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

Toronto puts its seven-game winning streak on the line against Boston

TORONTO, ON (March 6, 2024) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) schedule continues this week with a pair of Wednesday night games, including Toronto and Boston, at 7:00 p.m. ET at Mattamy Athletic Centre.

 

WHERE TO WATCH

Fans in Canada can watch the game live on TSN4/5 channels, TSN.ca, and the TSN app. In the United States, the game is available 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 streamed on NESN 360, and on the league’s YouTube channel. Daniella Ponticelli has the play-by-play call alongside analyst Saroya Tinker and with Raegan Subban reporting rinkside.

 

CELEBRATING COMMUNITY HEROES

Tonight’s game will celebrate Community Heroes at Mattamy Athletic Centre. Among the groups in attendance will be members of the Canadian Armed Forces. In-game honourees include Peel Region Paramedic Meaghan Keslick, security personnel Cindy Childs and Gillian D’Agostino, and head coach Athena Bartucci of the U9A Mississauga Hurricanes who will be scrimmaging during the first intermission. Fans will also hear special interviews with PWHL Toronto’s Erica Howe about her experience as a Firefighter, and Jess Jones as an Ontario Provincial Police Constable, before their PWHL careers.

 

SETTING THE STAGE

It’s the third game of an even season series between two teams separated by six points in the standings. Toronto (6-3-0-5) is in third place with 24 points, three back of both Minnesota and Montréal, with Boston (4-2-2-5) in fourth place with 18 points, one ahead of Ottawa and two up on New York. Toronto is the league’s hottest team with seven straight wins which represents half of their season’s 14 games. Their streak is highlighted by regulation wins against all five league opponents, including Boston, with a 5-3 road victory against them on Valentine’s Day. Toronto matched that season-high offense in their most recent game on Saturday, beating Ottawa 5-2. Boston has won two of its last three games, including a 3-1 victory to close out a six-game homestand on Feb. 21, a 2-0 shutout in Minnesota on Feb. 25, but fell most recently to Montréal by a 3-1 score on Saturday. That loss was their first and only in five road games this season as they remain the league’s most efficient visiting team by earning 11 points of a possible 15 points. Toronto is the league’s third best team at home where they’ve won four games in their current streak and have 11 points in total of a possible 21. The teams will play two more times with Boston returning to Toronto on Mar. 20, and Toronto travelling to the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell on Apr. 18.

 

THE SEASON SERIES SO FAR

The first two games of the season series produced regulations wins for the road teams. Boston skated to a 3-2 victory at Mattamy Athletic Centre on Jan. 17, and Toronto was victorious 5-3 at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell on Feb. 14. Toronto won that game despite being outshot 35-18, with 18 shots counting as their lowest total of the season. They had several offensive highlights, including a hat trick by Natalie Spooner, three assists from Emma Maltais, Sarah Nurse’s first two-point game of the season, and Kali Flanagan’s first PWHL goal. Taylor Girard led Boston with a goal and an assist, and Megan Keller had two helpers. Keller has three points head-to-head having scored the last time in Toronto. That game also had strong individual performances by Loren Gabel with two goals and one assist, including the winning goal with under two minutes to play, and Alina Müller with three primary assists. Hannah Miller had both Toronto goals. Kristen Campbell started both games for Toronto and stopped 19 of 22 and a season-high 32 of 35. Emma Söderberg started both times for Boston and stopped 30 of 32 and 13 of 17.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Toronto’s Sarah Nurse was named PWHL First Star of the Week with back-to-back two-point performances including two goals against Minnesota last Tuesday and two assists against Ottawa on Saturday. She is now tied for second in team scoring with 10 points, counting four goals and six assists. Defender Renata Fast also received league recognition as Third Star of the Week with two straight two-assist games to vault her into fifth in team scoring. Natalie Spooner scored once with an assist in Ottawa to boost her goal total to a league-high 11 and point total to a team-high 13. Emma Maltais (2G 8A) is tied for second with 10 points and is riding a three-game point streak. Captain Blayre Turnbull also has points in three straight games. Boston’s Alina Müller leads her team with 11 points, including two goals and nine assists which are tied for the league-lead in the category. She set up captain Hilary Knight’s third goal of the season – the only goal in Saturday’s loss to Montréal. Megan Keller (3G 7A) has 10 points which is tied for the scoring lead among defenders and is not far removed from a four-game point streak. Boston has three players tied with seven points including Loren Gabel (4G 3A), Susanna Tapani (3G 4A), and Jamie Lee Rattray (2G 5A). Tapani’s first goal as a member of Boston held as the winner in the Feb. 21 game against Ottawa.

 

SCORING SPREADS

Even though a majority of the league’s games (24/43) have been one-goal decisions, don’t be surprised if Boston and Toronto play to a wider margin. Toronto has played in just five one-goal games, which is the lowest number in the league, and Boston has played in seven, which is second fewest. Toronto has won four of those five games, with their only one-goal loss coming against Boston on Jan. 17. Boston has also won four of their one-goal results. The teams have also played in the fewest overtime games this season, with Toronto’s total at three and Boston’s at four. When forced into extra time, Toronto has one overtime win and two in the shootout, while Boston has won twice and lost twice in overtime. Aside from one-goal spreads, Boston has played five two-goal games and one three-goal game, while Toronto has accumulated four two-goal decisions, a trio of three-goal games, and two four-goal differences. Toronto’s seven-game win streak includes a shootout and overtime win plus five multi-goal leads.

 

TEAM USA NAMES EVALUATION CAMP ROSTER

USA Hockey today announced the 39 athletes who have been invited to the 2024 U.S. Women’s National Team Evaluation Camp, which will take place March 27-30 at the Lake Placid Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. Thirteen PWHL players are listed, including Jesse Compher (TOR), Aerin Frankel (BOS), Megan Keller (BOS), and Hilary Knight (BOS). The 2024 U.S. Women’s National Team will be named at the conclusion of camp and will compete at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, N.Y., April 3-14.

 

KEEPING AN EYE ON COLLEGE HOCKEY

Playoff tournaments continue this week in NCAA Division I women’s hockey conferences, with lots of PWHL players keeping an eye on their alma mater. Hockey East semifinals take place tonight with New Hampshire against Northeastern, and Boston College against Connecticut. From those teams, Taylor Wenczkowski (BOS) is a UNH Wildcats alumna, Aerin Frankel (BOS), Alina Müller (BOS), and Maude Poulin-Labelle (TOR) are former Northeastern Huskies, and Kali Flanagan (TOR) and Megan Keller (BOS) are former BC Eagles. ECAC Hockey semifinals will take place on Friday and will feature No. 1 Colgate against No. 4 Cornell – a program that Lauriane Rougeau (TOR) was a part of, and No. 2 Clarkson will face No. 3 St. Lawrence. Of those two teams, Renata Fast (TOR), Erica Howe (TOR), Emma Keenan (TOR), Loren Gabel (BOS), and Jamie Lee Rattray (BOS) are all former Golden Knights, and Hannah Miller (TOR) played for the Saints. The WCHA semifinals on Friday feature No. 1 Ohio State against No. 4 Minnesota Duluth, and No. 2 Wisconsin against No. 3 Minnesota. Emma Maltais (TOR) and Natalie Spooner (TOR) are former Buckeyes, cheering opposite former Bulldogs Jocelyne Larocque (TOR), Jess Healey (BOS), Sidney Morin (BOS), and Emma Söderberg (BOS). Former Badgers include Kristen Campbell (TOR), Samantha Cogan (TOR), Jesse Compher (TOR), Sarah Nurse (TOR), Blayre Turnbull (TOR), Hilary Knight (BOS), Cami Kronish (BOS), and Sophie Shirley (BOS), while former Gophers include Olivia Knowles (TOR), Emily Brown (BOS), Hannah Brandt (BOS), and Gigi Marvin (BOS).

 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

I think one of the biggest things against Boston is just being so hard on the forecheck against them – that’s what made us successful the last time we played them, its getting all over them down low in their end. And then I think they have some players with some offensive instincts and offensive power, so we just need to make sure that we’re being aware of when they’re on the ice and taking away time and space from them.” – Renata Fast, Toronto

“This is a big one for both teams. The standings are tight, and we would like to create a little separation between us. They are a deep, well-balanced team that can be dangerous offensively. We will have to be at our best to be successful against Boston.” – Troy Ryan, Toronto

“We’re focused on coming out fast and sustaining that pressure for a full 60 minutes. Playing solid defense that leads to offensive possession and scoring chances are going to be big keys to success for our group.” – Emily Brown, Boston

“We’re focused on stringing two good games back-to-back. Beating Toronto’s forecheck and getting on the board early in the game.” – Courtney Kessel, Boston

 

QUICK HITS

Toronto (+4) is second in goal differential and Boston (-4) ranks fifth…Toronto (2.64) is first in goals-per-game average and Boston (2.23) ranks fourth…Toronto (2.36) allows the third most goals-per-game and Boston (2.54) allows the second most on average…Boston is undefeated in four games when scoring first…Toronto has scored first in eight of their 14 games and have won seven of them…Both teams have scored their most goals in the third period with 15 for Toronto and 11 for Boston…Both teams have played the fewest one-goal games with just five for Toronto and seven for Boston…Toronto (+32) is third in shot differential and Boston (-8) ranks fourth…Toronto (28.93) is third in shots-per-game average and Boston (27.92) ranks fourth…Toronto (26.57) allows the second fewest shots-per-game and Boston (28.54) allows the third most on average…Toronto (6.43) averages the third most penalty minutes per game and Boston (6.0) fourth most…Toronto (5/41) is third in powerplay efficiency at 12.2%…Boston (2/30) is sixth on the PP at 6.7%…Toronto (40/42) is first in penalty kill efficiency at 95.2%…Boston (32/35) is second at 91.4%…Natalie Spooner (TOR) leads the league with 11 goals…Alina Müller (BOS) is tied for the league-lead with nine assists…Megan Keller (BOS) is tied for the scoring lead among defenders with 10 points…Spooner leads the league with four powerplay goals…Taylor Girard (BOS) leads the league with two shorthanded points…Susanna Tapani (BOS) leads the league with a plus-10 rating…Spooner leads Toronto with 57 shots…Hilary Knight leads Boston with 43 shots…Sarah Nurse (94/173) leads Toronto in face-off efficiency at 54.3%…Blayre Turnbull (41.9%) leads the team with 203 draws…Hannah Brandt (97/187) leads Boston with a 51.9% face-off percentage…Müller (44.2%) leads the team with 190 draws…Kristen Campbell (TOR) leads the league with nine wins including eight straight and two shutouts and carries a goas-against-average of 2.24 and save percentage of .917…Aerin Frankel (BOS) has four wins in nine starts with a 1.85 GAA that ranks fourth and a .937 SV% that ranks third…Gigi Marvin (BOS) will celebrate her 37th birthday on Thursday…Toronto is dressing the same lineup as they did for Saturday’s win.

 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

TORONTO:

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

Larocque | Fast
Munroe | Flanagan
Rougeau | Knowles

Campbell | Howe

Scratches: Jackson, Poulin-Labelle

 

BOSTON:

Müller | Tapani | Knight
Schafzahl | Brandt | Rattray
Gabel | Darkangelo | Shirley
Girard | Marvin | Pelkey

Keller | Fratkin
Brown | Morin
DiGirolamo | Healey
Cook

Frankel | Söderberg

Scratches: Kronish, Wenczkowski

 

OFFICIALS:

Referees: Cianna Lieffers (Saskatoon, SK) and Christopher Rumble (West Seneca, NY).
Linespersons: Adam Burnett (Toronto, ON) and Luke Pye (Belle River, ON).

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

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