February action begins with Minnesota’s first trip to Toronto
TORONTO, ON (February 3, 2024) – The fifth week of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) season begins with a Saturday afternoon matchup between Minnesota and Toronto at 12:00 p.m. ET at Mattamy Athletic Centre.
WHERE TO WATCH
Canadian viewers can tune-in live on CBC and stream on CBC Gem, cbcsports.ca, and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. Andi Petrillo will host in-studio alongside analysts Hailey Salvian and Saroya Tinker. Live action will be called by Daniella Ponticelli on play-by-play with analyst Becky Kellar and reporter Rob Pizzo. Fans in the United States can watch live on Bally Sports North, the Bally Sports app on mobile and tablet devices (including iOS and Android), ballysports.com when fans authenticate using their pay-TV credentials, and on Bally Sports+, the standalone streaming subscription service available from Bally Sports. The game is also available on the league’s YouTube channel.
SETTING THE STAGE
It’s game number nine of the season for both teams on opposite ends of the standings, with Minnesota (3-2-2-1) tied for first place with 15 points, up against Toronto (2-1-0-5) who enter February ranked sixth with eight points. Minnesota opened the season with three straight wins including a 3-1 victory over Toronto on home ice Jan. 10. Since then, four of their last five games have been overtime decisions with two wins and two losses along with a regulation defeat. They played back-to-back games on the road last weekend with split results, including a 4-3 overtime loss to Boston on Jan. 27, and a 2-1 overtime win against New York at Total Mortgage Arena on Jan. 28. The loss in Boston is their only road setback in four games away from Xcel Energy Center. Toronto has won two of its five games since meeting head-to-head on Jan. 10, including a 4-3 shootout win in Montréal on Jan. 20, and their first victory on home ice last Friday, Jan. 26, by a 2-0 score against New York. Minnesota is tied for the league-lead with 20 goals, compared to Toronto’s league-low of 14. Toronto has outshot its opponent in seven of its eight games, and Minnesota is undefeated in the four games they’ve been outshot. This is the first of two Minnesota trips to Toronto, with the next one slated for May 1. Toronto will also visit Minnesota one more time on Feb. 27.
RECAP BEFORE THE REMATCH
A two-goal performance by first overall pick Taylor Heise was the difference on Jan. 10 in Minnesota’s 3-1 victory over Toronto at Xcel Energy Center. Her second and third goals of the campaign opened the scoring in the first period and held as the game-winner in the middle frame. Captain Kendall Coyne Schofield’s first goal of the year provided third period insurance, and Denisa Křížová recorded two assists for her first and only points of the season to date. Sarah Nurse’s lone goal of the season so far was scored in Toronto’s loss. Nicole Hensley stopped 31 shots for the win, opposite Kristen Campbell who made 26 stops.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Minnesota has four players ranked inside the top-11 in league scoring, led by Grace Zumwinkle who has eight points, including six goals, which is tied for most in the PWHL. Taylor Heise (3G 3A), Kelly Pannek (1G 5A), and Lee Stecklein (1G 5A) each have six points in eight games. Kendall Coyne Schofield has points in two straight games. Abby Boreen, Minnesota’s most recent overtime hero, remains in the lineup on her short-term contract from the reserve list. Natalie Spooner leads Toronto with five goals this season, including both scored in the team’s Jan. 26 win over New York. She is responsible for three of the team’s five tallies scored at home, with the other two provided by Hannah Miller. Rebecca Leslie leads the team with five assists but has been held off the scoresheet in her last two games. Jocelyne Larocque leads the blue line attack with four points, including three in her last four outings. Kristen Campbell is poised to make her league-leading eighth start of the season for Toronto, fresh off a 19-save shutout.
Nine players in today’s game competed in the Canadian Tire PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase during NHL All-Star Thursday. Coyne Schofield scored a goal and an assist, and Toronto’s Blayre Turnbull picked up two assists in Team King’s 5-3 victory. Larocque had a goal for Team Kloss and Toronto teammate Renata Fast had one assist. Turnbull and Nurse returned to Scotiabank Arena for Friday night’s Skills Competition as passers in the Shooting Accuracy event.
BACH IS BACK
Toronto’s offense gets a boost with the season debut of forward Victoria Bach who has been activated from the team’s reserve list after signing a Standard Player Agreement. The 27-year-old from nearby Milton, ON was selected in the seventh round of the PWHL Draft and spent last season compiling six goals and 11 points in 20 PWHPA contests. During the 2017-18 season at Boston University, Bach produced 39 goals and 67 points for Boston University and was a Patty Kazmaier Award finalist. The 2019 CWHL Rookie of the Year has also been a member of Canada’s National Women’s Team and won back-to-back gold medals at the 2021 and 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championships.
CAVA AND GRECO RETURN TO TORONTO
Minnesota has two familiar faces from Ontario in today’s lineup, including forward Michela Cava (Thunder Bay) and defender Emma Greco (Burlington). Both helped the PHF’s Toronto Six capture an Isobel Cup championship last season. Cava played parts of two seasons with the team, notably finishing fourth in T6 scoring with 21 points in 24 games in 2022-23, then earned Playoff MVP honours. Greco was an alternate captain during the 2021 campaign and returned to the squad in 2022-23 where she contributed five points in 24 games.
The final three games of the 2023-24 Rivalry Series between Canada and the United States will be played on Feb. 7 in Saskatoon, SK, Feb. 9 in Regina, SK, and Feb. 11 in Saint Paul, MN. Toronto will have 10 players including eight on Team Canada’s roster with Victoria Bach, Maggie Connors, Renata Fast, Jocelyne Larocque, Emma Maltais, Sarah Nurse, Natalie Spooner, and Blayre Turnbull, plus Jesse Compher and Kali Flanagan on Team USA. Nine Minnesota players will represent their country including Natalie Buchbinder, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Clair DeGeorge, Maggie Flaherty, Brittyn Fleming, Taylor Heise, Nicole Hensley, Kelly Pannek, and Grace Zumwinkle. The event will mark senior national team debuts for Connors, Flaherty, and Fleming.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“I am super excited to get to play in my first professional game, it’s been a long month, and I can’t wait to officially step on the ice with this amazing group we have here in Toronto. Minnesota is sitting at the top of the standings in our league and they’re a fast team. We need to play our game and bring it to them. Can’t wait to play in my first pro game, something I have dreamt of my entire life!” – Victoria Bach, Toronto
“We are excited for the opportunity to go head-to-head with Minnesota again. We weren’t happy with the way we played a couple situations in our first game against them, and we have learned from that experience. We are looking to come out of the break with a solid performance against the highly skilled well coached Minnesota team.” – Troy Ryan, Toronto
“It’s very exciting and new to not be playing on a Toronto based team! My family hasn’t seen me play yet this season, so it’ll be exciting to see them. I think with Toronto they play a physical and fast transition game so we have to keep our heads up and look out for that!” – Emma Greco, Minnesota
“It’s going to be interesting to see which team comes out with more focus. I think the start will be paramount. Hopefully that’s us so we can dictate the pace of play.” – Ken Klee, Minnesota
Minnesota (+5) is first in goal differential and Toronto (-9) ranks sixth…Minnesota (2.50) is second in goals-per-game average and Toronto (1.75) ranks sixth…Minnesota (1.88) is first in fewest goals-against per game and Toronto (2.88) allow the most goals-per-game on average…Minnesota has scored the game’s first goal five times and Toronto has scored first twice…Minnesota leads the league with eight first period goals and Toronto ranks last with only two…Toronto (+55) is first in shot differential and Minnesota (+12) ranks third…Toronto (31.88) is first in average shots-per-game and Minnesota (29.13) rank third…Toronto (24.88) allow the fewest shots-per-game on average and Minnesota (27.63) allow the third most…Minnesota (1/21) ranks fourth in powerplay efficiency at 4.8%…Toronto (1/24) is tied for fifth on the PP at 4.2%…Toronto (20/22) is third in penalty kill efficiency at 90.9%…Minnesota (20/25) ranks sixth on the PK at 80%…Grace Zumwinkle (MIN) is tied for third overall with eight points and tied for first with six goals…Zumwinkle and Emma Maltais (TOR) are tied for the league-lead with one shorthanded goal…Susanna Tapani (MIN) leads the league with a plus-7 rating…Lee Stecklein (MIN) leads the league with 12 penalty minutes…Zumwinkle is tied for the league-lead with 35 shots and Natalie Spooner (TOR) ranks fifth with 28…Minnesota’s Taylor Heise (79/148) leads her team in face-off efficiency at 53.4% and has also taken the most draws…Toronto’s Sarah Nurse (44/78) leads her team with a 56.4% face-off efficiency…Blayre Turnbull (47.1%) has taken the most draws with 119…Nicole Hensley (MIN) leads the league with four wins and ranks second with a 1.58 goals-against-average and a .948 save percentage…Kristen Campbell (TOR) has three wins with a 2.83 GAA and .890 SV%…The PWHL schedule will pause after this weekend’s games for an IIHF International Break, with action resuming on Feb. 14.
Maltais | Turnbull | Spooner
Bach | Compher | Leslie
Miller | Nurse | Connors
Cogan | Vasko | Howard
Larocque | Fast
Munroe | Flanagan
Rougeau | Poulin-Labelle
Campbell | Howe
Scratches: Jackson, Willoughby
Křížová | Heise | Zumwinkle
Coyne Schofield | Pannek | Boreen
Cava | Tapani | Kunin
Fleming | Schepers | DeGeorge
Stecklein | Buchbinder
Channell | Flaherty
Greco | Cook
Hensley | Rooney
Scratches: Brodt, Butorac, Kremer, Leveille
Referees: Grace Barlow (Vancouver, BC) and Amy Martin (Winnipeg, MB).
Linespersons: Melissa Brunn (Kelowna, BC) and TJ Dockery (Buffalo, NY).