PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S HOCKEY LEAGUE (PWHL) PREGAME PRIMER: BOSTON AT MINNESOTA

Minnesota looks to punch playoff ticket in final home game of the season

 

SAINT PAUL, MN (April 27, 2024) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) season continues with a pair of Saturday afternoon games, including Minnesota against Boston, at 2:00 p.m. ET at Xcel Energy Center.

 

WHERE TO WATCH

 

Fans in the United States can watch the game live on Bally Sports North, 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 be on Bally Sports Detroit/San Diego/Southern California/Sun/Wisconsin, as well as NESN+ and Sportsnet Pittsburgh Plus. Streaming of the game is available on the Women’s Sports Network and on the league’s YouTube channel. Alexis Pearson will have the play-by-play call alongside analyst Julie Friend.

 

TODAY’S PLAYOFF CLINCHING SCENARIOS

 

Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot by earning at least one point against Boston. Ottawa can also secure a playoff spot today with a regulation win against Montréal, or if Minnesota beats Boston in regulation. An Ottawa win over Montréal in overtime/shootout as long as Boston does not beat Minnesota in regulation would also secure a berth, or an overtime/shootout loss to Montréal combined with a Boston loss to Minnesota of any kind.

 

FAN APPRECIATION AT XCEL

 

Today is Minnesota’s final home game of the regular season and it will be a fan appreciation celebration at Xcel Energy Center. The team will unveil and raise a special banner to commemorate the inaugural season, and the first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a replica version. Fans will also see the team’s logo freshly painted at center ice and are encouraged to stick around after the game for an autograph session with select players.

 

SETTING THE STAGE

 

It’s a pivotal game for two teams looking to get back in the win column. Minnesota (8-4-3-6) enters the game in third place in the league standings with 35 points, three back of both Toronto and Montréal and three ahead of Ottawa, while Boston (6-4-3-9) is in fifth place with 29 points and shrinking odds of staying in the playoff picture. The best way for Boston to help themselves is by winning in regulation – something they’ve done twice since the International Break counting 2-1 wins over Toronto and New York last week. They suffered a setback in their playoff pursuit on Wednesday with a 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa and will play their 12th and final road game of the season today. It’s also Minnesota’s final home game of the season where the team hopes to rebound from a pair of road losses since the break, including a 4-3 loss in Montréal and 4-0 shutout in Ottawa last week. Despite not yet clinching a playoff berth, they can still challenge for first place overall with the right results. Minnesota won four straight games at Xcel Energy Center before the break, including a 4-0 shutout over Boston on Mar. 13. They are one of the league’s top teams on home ice with seven wins and 21 points in 11 games. Boston has managed five wins and 15 points in 11 games as the road team. These are the two most disciplined teams in the league which means special teams opportunities could be limited. Even strength suits both clubs who rank at the bottom in both powerplay and penalty kill.

 

THE SEASON SERIES THROUGH FOUR GAMES

 

The season series is split with two wins each but Minnesota holds a 7-5 points advantage over Boston. Their first two meetings of the season were played at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell where Minnesota won 3-2 on Jan. 3, and Boston won 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 27. The last two meetings have been played at Xcel Energy Center with Boston winning 2-0 on Feb. 25, and Minnesota winning 4-0 on Mar. 13. Captain Kendall Coyne Schofield and rookie Taylor Heise led the offense with a goal and an assist each in that contest, Michela Cava also found the back of the net, and Grace Zumwinkle scored on the powerplay. Zumwinkle leads the season series with three goals and one assist in four games, with Heise scoring twice with two assists in three games. Boston’s Jamie Lee Rattray and Alina Müller both have three points. Nicole Hensley earned the shutout in the last meeting and in three games against Boston has two wins and a .961 save percentage. Emma Söderberg earned Boston’s win on Jan. 27 with an 18-save performance.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

 

Minnesota’s Grace Zumwinkle is the top scoring player in today’s game with 17 points, including 10 goals and seven assists in 21 games. She’s one of five Minnesota players with point totals in double digits followed by Kendall Coyne Schofield (6G 9A) with 15 points, Kelly Pannek (3G 10A) with 13 points, Taylor Heise (4G 8A) with 12 points, and Sophie Jaques (2G 8A) with 10 points. Zumwinkle and Coyne Schofield have both posted five-game point streaks this season, with Coyne Schofield’s streak snapped last Saturday in Ottawa. Jaques is not far removed from her season-high of three assists on Apr. 18 in Montréal and will surely be at her best against her former team. Boston also has five players with 10 or more points, led by Alina Müller (3G 11A) with 14, followed by Megan Keller (3G 10A) who ranks third in scoring among defenders with 13 points. Both Lexie Adzija (6G 5A) and Jamie Lee Rattray (3G 8A) have 11 points and are coming off emotional games in Ottawa on Wednesday. Adzija began her season as a member of PWHL Ottawa and Rattray is from Canada’s capital and scored in front of her hometown family and friends. Susanna Tapani (4G 6A) has 10 points and recorded her first multi-point performance with Boston on Apr. 18 and will also be motivated to perform against her former team.

 

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RADAR

Five of the league’s top-eight rookie scorers are competing in today’s game and will surely be among those in consideration for the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award. All five players have made immediate impacts following decorated NCAA careers including University of Minnesota graduate Grace Zumwinkle (MIN) who headlines the list with 17 points. Former Northeastern forward Alina Müller (BOS) ranks fourth in rookie scoring with 14 points, followed by former Gopher Taylor Heise (MIN) with 12 points, former Quinnipiac Bobcat Lexie Adzija (BOS) with 11 points, and 2023 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award recipient Sophie Jaques (MIN), an Ohio State alum, who leads all rookie defenders with 10 points. Players eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award must be competing in their first season of professional hockey in North America and begin the season in their 25th birth year or younger. For the inaugural season, players born 1998 and later are eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award.

 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

 

“Road trips are a great time to bond with your teammates, but there’s nothing that beats being in your own home and playing in front of your fans. They’ve been so great this year and we want to finish off the regular season in our building with a win for them. We’re looking for as many points as we can to lock down a playoff spot and keep working towards getting as many games as we can at Xcel Energy Center.” – Kelly Pannek, Minnesota

“We’re really happy to be back in our own building. We’ve had a great week of practice and I expect we’ll get back to playing our game. Having a big crowd behind us is important and our players can feed off that energy. We’re excited to be back on the ice in front of our fans.” – Ken Klee, Minnesota

 

“We really need to come out with a fast start. We did that in Ottawa and we want to do the same thing with Minnesota. We want to put pucks in the back of the net. I think we’re really honing in on the details and all the little things we’ve been focused on all year.” – Kaleigh Fratkin, Boston

 

“I think we need to play a physical game. I think if we come out and play physical and fast, which is our game, and have a good forecheck, hopefully it will lead to some good results.” – Courtney Kessel, Boston

 

QUICK HITS

 

Minnesota (+7) is second in goal differential and Boston (-9) is fifth…Minnesota (2.38) is fourth in goals-per-game average and Boston (2.00) is tied for fifth…Minnesota (2.05) allows the fewest goals-per-game on average and Boston (2.41) is tied for allowing the third fewest…Both teams have scored the game’s first goal 10 times with Minnesota winning nine and Boston winning eight of those games…Team scoring by period for Minnesota is 16-19-11, and for Boston its 11-14-15…Boston has won eight of its 14 one-goal games which is tied for the league-lead, and Minnesota has won seven of its 13 one-goal decisions…Minnesota (+100) is first in shot differential and Boston (+27) ranks third…Minnesota (30.76) is first in shots-per-game average and Boston (28.64) ranks third…Minnesota (26.00) allows the fewest shots-per-game and Boston (27.36) allows the third fewest on average…Boston (5.73) is fifth in penalty minutes per game and Minnesota (5.33) is sixth…Minnesota (5/51) is fifth in powerplay efficiency at 9.8%…Boston (3/50) ranks sixth on the PP at 6.0%…Boston (48/59) is fifth in penalty kill efficiency at 81.4%…Minnesota (38/52) ranks sixth on the PK at 73.1%…Grace Zumwinkle (MIN) is second in the league with 10 goals…Zumwinkle leads the league with four game winning goals…Zumwinkle is tied for the league-lead with three shootout goals followed by teammate Taylor Heise with two…Susanna Tapani (BOS) leads the league with a plus-14 rating followed by Kendall Coyne Schofield (MIN) at plus-13…Taylor Girard (BOS) is tied for the league-lead with two shorthanded points…Zumwinkle leads Minnesota with 88 shots on goal…Hilary Knight leads Boston with 75 shots…Kelly Pannek (205/383) leads Minnesota in face-offs and with a win-rate of 53.5%…Hannah Brandt (210/386) leads Boston in face-offs and with a win-rate of 54.4%…Nicole Hensley (MIN) has won seven of her 12 starts with one shutout and a goals-against-average of 1.97 and save percentage of .925…Emma Söderberg (BOS) has won three of her six starts with a 2.81 GAA and a .884 SV%…Zumwinkle celebrated her 25th birthday on Tuesday – the same day that teammate Lee Stecklein turned 30.

 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

 

MINNESOTA:

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

 

Stecklein | Buchbinder
Channell | Jaques
Greco | Flaherty

 

Hensley | Rooney

 

Scratches: Kremer, Leveille

 

BOSTON:

Rattray | Tapani | Girard
Müller | Brandt | Knight
Kosta | Adzija | Shirley
Babstock | Marvin | Pelkey

 

Keller | Brown
DiGirolamo | Fratkin
Healey | Morin
Cook

Söderberg | Kronish

 

Scratches: Frankel, Gabel, Schafzahl, Wenczkowski

 

OFFICIALS:

 

Referees: Kyle Bauman (Fall River, WI) and Marie-Ève Couture (Longueuil, QC).
Linespersons: Melissa Brunn (Kelowna, BC) and Sarah Buckner (Plymouth, MN).

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

 

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE STATS