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

Boston hosts Minnesota in rematch of season opener

 

LOWELL, MA (January 27, 2024) – The fourth week of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) season continues with a pair of Saturday afternoon games, including a 4:00 p.m. ET matchup between Minnesota and Boston at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.

 

WHERE TO WATCH

 

Fans in the United States can watch live on NESN or stream on the NESN 360 app by logging in with their TV provider or purchasing a direct subscription. Bridgette Proulx will have the play-by-play call alongside analyst Paige Capistran. Viewers can also watch on Bally Sports North Extra as part of the network’s Hockey Day in Minnesota coverage, and on the league’s YouTube channel. Canadian viewers can watch live on Sportsnet ONE and stream on Sportsnet+.

 

SETTING THE STAGE

 

Minnesota (3-1-1-1) has 12 points and find themselves in second place for the first time all season following Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Montréal. Since opening the season with three straight wins in regulation, they’ve earned three of a possible nine points over their last three games and failed to earn a point for the first time in midweek defeat. Boston (2-1-0-2) is in a tie for third place with eight points and boosted their record with a 3-2 win in Ottawa on Wednesday. They are still looking for a first win at the Tsongas Center with losses to New York by a 4-1 score last Saturday, and to Minnesota by a 3-2 result in the season opener on Jan. 3. All of Boston’s points have been accumulated in three road games by 3-2 scores. Minnesota has also won its first two road games, including the opener, and a 3-2 overtime triumph against Ottawa on Jan. 17. Keep an eye on the shot totals in this game as both teams are undefeated when being outshot by their opponent, and winless when leading in shots on goal. This marks their second and final trip to Boston during the regular-season, with Boston scheduled to visit Xcel Energy Center for games on Feb. 25, Mar. 13, and Apr. 27.

 

RECAP BEFORE THE REMATCH

 

Despite being outshot 35-16, Minnesota held on for a 3-2 victory over Boston in the season opening matchup at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell on Jan. 3. Nicole Hensley earned first star honors in what remains a season-high 33-save performance. First overall draft pick Taylor Heise scored the first-ever goal in PWHL Minnesota history. Sophia Kunin added a first period tally, and Grace Zumwinkle’s second period marker held as the game-winner. Theresa Schafzahl scored the historic first goal for Boston, and Megan Keller produced the team’s first powerplay goal. Aerin Frankel stopped 13 shots in the loss.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

 

Boston’s third overall draft pick Alina Müller is one of the hottest players in the PWHL with six points in her last three games, including her first goal in Wednesday’s win in Ottawa. Four of her five assists in that span are primary helpers. Loren Gabel may have been held off the scoresheet Wednesday but put together three goals and one assist over a two-game stretch before it. Jamie Lee Rattray also has four points this season, including her first PWHL goal playing in her hometown of Ottawa. Minnesota’s Susanna Tapani had two goals, including the overtime winner, in the team’s Jan. 17 win over Ottawa, and team top scorer Grace Zumwinkle had a goal and an assist. First overall pick Taylor Heise has not gone consecutive games without a point so far in her PWHL career and is second on the team in both goals and points.

 

COLLEGIATE CONNECTIONS

 

This afternoon’s game features former NCAA teammates from across seven different schools. Hannah Brandt (BOS) played with Lee Stecklein (MIN) and Amanda Leveille (MIN) at the University of Minnesota from 2012-16—the trio was joined by Kelly Pannek (MIN) in 2014. Boston’s Emily Brown also played at the school with four Minnesota players: Pannek, Taylor Heise, Grace Zumwinkle, and Lauren Bench. Quinnipiac alumnae Nicole Kosta (BOS) and Emma Greco (MIN) were teammates at the school from 2013-16. Greco then played her senior season as a Bobcat with Taylor Girard (BOS) in 2016-17. Aerin Frankel (BOS) and Denisa Křížová suited up together for Northeastern University in 2017-18. Boston University’s roster from 2016-20 featured both Sammy Davis (BOS) and Abby Cook (MIN). The University of Wisconsin’s 2018-19 roster had four players from this afternoon’s game: Boston’s Sophie Shirley and Cami Kronish, and Minnesota’s Sophia Kunin and Natalie Buchbinder. Boston Defender Sophie Jaques spent 2021-22 at Ohio State with Minnesota’s Claire DeGeorge and Liz Schepers. The University of Minnesota-Duluth featured all of Jess Healey (BOS), Sidney Morin (BOS), Sydney Brodt (MIN), Michela Cava (MIN), and Maddie Rooney (MIN) from 2014-16. The school then welcomed Boston goaltender Emma Söderberg and Minnesota defender Maggie Flaherty in 2018, who played their entire NCAA careers together—the duo also lined up alongside Brodt and Flaherty for two seasons, from 2018-20.

 

NHL ALL-STAR THURSDAY

 

Nine players in today’s game will represent the league in the Canadian Tire PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase, taking place during NHL All-Star Thursday on Feb. 1 at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. Aerin Frankel (BOS), Megan Keller (BOS), Hilary Knight (BOS), and Alina Müller (BOS) will join Kendall Coyne Schofield (MIN), Kelly Pannek (MIN), and Lee Stecklein on Team King, up against Taylor Heise (MIN) and Nicole Hensley (MIN) on Team Kloss. Coyne Schofield became the first woman ever to compete in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in 2019 with her electrifying performance in the Fastest Skater contest. Then in 2020, teams of American and Canadian elite players went head-to-head in an All-Star 3-on-3 competition that included Coyne Schofield, Knight, and Stecklein. Last year, Knight was among a group who took part in the skills competition in Florida.

 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

 

Boston forward Alina Müller on the team’s outlook and chemistry with her linemates…

“It is time for our first win on home ice and finish on a high before break! We know what to expect from Minnesota since we have played them once already. It is on us now to show up a full 60 minutes. The last couple of games we had some really strong periods and others where we played far away from how we are able to play. It was nice to get my first goal out of the way last game, but every game so far our line has been creating a lot of chances, and it is very fun to play alongside such skilled and talented players.”

 

Minnesota forward Taylor Heise provides her pre-game outlook…

 

“Our focus is to come out and continue to play three full periods…playing 60 full minutes is a key for us.  Coming out and making sure we get good shots on the net too; they have great goaltending. If we continue to play the way we normally do, we’ll be just fine.”

 

COACHES CORNER

 

“We really need to focus on playing as a unit of five for 60 minutes! Commit to the habits, play fast and physical.” – Courtney Kessel, Boston.

 

“We need to find a way to execute better in prime scoring areas and we’ll get a better result.” – Ken Klee, Minnesota.

 

QUICK HITS

 

Minnesota (+5) is first in goal differential and Boston (-1) ranks fifth…Minnesota (2.5) ranks third in goals-per-game average and Boston (2.4) ranks fifth…Minnesota (1.67) allows the fewest goals-per-game on average and Boston (2.6) allows the second most…Boston has never lost when leading or tied after the first or second period…Boston has scored the game’s first goal just once and it resulted in victory…Minnesota has scored first in four different games and won three of them…Minnesota’s best offensive period is the first with six goals, while its Boston’s worst with just two goals scored…Boston and Minnesota are tied with a plus-3 shot differential that ranks third overall…Minnesota (29.17) ranks second in shots-per-game and Boston (28.40) ranks third…Boston (27.80) allows the third fewest shots-per-game and Minnesota (28.67) allows the third most…Minnesota has the two highest shot totals of the season at 46 and 41…Boston (2/10) ranks third in powerplay efficiency at 20%…Minnesota (1/11) is tied for fourth at 9.1%…Boston (9/10) is tied for the league’s best penalty kill rate at 90%…Minnesota (10/14) ranks last on the PK at 71.4%…Alina Müller (BOS) is tied for second in league scoring with seven points and first with six assists…Grace Zumwinkle (MIN) is tied for second in the league with five goals…Lee Stecklein (MIN) is tied for second in scoring among defenders with four points…Susanna Tapani (MIN) leads the league with a plus-7 rating…Stecklein is tied for the league-lead with 10 penalty minutes…Zumwinkle and Taylor Girard (BOS) are tied for the league-lead with one shorthanded goal…Hilary Knight (BOS) leads her team with 21 shots…Zumwinkle leads her team with 27 shots…Hannah Brandt (25/61) leads Boston with a 41% face-off efficiency…Müller (40.4%) has taken the most draws with 109…Liz Schepers (35/61) leads Minnesota with a 57.4% face-off efficiency…Taylor Heise (51%) has taken the most draws with 102…Maddie Rooney (MIN) has one shutout in two starts and leads the league with a goals-against-average of 1.45 and ranks third with save percentage of .943…Emma Söderberg (BOS) has one win in two starts with a 3.66 GAA and .889 SV%…Taylor Wenczkowski (BOS) is serving a one-game suspension following a league-initiated review by the PWHL Player Safety Committee.

 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

 

BOSTON:

 

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

Keller | Morin
DiGirolamo | Fratkin
Brown | Healey
Jaques

 

Söderberg
Frankel

 

Scratches: Kronish, Wenczkowski

 

MINNESOTA:

 

Křížová | Heise | Zumwinkle

Coyne Schofield | Pannek | Boreen
Cava | Tapani | Kunin
Fleming | Schepers | Butorac

Stecklein | Buchbinder
Channell | Flaherty
Greco | Cook
Kremer

Rooney
Hensley

 

Scratches: Brodt, Bryant, DeGeorge, Leveille

 

OFFICIALS:

 

Referees: Marie-Ève Couture (Longueuil, QC) and Katie Glover (Seattle, WA).

Linespersons: Jérémy Faucher (Cowansville, QC) and Anthony Lapointe (Lachine, QC).

 

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

 

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