Walter Cup

PWHL Walter Cup: Boston Takes Game 1, 4-3 Over Minnesota

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On Sunday afternoon, Game 1 of the Walter Cup Finals between PWHL Minnesota and PWHL Boston took place at Tsongas Center in Lowell, MA. before a crowd of 4,508. The best of five series to determine who will be the very first champion of this league. PWHL Boston arrived at this moment after sweeping PWHL Montreal. While PWHL Minnesota is coming off a very tough five-game series win over PWHL Toronto.

The starting goalies for Game 1 were Maddie Rooney (3-1-0, 0.45 GAA, .979%) for PWHL Minnesota and Aerin Frankel (3-0-0, 0.97 GAA, .970%) for PWHL Boston. Frankel was outstanding in the previous series and is certainly one of the main reasons why PWHL Boston is in this position.

PWHL Minnesota was rewarded with an early penalty early on in the first period as PWHL Boston defenseman Megan Keller went off for interference at 10 seconds. Their power play coming into the Finals was 3/29 (10.34%) while PWHL Boston’s penalty killing was at 82.14% (5/28). PWHL Boston would take care of the early disadvantage but it did not stop PWHL Minnesota from taking the early lead. Off a sweet behind-the-back pass from Taylor Heise, Michela Cava scored her first of the playoffs at 4:38. The secondary assist went to Natalie Buchbinder. PWHL Boston did what they have been doing for the last month. They responded with the tying goal at 7:08. Susanna Tapani rebounded off an Emily Brown point shot scoring her third of the playoffs. Megan Keller also assisted on the goal. Just like that, the game was tied at 1-1.

With four minutes left in the period, the PA announcer made note of a special guest. Billie Jean King was at Tsongas Center to witness the historic game one of the Finals. Speed was a key topic heading into this series, PWHL Minnesota was considered to be the faster of the two teams. However, in the first period, PWHL Boston held their own. As the first twenty minutes came to an end, the game was tied at 1-1. Shots in the period were PWHL Minnesota 10 and PWHL Boston 8. An even game through one.

The second period started five-on-five. Seven minutes into the second period, the ice was starting to tilt in PWHL Boston’s favor. That all changed at the 8:05 mark of the second period when Taylor Heise scored her third of the playoffs. The assist went to Mellissa Channel. Heise went from left to right in the high slot and ripped a forehand shot that beat Frankel high on the glove side to give PWHL Minnesota a 2-1 lead. PWHL Boston repeated the same formula as they did in the first. Taylor Wenczkowski scored her second of the playoffs at 12:50 from Gigi Marvin. Marvin did most of the work circling the net and getting a stuff shot on goal. The puck came out between the slots where Wenczkowski was there to pounce on it and put it past Rooney to make it 2-2 in the second. PWHL Boston kept attacking and it paid off. Hannah Brandt got her first of the playoffs from the defensive pair of Keller and Brown at 15:11. PWHL Boston had the lead for the first time in the game at 3-2.

This time it would be PWHL Minnesota that would respond. Heise got her second of the game and fourth of the playoffs at 17:07 to tie the game at 3-3. Heise put home a cross-ice goal mouth pass from right to left from Cava and beat Frankel just inside the left goalpost. For the third time in this game, PWHL Boston came back. Jess Healy, with a knuckleball of a point shot from the right point, beat Rooney above the glove at 17:25. PWHL Boston had the lead back at 4-3. They would take that lead to the locker room after two periods. Shots in the second were PWHL Minnesota 10 (20 through two) and PWHL Boston 7 (15 through two).

Who knew what the third period had in store? What we did know is the period started five on five. In the second period, PWHL Boston shot 43% from the ice, 3-of-7. PWHL Minnesota got a power play on a delay of game penalty that was served by Brandt. PWHL Minnesota got one shot on goal. They were now 0/2 on the PP. Eight minutes into the third PWHL Boston still had the lead. For the second time in the period, PWHL Minnesota got a power play chance. Kaleigh Fratkin went off for tripping at 11:22. Once again, the PWHL Boston penalty-killing unit was up to the task allowing only one shot on goal. PWHL Minnesota was now 0/3 on the PP.

PWHL Boston had a chance to extend the lead, but Brandt’s shot from the high slot rang off the crossbar. PWHL Minnesota had a chance to tie the game Grace Zumwinkle’s shot was sticked aside by Frankel. With 1:34 left PWHL Minnesota pulled their goalie and they would get one more shot on net. But it would not be enough and PWHL Boston wins Game 1, 4-3 over PWHL Minnesota.

After the game, PWHL head coach Ken Klee was pleased with his team’s effort. He thought the team “stuck with it.” He liked his team’s effort and their game. Taylor Heise, who scored two goals on the night, said ” We did a lot of good things.” When asked about the talk in the locker room between the second and third periods, Kendall Coyne Schoefield said “Stick with it. There are a lot of voices in the room beside me.”

PWHL Boston head coach Courtney Kessel jokingly said “We were saving that” on the goal outburst in the second period. She was happy with the PK which shut down the PWHL Minnesota Power play three times. Jess Healy, who scored the game-winning goal said: “I just threw it at the net.” She also mentioned how the team is “proving people wrong” by being in the Finals. She called it “brought back from the dead.”

Game 2 is Tuesday at 7 PM.

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