Saturday, June 15, 2024
World Elite Syndicate

PWHL Playoff Primer: Minnesota at Boston – Game 5

The Walter Cup is on the line in Game 5 of the PWHL Finals presented by Scotiabank

LOWELL, MA – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) Finals, presented by Scotiabank, ends tonight with a pinnacle Game 5 for The Walter Cup between Boston and Minnesota at 7:00 p.m. ET at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.

WHERE TO WATCH

Fans in the United States can watch the game live on NESN+, Fox9+, MSG/MSGHD, Bally Sports Wisconsin Extra, and streamed on the Bally Sports App. The game will also stream live on the Women’s Sports Network and the league’s YouTube channel.

Fans across Canada can watch the game live on TSN4, TSN.ca, and the TSN app. Tessa Bonhomme will host TSN’s on-site panel with analysts Becky Kellar and Alexis PearsonKenzie Lalonde will have the play-by-play call alongside analyst Cheryl Pounder and Raegan Subban reporting rinkside.

French coverage is available live on RDS Info with studio host Andrée-Anne BarbeauClaudine Douville will have the play-by-play call with analyst Stéphanie Poirier and reporter Catherine SavoieKarell Emard will provide updates from the rink.

GAME 4 AT A GLANCE

Boston evened the series 2-2 on Sunday night in Minnesota with a dramatic ending beyond imagination. Alina Müller scored the game’s first and only goal in double-overtime to secure the 1-0 victory for Boston. The goal was scored after 98:36 of action, and just 1:11 after a Minnesota goal, and subsequent celebration, was overturned by video review due to goaltender interference. Aerin Frankel turned aside all 33 shots she faced to secure the shutout opposite Nicole Hensley who made 32 saves in defeat. The win snapped Minnesota’s perfect 3-0 playoff record at Xcel Energy Center and extended Boston’s perfect playoff overtime record to 4-0.

BACK TO WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

It’s been 147 days since these two teams met for the very first time to begin the inaugural season on Jan. 3, right here at the Tsongas Center, which makes it fitting that this is where the season will end— and The Walter Cup will be won. Minnesota skated to a 3-2 victory in the first regular season game, with Boston earning a 4-3 overtime victory in a rematch on home ice on Jan. 27. This was also the site of the first puck drop of the PWHL Finals on May 19 when Boston emerged with a 4-3 win over Minnesota in Game 1 action. Minnesota rebounded with a 3-0 shutout victory over Boston in Game 2 here on May 21. Minnesota has won two of their five road games throughout the PWHL Playoffs including a 4-1 victory over Toronto in Game 5 to close out the semifinals. Boston has won two of its three home games this postseason.

SHUTOUTS AND OVERTIME

There have been 12 games so far in the PWHL Playoffs and six of them have ended in a shutout, including two of the four games in the PWHL Finals. Boston’s Aerin Frankel became the fourth goaltender to record a playoff shutout with her 33-save performance on Sunday, following Nicole Hensley‘s perfect 20-save effort for Minnesota in Game 2. Minnesota’s Maddie Rooney and Toronto’s Kristen Campbell both recorded two shutouts in the first four games of their semifinal series. The odds of an overtime finale are also quite high with five of 12 games ending beyond regulation. Boston is a perfect 4-0 in overtime and have played an extra 105:47 beyond regulation these playoffs. They’ve enjoyed heroics from Alina Müller in Game 4, Susanna Tapani in Game 1 and Game 3 of the semifinals, and Taylor Wenczkowski in Game 2 of the semifinals against Montréal. Minnesota is 1-1 in overtime games with an extra 63:03 under their belts. Claire Butorac scored their lone winner in double-overtime in Game 4 against Toronto.

THE GREEN MONSTER

Boston goaltender Aerin Frankel has inherited a popular local nickname for her standout performances throughout the PWHL Playoffs. The 5’5” netminder has been a giant wall between-the-pipes, like Fenway Park’s ‘Green Monster’, with 245 saves – 119 more than the next busiest playoff goaltender – for a sparkling .953 save percentage. She’s made 30 or more saves in all five of Boston’s playoff victories and will surely be put to the test again tonight and among her team’s leading contenders for the Ilana Kloss Playoff MVP award.

INTERNATIONAL LINE

Boston’s offense has been driven by a trio of international forwards playing together on the top line. Alina Müller (Switzerland), Susanna Tapani (Finland), and Theresa Schafzahl (Austria) have been part of three of the team’s six goals in the series. Müller has scored in back-to-back games, Tapani scored in Game 1 and leads the team with three playoff tallies, and Schafzahl set-up Müller’s Game 4 winner. Players from seven different nationalities are competing for The Walter Cup. Boston’s full roster of 26 players consists of 12 Americans, 10 Canadians, along with four international players counting their forward trio and goaltender Emma Söderberg (Sweden). Minnesota’s full roster of 26 players consists of 21 Americans, four Canadians, and one international player in Denisa Křížová (Czechia).

BOSTON’S CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERIENCE

Forward Jamie Lee Rattray is the only player on either team who can potentially win both a PWHL championship and IIHF Women’s World Championship in the same season after helping Canada claim gold at the 2024 tournament in Utica. Rattray was also a member of Team Harvey’s that won the PWHPA’s Secret Cup at the end of the 2022-23 campaign. Also looking for back-to-back titles are Cami Kronish and Sophie Shirley, who were crowned 2023 NCAA National Champions with the University of Wisconsin Badgers. Prior to the launch of the PWHL, Boston was home to several professional women’s hockey champions. The Boston Blades captured the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup in 2013 and 2015, and the Boston Pride won the first Isobel Cup title in 2016 and were the league’s only team to win back-to-back in 2021 and 2022. Hilary Knight and Gigi Marvin were members of both Clarkson Cup titles for the Blades and the first Isobel Cup title for the Pride. Kaleigh Fratkin won with the Blades in 2015 and with the Pride in both 2021 and 2022. Amanda Pelkey won with the Pride in 2016, and Taylor Wenczkowski won in both 2021 and in 2022 where she was named Playoff MVP. Boston’s Hannah Brandt was a member of the 2019 Minnesota Whitecaps that won the Isobel Cup, and both Rattray and Nicole Kosta were members of the 2018 Markham Thunder that won the Clarkson Cup.

MINNESOTA’S CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERIENCE

Seven Minnesota players are looking to complete back-to-back championships tonight by hoisting The Walter Cup. Last March in the PHF, forward Michela Cava and defender Emma Greco were members of the Toronto Six squad that won the Isobel Cup at the end of the 2022-23 campaign. In the PWHPA, Team Harvey’s captured the Secret Cup with a group that included forwards Clair DeGeorge and Sophia Kunin, and defenders Mellissa Channell and Lee Stecklein. In the NCAA, the University of Wisconsin Badgers were crowned 2023 National Champions with defender Natalie Buchbinder. A PWHL title will build on Minnesota’s professional women’s hockey championship legacy, following the 2019 Minnesota Whitecaps that won the PHF’s Isobel Cup with forward Kendall Coyne Schofield, goaltender Amanda Leveille, and defender Lee Stecklein, who earned MVP honors with the overtime winner in the final.

THE WALTER CUP & ILANA KLOSS PLAYOFF MVP AWARD

The winner of the PWHL Finals will be the first to hoist The Walter Cup, the league’s championship trophy, created in partnership with global luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. The Walter family is a leader in philanthropy and business, and provided the foundational support that launched the PWHL. The angular design of the Walter Cup is inspired by ice, with a nod to the six original teams in the league. The Walter Cup is made of sterling silver and weighs approximately 35 pounds, standing 24 inches tall and over 13 inches wide. The Ilana Kloss Playoff MVP Award is for the player considered most valuable to their team’s success throughout the playoffs and will be presented on the ice at the conclusion of the deciding game of the finals. The award is named in honor of Ilana Kloss, a trailblazer and long-time women’s sports advocate, who championed the launch of the PWHL as one of the league’s founding Advisory Board members.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

“Whenever you set out at the start of the season, this is the game you want to be in. Obviously, to close out the season with a win is the goal, but to have all the support of our hometown fans is going to be outstanding.” – Hilary Knight, Boston

“I think we’ve taken the path less traveled all year…We’re really looking forward to hosting Game 5 here at Tsongas. We’re just excited to take it all in and enjoy the moment.” – Courtney Kessel, Boston

“It comes down to one game, but we can’t forget that four games have been played and there’s a lot to take away from those four games – the things that we’ve done well and the areas we want to be sharper. That’s the message.” – Kendall Coyne Schofield, Minnesota

“We’ve been going for a while on winning one game and that’s our focus and that’s what we’re going to be looking at. We’re not worried about anything past the first period, during the first period, and then we’ll move on from there. We’ll take small bites because you can get overwhelmed as an athlete if you start looking too far ahead. The best way athletes function is to give them a task at hand and keep them focused and keep them really intense on that shift and on that period.” – Ken Klee, Minnesota

QUICK HITS

During the PWHL Finals, Minnesota has outscored Boston 10-6…Minnesota has outshot Boston 114-94…Game 4 was the first game of the series where Boston scored the first goal…Game 4 was the first game of the playoffs that Boston was not outshot (they tied 33-33)…Neither team has scored a powerplay goal in the Finals with Boston’s PP at 0/9 and Minnesota at 0/10 in this series…Minnesota’s only two powerplay goals were scored in Game 5 of the semifinals against Toronto…Boston has not scored a powerplay goal all playoffs operating at 0/15 overall…Minnesota’s Taylor Heise (5G, 2A) leads the playoffs in scoring with seven points in eight games, including three goals and two assists in the series…Minnesota’s Michela Cava (3G, 3A) is second in playoff scoring with all six of her points recorded in this series…Minnesota’s Sophie Jaques (2G, 3A) leads all defenders in playoff scoring with five points including two goals in this series…Boston’s top playoff scorers are Susanna Tapani (3G, 1A) and defender Megan Keller (4A) with four points each including two points apiece in the Finals…Alina Müller has scored both of Boston’s goals in each of the last two games…Tapani leads the playoffs with two game-winning goals…Kristin O’Neill (MTL) leads the playoffs with two powerplay goals…Amanda Pelkey (BOS) and Grace Zumwinkle (MIN) lead the playoffs with one shorthanded goal each…Keller leads the playoffs with 10 penalty minutes…Sidney Morin (BOS) lead the playoffs with a plus-7 rating…Taylor Wenczkowski (BOS) leads the playoffs with a 50.0% shooting percentage…Heise leads Minnesota with 27 shots on goal in the playoffs…Hilary Knight leads Boston with 26 shots on goal…Knights (60/111) leads Boston in face-off percentage at 54.1%…Tapani (44.8%) leads the team with 183 draws taken…Kelly Pannek (102/182) leads Minnesota in face-offs and with a win-rate of 56.0%…Aerin Frankel (BOS) is 5-2 in the playoffs with one shutout, a goals-against-average of 1.38, and a save percentage of .953…Nicole Hensley (MIN) is 2-2 in the playoffs with one shutout, a 1.29 GAA, and a .935 SV%…Pelkey is celebrating her 31st birthday today…Tapani is playing in her 34th game of the season between regular-season and playoffs, which is the most among all players…There are no changes to Boston or Minnesota’s lineups for Game 5…Once upon a time at Tsongas, the venue hosted the PHF’s Isobel Cup Final on March 19, 2017, where the underdog Buffalo Beauts upset the defending champion Boston Pride 3-2…PWHL Boston members on the Pride were KnightPelkey, and Gigi Marvin.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

MINNESOTA:

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

| | Bryant

Stecklein | Buchbinder

Channell | Jaques
Greco | Flaherty

Hensley | Rooney

Scratches: Kremer

BOSTON:

Müller | Tapani | Schafzahl
Rattray | Brandt | Knight
Gabel | Adzija | Shirley
Wenczkowski | Marvin | Pelkey
Babstock


Keller | Brown
DiGirolamo | Fratkin
Healey | Morin

Frankel | Söderberg

Scratches: Cook, Girard, Kosta

OFFICIALS:

Referees: David Elford (Kitchener, ON) – #11 and Alex Lepkowski (West Seneca, NY) – #14.
Linespersons: Jérémy Faucher (Cowansville, QC) – #85 and Greg Offerman (Madison, WI) – #95.

Standby Officials: Jared Cummins (Buffalo, NY) – #1 (R) and Anthony Lapointe (Verdun, QC) – #78 (L).

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