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

First place and winning streaks are on the line on International Women’s Day

TORONTO, ON (March 8, 2024) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) schedule continues on International Women’s Day with a game between Toronto and Montréal, tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET at Mattamy Athletic Centre.

 

WHERE TO WATCH

Fans in the Canada can watch the game live on Sportsnet Ontario, East, West, and Pacific channels, and stream via Sportsnet+. In the United States, viewers can watch the game on NESN+ and on the league’s YouTube channel. Daniella Ponticelli has the play-by-play call alongside analyst Saroya Tinker. French language coverage is available on ICI TOU.TV with studio host Alexandre Coupal, Jean St-Onge calling play-by-play, and analyst Stéphanie Poirier. Tonight’s broadcast will debut a new series of intermission feature interviews titled ‘Beyond the Ice’ hosted by Cassie Campbell-Pascall, PWHL Special Advisor.

 

CELEBRATING INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

International Women’s Day will be celebrated throughout tonight’s game at Mattamy Athletic Centre. The team is proud to welcome and acknowledge The Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine, who made history as the first Black woman elected to Canada’s Parliament, serving from 1993-2006. PWHL Toronto players filled out “who inspires me” placards and a video of their tributes will be played in-venue and posted to social media platforms along with other International Women’s Day content. Both teams will be wearing special jerseys for tonight’s game as part of Molson’s ‘See My Name’ campaign, an initiative intended to bring greater visibility and recognition to the league’s players. Molson is launching its partnership with the PWHL by sponsoring the space above the jersey numbers, usually covered by a player’s hair. By shifting the player’s name below their number, Molson is covering its name so hers can be seen.

 

SETTING THE STAGE

There’s always a lot on the line when Canadian hockey rivals face-off, and tonight’s matchup lives up to the billing. Only three points separate first place Montréal (7-3-3-2) from second place Toronto (7-3-0-5) with 30 and 27 points, respectively. Both teams enter the action on active winning streaks, with Toronto riding a season-high eight-game streak to Montréal’s three straight wins. Toronto’s streak already includes a 3-0 victory over Montréal in the historic Battle on Bay Street and has grown by four wins since then – most recently with a 3-1 victory over Boston at Mattamy Athletic Centre on Wednesday. Before losing to Toronto on Feb. 16, Montréal had points in seven straight games, and have points in five straight games since – also winning most recently on Wednesday with a 4-3 victory against New York at Bridgeport’s Total Mortgage Arena. This is the second of three games in a busy five-day period for Montréal who will host Ottawa at Place Bell. Montréal has won five of its eight away games so far this season and have collected 14 of a possible 24 points. Toronto’s streak has boosted their home record to second best in the league with five wins in eight games, good for 14 of a possible 24 points. The game will feature the league’s two most powered offenses with Toronto scoring 40 goals this season to 39 for Montréal. The teams will meet two more times this season, including next Sunday in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena as part of PWHL Takeover Weekend.

 

THE SEASON SERIES SO FAR

Toronto has earned five of a possible six points against Montréal over the two previous meetings. They won 3-0 on Feb. 16 at Scotiabank Arena before a crowd of 19,285 to set a women’s hockey attendance record. In a scoreless game through 40 minutes, Jesse Compher put Toronto on the board at 5:11 of the third period with her first goal of the season. Hannah Miller capped a two-point game on her 28th birthday with her third goal of the season at 15:21, followed by Victoria Bach’s first goal just 32 seconds later into the empty net. Kristen Campbell earned her second shutout of the season with a 30-save performance against Ann-Renée Desbiens who stopped 21 shots. The teams also played in the first shootout in PWHL history on Jan. 20 at Verdun Auditorium. Toronto prevailed 4-3 with Lauriane Rougeau scoring the winning goal in the sixth round. The game required extra time after a last-minute goal by Marie-Philip Poulin, her second of the game, knotted the score 3-3. Maggie Connors had a goal and an assist, and Natalie Spooner had a late third period goal for Toronto. Sarah Bujold (MTL) and Jocelyne Larocque (TOR) scored their first goals of the season, and both Leah Lum (MTL) and Rebecca Leslie (TOR) had two-assist efforts. Campbell stopped 21 shots for the win, and Desbiens turned aside 36 despite the loss.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Today’s game features two of the league’s top three scorers in Montréal’s Marie-Philip Poulin and Toronto’s Natalie Spooner. Poulin is tied for first in the points race with 17, including eight goals and nine assists – tied for the most in the PWHL. The Montréal captain has impressively recorded eight points in her last three games, counting two goals and six assists. Spooner ranks third in the PWHL with 15 points, including a league-leading 12 goals. She has produced back-to-back multi-point games with a goal and an assist in each contest. Toronto’s Sarah Nurse (4G 7A) and Montréal’s Maureen Murphy (3G 8A) are in a four-way tie for sixth in league scoring with 11 points each. Toronto’s Emma Maltais (2G 8A) and Montréal’s Tereza Vanišová (2G 8A) are two of six players in the league with 10 points. Montréal’s Laura Stacey (6G 3A) is fourth in team scoring with nine points, followed by defender Erin Ambrose (3G 5A) with eight. A pair of Toronto defenders also have eight points – Renata Fast (1G 7A) and Jocelyne Larocque (1G 7A) – who are tied for fourth in team scoring. Captain Blayre Turnbull has a four-game point streak, with both Fast and Nurse riding three-game streaks. Spooner, Maltais, and Kristen Campbell, who has nine straight wins between-the-pipes, were all named PWHL ‘SupraStars’ of the Month for February. Elaine Chuli, who has won all five of her starts for Montréal, will put her undefeated record on the line for the first time against Toronto. Mélodie Daoust, who scored in her PWHL debut on Saturday, returns to Montréal’s top line.

 

CANADIAN NATIONAL WOMEN’S TEAM IS NAMED

Hockey Canada announced on Thursday the 23 players named to Canada’s National Women’s Team who will look to reclaim the gold medal at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, April 3-14 in Utica, New York. Nineteen PWHL players are on the roster including Toronto’s Kristen Campbell, Renata Fast, Jocelyne Larocque, Emma Maltais, Sarah Nurse, Natalie Spooner, and Blayre Turnbull, and Montréal’s Erin Ambrose, Ann-Renée Desbiens, Kristen O’Neill, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Laura Stacey. The roster was selected by general manager Gina Kingsbury (PWHL Toronto), head coach Troy Ryan (PWHL Toronto) and Cherie Piper, senior manager of player development and scouting. Team Canada assistant coaches Kori Cheverie (PWHL Montréal), Courtney Kessel (PWHL Boston) and Caroline Ouellette, along with goaltending consultant Brad Kirkwood (PWHL Toronto), also provided input.

 

KEEPING AN EYE ON COLLEGE HOCKEY

Playoff tournaments continue this weekend in NCAA Division I women’s hockey conferences, with lots of PWHL players keeping an eye on their alma mater. ECAC Hockey semifinals take place tonight and will feature No. 1 Colgate against No. 4 Cornell, and No. 2 Clarkson against No. 3 St. Lawrence. Big Red alumnae include Lauriane Rougeau (TOR), Marlène Boissonnault (MTL), and Kristin O’Neill (MTL). Former Golden Knights include Renata Fast (TOR), Erica Howe (TOR), Emma Keenan (TOR), Erin Ambrose (MTL), and Gabrielle David (MTL). Hannah Miller (TOR) and Kennedy Marchment (MTL) both played for the Saints. WCHA semifinals will also be played on Friday and feature No. 1 Ohio State against No. 4 Minnesota Duluth, and No. 2 Wisconsin against No. 3 Minnesota. Emma Maltais (TOR), Natalie Spooner (TOR), and Madison Bizal (MTL) are former Buckeyes, cheering opposite former Bulldogs Jocelyne Larocque (TOR) and Catherine Daoust (MTL). Former Badgers include Kristen Campbell (TOR), Samantha Cogan (TOR), Jesse Compher (TOR), Sarah Nurse (TOR), Blayre Turnbull (TOR), and Ann-Renée Desbiens (MTL), while Olivia Knowles (TOR) is a former Gopher. The Hockey East championship will be played on Saturday afternoon between Connecticut and Northeastern. The all-Huskies battle will be watched closely by Elaine Chuli (MTL) and Leah Lum (MTL) who went to UCONN, and Maude Poulin-Labelle (TOR) and Maureen Murphy (MTL) who graduated from Northeastern.

 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

“Obviously to be playing on International Women’s Day is pretty special. We’re just grateful enough to be the ones playing the game, but we have so many pioneers that came before us to get us to this point. We’re so grateful for those that came before, and we can’t wait to put on a show for them tonight.” – Alexa Vasko, Toronto

“This International Women’s Day is special as I get to spend it playing with a group of incredible women who collectively help pave the way to make this dream a reality.” – Kaitlin Willoughby, Toronto

“This is a great opportunity to play against a deep, well coached team in Montréal. We are pleased to have work ourselves into a position to be battling with Montréal for first place. I am proud of this group (staff & athletes) for sticking together and doing what is necessary for team success.” – Troy Ryan, Toronto

“We are about to face a team that keeps finding ways to win. Our team feels up for the challenge and our players know that they will need to put up a complete 60 minutes on the ice. As all hockey fans should, I am looking forward for this matchup to play out on the ice.” – Kori Cheverie, Montréal

 

QUICK HITS

Montréal (+6) and Toronto (+6) are tied for first in goal differential…Toronto (2.67) is first in goals-per-game and Montréal (2.60) ranks second on average…Montréal (2.20) allows the second fewest goals-per-game and Toronto (2.27) allows the third fewest on average…Montréal leads the league in scoring first in 10 of its 15 games this season, followed by Toronto with nine first goals…The third period is the best offensively for both teams with Toronto scoring 15 goals and Montréal with 14…Montréal has played in 10 one-goal games and Toronto has played in five…Toronto (+38) is third in shot differential and Montréal (-34) ranks fifth…Toronto (28.93) is third in shots-per-game average and Montréal (27.60) ranks fourth…Toronto (26.33) allows the fewest shots-per-game on average and Montréal (30.0) allows the second most on average…Montréal (7.20) averages the second most penalty minutes per game and Toronto (6.53) averages the third most…Toronto (5/43) is third in powerplay efficiency at 11.6%…Montréal (4/51) is fourth on the PP at 7.8%…Toronto (43/45) is first in penalty kill efficiency at 95.6%…Montréal (43/52) is fourth on the PK at 82.7%…Marie-Philip Poulin (MTL) is tied for the league-lead in scoring with 17 points…Natalie Spooner (TOR) leads the league with 12 goals…Poulin is tied for the league-lead with nine assists…Spooner leads the league with four powerplay goals…Claire Dalton (MTL) leads the league with a 29.4% shooting percentage…Tereza Vanišová (MTL) is tied for the league-lead with seven minor penalties…Spooner is tied for the league-lead with 61 shots on goal…Laura Stacey leads Montréal with 56 shots…Sarah Nurse (98/194) leads Toronto with a 50.5% face-off percentage…Blayre Turnbull (43.1%) leads the team with 216 draws…Poulin (195/344) leads her team in face-offs and with a win-rate of 56.7%…Kristen Campbell (TOR) leads the league with 10 wins and carries a goals-against-average of 2.15 and save percentage of .919…Elaine Chuli (MTL) has five wins in five starts with a 1.19 GAA and .962 SV% that both rank first in the league…Toronto is dressing the same lineup for the third straight game.

 

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

 

MONTREAL:

Stacey | Poulin | M. Daoust
Vanišová | O’Neill | Murphy
Dubois | Bujold | Bettez
Lefort | Dempsey | David
| | Poznikoff

Keopple | Ambrose
Tabin | C. Daoust
Lum | Bizal

Chuli | Desbiens

Scratches: Boissonnault, Dalton, Laganière Lásková, Marchment

 

OFFICIALS:

Referees: Kyle Bauman (Fall River, WI) and Chelsea Rapin (Essex Jct., VT).
Linespersons: Anthony Lapointe (Lachine, QC) and Sophie Thomson (Halifax, NS).

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

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