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

Toronto can clinch first overall, Minnesota can clinch a playoff berth

 

TORONTO, ON (May 1, 2024) – This final week of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) regular-season continues with a Wednesday night game between Toronto and Minnesota at 7:00 p.m. ET at Mattamy Athletic Centre.

 

WHERE TO WATCH

 

Fans across Canada can watch the game live on TSN 4/5 channels, TSN.ca, and the TSN app. Fans in the United States can watch the game live on Bally Sports North/SoCal/Southeast, 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 on the league’s YouTube channel. Kenzie Lalonde will have the play-by-play call alongside analyst Cheryl Pounder and Raegan Subban reporting rinkside.

 

TONIGHT’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS

 

Toronto and Montréal have already secured home ice advantage to open the PWHL Playoffs, but Toronto can clinch first overall in the league standings with a regulation win tonight. The first-place team earns the opportunity to choose between the third or the fourth-place team as their semifinal opponent. Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot and third place overall with a single point in tonight’s game.

 

CELEBRATING PRIDE

 

Tonight’s game at Mattamy Athletic Centre will be a celebration of Pride, beginning the moment PWHL Toronto players arrive at the rink wearing Pride t-shirts. Performing the national anthems will be Tempo – a Queer Tenor-Bass Choir from Toronto. Its founder, Howie Dayton, will be featured during the first period. Guest DJ, D.W. Waterson, will be spinning throughout the game at ice level in the Southern Hospitality Zone. They are a queer/non-binary DJ, actor, and director, and will be promoting their upcoming Queer Indie film, ‘Backspot’. Sport-A-Rainbow and founder Rose Powers will be on the East Concourse and featured during the game. Sport A Rainbow is a reminder to be supportive, respectful and kind to each other in spite of our differences. A video of Toronto players taking the Sport A Rainbow pledge as advocates for equity in sport will be played on arena screens, in addition to videos of players sharing why celebrating Pride in hockey is important. Also among the community partners in attendance to celebrate Toronto’s first Pride game include You Can Play and Toronto Pride Hockey Tournament.

 

SETTING THE STAGE

 

Two teams with two games remaining meet for the first time in over two months with playoff positioning at stake. Toronto (11-4-0-7) is currently tied with Montréal at the top of the standings with 41 points, six ahead of Minnesota (8-4-3-7) who sit in third place with 35 points. Toronto has their sights set on securing first place overall, while Minnesota hits the ice with their fourth opportunity to clinch a playoff berth. Should Minnesota qualify for playoffs, this game could be a potential semifinal preview and a result that will undoubtedly be factored into Toronto’s decision should they earn the opportunity to select their opponent. Toronto has won their last two of three games since returning from the break, defeating Montréal 3-2 in overtime at the Bell Centre on Apr. 20, and most recently a 6-2 victory over New York on Sunday at UBS Arena where the offense delivered its strongest performance of the season. Minnesota has lost three straight games in regulation since the break, including a 4-3 loss in Montréal on Apr. 18, a 4-0 loss in Ottawa on Apr. 20, and most recently a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Boston at home where they gave up the winning goal with less than three seconds on the clock. Minnesota will play its final two games on the road where they’ve won five times and earned 14 points in 10 games. Toronto is the league’s most efficient team on home ice with seven wins and 20 points in 10 games. The matchup features Toronto’s top-ranked offense, averaging 2.73 goals-per-game, against Minnesota’s top-ranked defense, holding opponents to 2.05 goals against on average.

 

THE SEASON SERIES THROUGH THREE GAMES

 

Toronto has won two of the first three meetings and narrowly lead Minnesota 5-4 in points in the season series. The first two games were won by the home team, with Minnesota victorious 3-1 at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 10, and Toronto winning 4-1 on Feb. 3 at Mattamy Athletic Centre. The last game was played Feb. 27 at 3M Arena at Mariucci on the University of Minnesota campus where Toronto emerged with a 4-3 overtime triumph. In that game, Sarah Nurse scored twice, including the overtime winner, to lead Toronto to the win. Minnesota’s Sophie Jaques also tallied twice, her first two goals of the season, including the game tying goal with just 22 seconds left in regulation. Toronto’s Renata Fast, Jocelyne Larocque, and Emma Maltais, along with Minnesota’s Kendall Coyne Schofield, each contributed two assists. Nurse (3G 1A) and Coyne Schofield (2G 2A) lead the season series with four points each. Kristen Campbell has played all three games for Toronto with a head-to-head save percentage of .917. Maddie Rooney is slated to make her first start for Minnesota against Toronto. This series consists of four games with both teams playing all other opponents five times throughout the season.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

 

Toronto’s Natalie Spooner looks to extend her lead in the scoring race with 23 points, including a league-high 16 goals in 22 games. She has three points in her last two games and 12 points in her last nine. Sarah Nurse (10G 10A) is fourth overall in league scoring with 20 points after scoring her first hat trick of the season in Toronto’s win over New York on Sunday. The performance earned her First Star in the PWHL’s weekly honours and gives her five goals in her last two games and 14 points in her last 10. Emma Maltais (3G 13A) has 16 points, including 13 assists which is one behind the league-lead, with an active point streak at four games. Renata Fast (3G 9A) has 12 points and is riding a three-game point streak. Hannah Miller (6G 5A) is fifth in team scoring with 11 points. Minnesota is led offensively by rookie Grace Zumwinkle (10G 7A) with 17 points in 22 games, followed by Kendall Coyne Schofield (6G 10A) with 16 points. The captain has eight points in her last seven games. Kelly Pannek (4G 10A) is third on the team with 14 points and scored Minnesota’s lone goal on Saturday. Taylor Heise (4G 8A) has 12 points in 17 games, followed by fellow rookie Sophie Jaques (2G 8A) with 10 points. The Toronto native has produced all of her points while patrolling Minnesota’s blue line in 13 games since being acquired from Boston in a trade on Feb. 11.

 

2024 PWHL DRAFT IN MINNESOTA

 

Minnesota will host the 2024 PWHL Draft in June, as announced by the league on Saturday during the team’s ‘Fan Appreciation’ game at Xcel Energy Center. The inaugural draft was held Sept. 18 in Toronto where these two teams made history with the first two picks of the 90 made in total. Minnesota selected forward Taylor Heise first overall, followed by Toronto’s selection of defender Jocelyne Larocque at number two. On Tuesday night, New York clinched the first overall pick in this year’s draft with a victory over Ottawa ensuring they will finish the season with the most ‘Draft Order Points’ following elimination from playoff contention. The 2024 PWHL Draft will consist of 42 picks made over seven rounds.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

 

“I’m so excited to play in front of our home crowd again! With playoffs coming up, everyone we play can possibly be a playoff opponent, so it’s important we set the tone early.” – Emma Maltais, Toronto

 

“It’s nice to be back home playing in front of our incredible fans. We are excited about how far our group has come this year. With two games remaining, an opportunity to finish first is something for this group to be proud of. The group has stuck together all year and should be proud of the work they have put in to date.” – Troy Ryan, Toronto

 

“Even though things haven’t been going our way recently, we’re still very much looking forward to this opportunity tonight. Obviously, this is a huge game for us and a chance to show who we are as a team. So, we’re going to go out there and play our game and have a lot of fun. Our goal is to extend our season so tonight it’s important to take full advantage of the opportunity.” – Taylor Heise, Minnesota

 

“Every game in this league is extremely tight and exciting. We’ve played some really good hockey lately but haven’t had the results. The mission on this trip is to play 60 minutes of our best hockey. We understand that it is a tough task, and the game will have ups and downs, but we have had a lot of success earlier in the season and know we can compete with anyone in the league.” – Ken Klee, Minnesota

 

QUICK HITS

 

Toronto (+13) is first in goal differential and Minnesota (+6) ranks second…Toronto (2.73) is first in goals-per-game average and Minnesota (2.32) ranks fourth…Minnesota (2.05) allows the fewest goals-per-game on average and Toronto (2.14) allows the second fewest…Toronto is tied for the league-lead with 14 first goals and have won 12 of those games, Minnesota has scored first in 11 games and have won nine of them…Toronto’s 23 goals in the third period are second most, while Minnesota’s 11 third period goals are the least…Toronto has seven wins in nine one-goal games, Minnesota has seven wins in 14 one-goal games…Minnesota (+102) is first in shot differential and Toronto (+38) is tied for second…Minnesota (30.82) is first in shots-per-game average and Toronto (28.27) ranks fourth…Minnesota (26.18) allows the fewest shots-per-game on average and Toronto (26.50) allows the second fewest…Minnesota has outshot opponents in 14 games, Toronto has outshot opponents in 13 games…Toronto (6.64) is third in average penalty minutes per game and Minnesota (5.27) has the lowest average…Toronto (8/64) is fourth in powerplay efficiency at 12.5%…Minnesota (5/54) ranks fifth on the PP at 9.3%…Toronto (62/68) is first in penalty kill efficiency at 91.2%…Minnesota (39/54) ranks sixth on the PK at 72.2%…Natalie Spooner (TOR) leads the league in scoring with 23 points…Grace Zumwinkle (MIN) leads rookie scoring with 17 points…Spooner leads the league with 15 goals including five on the powerplay…Sarah Nurse (TOR) and Zumwinkle (MIN) are tied for second in the league with 10 goals…Zumwinkle leads the league with four game winning goals followed by Spooner tied for second with three…Emma Maltais (TOR) is tied for second in the league with 13 assists…Maltais leads the league with two shorthanded goals…Kendall Coyne Schofield (MIN) is tied for first in the league with a plus-13 rating…Spooner is second in the league with 91 shots on goal and Zumwinkle ranks third with 90…Alexa Vasko (75/146) leads Toronto with a face-off percentage of 51.4%…Blayre Turnbull (43.5%) leads the team with 322 draws…Kelly Pannek (213/398) leads Minnesota in face-offs and with a winning percentage of 53.5%…Kristen Campbell (TOR) has won 14 of her 20 starts and leads the league with three shutouts, also carrying a goals-against-average of 2.04 and a save percentage of .923…Maddie Rooney (MIN) has won five of her nine starts with two shutouts and a 1.97 GAA that ranks third along with a .920 SV%…Sydney Brodt (MIN) will celebrate her 26th birthday on Friday.

 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

 

TORONTO:

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

 

Larocque | Fast
Munroe | Flanagan
Rougeau | Knowles

 

Campbell | Jackson

 

Scratches: Howe, Poulin-Labelle

 

MINNESOTA:

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

 

Stecklein | Buchbinder
Channell | Jaques
Greco | Flaherty

 

Rooney | Hensley

 

Scratches: Kremer, Leveille

 

OFFICIALS:

 

Referees: David Elford (Kitchener, ON) and Lacey Senuk (Toronto, ON).
Linespersons: Jérémy Faucher (Cowansville, QC) and Sophie Thomson (Halifax, NS).

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

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