4 of the best-of-five semifinal series between Minnesota and Toronto at 8:00 p.m. ET at Xcel Energy Center.

 

WHERE TO WATCH

 

Fans across Canada can watch the game live on TSN 1/4 channels, TSN.ca, and the TSN app. Fans in the United States can watch the game live on Bally Sports North/Wisconsin Extra, the Bally Sports app on mobile and tablet devices (including iOS and Android), ballysports.com when authenticated using pay-TV credentials, and on Bally Sports+, the standalone streaming subscription service available from Bally Sports. The game will also stream live on the Women’s Sports Network and the league’s YouTube channel. Daniella Ponticelli will have the play-by-play call alongside analyst Becky Kellar and Rob Pizzo reporting rinkside.

 

GAME 3 AT A GLANCE

 

Minnesota stayed alive on Monday night with a 2-0 victory in their PWHL Playoffs debut at Xcel Energy Center. The third straight shutout of the series went to Maddie Rooney who turned aside all 18 shots she faced. Maggie Flaherty opened the scoring at 2:12 of the second period with Minnesota’s first goal of the series which held as the game-winner. Denisa Křížová added an insurance marker at 8:39 of the middle frame, and Liz Schepers contributed two primary assists. The result marked the first time Toronto had been shutout since the first game of the inaugural season on Jan. 1 and was the team’s first loss since Apr. 18 snapping a six-game winning streak. Minnesota’s win was their first since Mar. 24 and snapped a seven-game losing streak. Toronto leads the best-of-five semifinal series 2-1.

 

ROONEY RISES TO THE OCCASION

 

Maddie Rooney has etched her name in the Minnesota record books for performances in a pair of milestone debuts at Xcel Energy Center. The 26-year-old from Andover, MN, not only backstopped her team to their first playoff shutout in their first home game, but also the first regular-season shutout in their first-ever home game back on Jan. 6 with a 24-save effort in a 3-0 win over Montréal. She has posted three shutouts in total this season and in two playoff starts has stopped 46 of 47 shots. This could arguably be the best stretch of her career since backstopping the U.S. National Women’s Team to gold at the 2018 Olympics where she posted a 1.16 goals-against-average in four games, capped by a 3-2 shootout win over Canada in the final. Among other notable accolades, Rooney posted one shutout in two starts at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship, two shutouts in two starts at the 2019 Worlds, and four shutouts during her final season at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2019-20.

 

THIRD UNITS DELIVER

 

Minnesota’s most important goals of the season came from some unlikely heroes. Rookie defender Maggie Flaherty’s game-winner was just her second goal of the season following another game-winner at home on Feb. 14 in a 2-1 victory against Ottawa. During the season, the fourth round pick out of UMD had 33 shots on goal which ranked ninth on the team and has added just two shots in three playoff games. The team’s third forward line generated both goals and combined for four points on Monday after a regular-season that produced 12 points amongst the trio. Denisa Křížová, who scored the Game 3 insurance marker, had three goals and three assists in 24 games. Center Liz Schepers contributed two assists in Game 3 after producing three helpers in 19 games, and winger Claire Butorac added an assist after scoring once with two assists in 21 games in her first professional season.

 

TRIO OF GOPHERS

 

For the second straight game, Minnesota will open with an all-rookie line of University of Minnesota graduates with Taylor Heise at center between wingers Abby Boreen and Grace Zumwinkle. The trio combined for 19 goals and 37 points during their first professional seasons, after finishing their collegiate careers as three of the Gophers top-four scorers in 2022-23 with a collective 75 goals and 162 points. In Game 3, Heise logged 18:05 in ice time, Zumwinkle had four shots in 18:03, and Boreen had three shots in 14:47.

 

TOP ROOKIES

 

The three finalists for PWHL Rookie of the Year were announced on Tuesday and two of them are at the forefront of this series. Minnesota’s Grace Zumwinkle and Toronto’s Emma Maltais tied for the rookie lead in scoring with 19 points in 24 games, with Zumwinkle’s 11 goals ranking second overall, and Maltais’ 15 assists tied for first among all skaters. Both players also led the league with two shorthanded goals each. Boston’s Alina Müller is also a finalist for the award and finished the year with 16 points. Grace wasn’t the only Zumwinkle in the news yesterday, as it was announced that younger sister Emily has signed to play for Ohio State after three seasons at the University of Minnesota

 

STEPPING UP FOR SPOONER

 

Toronto will continue their pursuit of the Walter Cup without the league’s top scorer, Natalie Spooner, who will be unavailable for the remainder of the PWHL Playoffs after suffering a knee injury in the third period of Game 3. She led the league with 20 goals and 27 points and had one goal and one assist in three playoff games. Spooner scored nearly one-third of the team’s 67 goals during the regular-season, including seven of the team’s 11 powerplay tallies. Candidates to raise their game in her absence include Sarah Nurse (11G, 12A) and Emma Maltais (4G, 15A) who were second and third in season scoring with 23 and 19 points respectively. Hannah Miller (7G, 7A) and Blayre Turnbull (3G, 6A) were fourth and seventh in season scoring with 14 and nine points respectively and combined for three goals and two assists in the first two games.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

 

“I think we’ve been working hard in every single game, and nothing has been going in the net. Just to see a puck go in the net and to go up 1-0 was the biggest thing about that game. We came out and played the right way. Carrying that into today and coming out with the pace and pressure that a Game 4 should have is the key for us.” – Taylor Heise, Minnesota

 

“We did a lot of things right Monday night, and we need to carry that over into tonight. We need to continue to be physical, bring energy and get pucks to the net. Our team knows it’s going to be a battle but are confident we can compete with anyone.” – Ken Klee, Minnesota

 

“We have a great group and we’re excited for our next opportunity – sticking to our game plan and looking to come out and play a hard complete 60 minutes of hockey.” – Brittany Howard, Toronto

 

“We have taken the time to reflect on our last game and have turned the page. Collectively we know the areas we need to be better in and tonight we will work towards making those improvements. We can be better, we need to be better, and we will be better. Looking forward to another opportunity to finish this series but expect Minnesota to continue to be better as well.” – Troy Ryan, Toronto

 

QUICK HITS

 

Minnesota has now won both games against Toronto this season at Xcel Energy Center including a 3-1 victory on Jan. 10…Toronto has outscored Minnesota 19-8 in seven total games including 6-2 in three playoff games…Shots favor Minnesota 183-175 in seven total games…Minnesota leads Toronto 76-65 in shots in three playoff games…Toronto is 4/17 and Minnesota is 0/18 on the powerplay in seven head-to-head games this season…Toronto is 0/7 and Minnesota is 0/9 on the powerplay in this series…Toronto’s Hannah Miller (1G, 2A) and Renata Fast (3A) are tied for the PWHL Playoffs scoring lead…Toronto’s Blayre Turnbull (2G), Emma Maltais (1G, 1A), Natalie Spooner (1G, 1A), and Minnesota’s Liz Schepers (2A) are tied for fifth in playoff scoring with two points each…Turnbull (12), Spooner (10), and Minnesota’s Grace Zumwinkle (10) lead the series in shots on goal…Kelly Pannek (32/57) leads Minnesota in face-offs and with a win-rate of 56.1%…Jesse Compher (19/28) leads Toronto with a face-off percentage of 67.9%…Sarah Nurse (56.4%) leads the team with 55 draws…Maddie Rooney (MIN) is 1-1 with one shutout in two playoff starts for a goals-against-average of 0.50 and save percentage of .979…Kristen Campbell (TOR) is 2-1 with two shutouts in three playoff starts with a 0.67 GAA and a .973 SV%…Minnesota’s full lineup remains the same as in Game 3…Rebecca Leslie (TOR) moves up to the team’s second line…Jess Jones (TOR) will make her series debut as the 13th forward…Troy Ryan (TOR) is one of three finalists for PWHL Coach of the Year as announced on Wednesday…The winner of this series will play Boston in the PWHL Finals following their semifinal sweep against Montréal with all three games won in overtime.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

 

MINNESOTA:

 

Boreen | Heise | Zumwinkle
Coyne Schofield | Pannek | Cava
Křížová | Schepers | Butorac
Fleming | DeGeorge | Kunin
| | Brodt

 

Stecklein | Buchbinder
Channell | Jaques
Greco | Flaherty

 

Rooney | Hensley

 

Scratches: Bryant, Kremer

 

TORONTO:

 

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

 

Larocque | Fast
Munroe | Flanagan
Rougeau | Knowles

 

Campbell | Howe

 

Scratches: Jackson, Poulin-Labelle, Spooner

 

OFFICIALS:

 

Referees: Grace Barlow (Vancouver, BC) – #22 and David Elford (Kitchener, ON) – #11.
Linespersons: Dustin McCrank (Guelph, ON) – #84 and Kirsten Welsh (Conway, PA) – #64.

 

Standby Officials: Jake Kamrass (Atlanta, GA) – #3 (R) and Sarah Buckner (Plymouth, MN) – #10 (L).

 

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

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