Over the weekend at Centre 21.02 in Montreal, this year's PWHPA teams came together for the first time and found both some chemistry and some rough patches. Each team won one game and lost one game, and each victory came in somewhat dramatic fashion.
Game 1 - Team Scotiabank 2, Team Sonnet 4
The first period was a bit tentative as everyone started finding their legs together. Team Scotiabank scored first as a tricky shot by Megan Keller bested Nicole Hensley. Team Sonnet scored twice in the second, though, to take the lead, including Alexa Vasko's first PWHPA tally and a goal by Abby Roque scored off of a rather absurd 3-on-1 sequence with Hilary Knight and Brianne Jenner.
While Rebecca Johnston was able to tie up the game early in the third period, a wicked shot from the middle of the ice by Erin Ambrose in the final 30 seconds gave Team Sonnet the lead, and Team Scotiabank did not have much time to regroup. After a timeout, they pulled Maschmeyer, but ultimately an automatic goal was awarded to Jenner after Keller covered the puck with her hands in the blue paint in front of the empty net.
Despite three penalties by Team Sonnet – including two for holding in the third period – Team Scotiabank were unable to convert on the power play.
Game 2 - Team Harvey's 2, Team adidas 4
Later, Team adidas bested Team Harvey's, again by a score of 4 to 2. Team Harvey's looked a bit disjointed, perhaps the most so of any of the nascent teams on the ice in Montreal. They failed to capitalize or even look threatening on two early power plays, though they did score first, as Jamie Lee Rattray went right to the net after a faceoff and was able to bat in a loose puck past Maddie Rooney.
Marie-Philip Poulin increased the lead to 2-0 about halfway through the second period, doing what she does best by moving to the middle of the ice and finding the puck in a busy area. She shot through traffic and beat Rooney.
Team adidas had largely dictated the pace of the game, however, and that began to pay off as they scored 4 unanswered goals. Their comeback began with a scramble in front of Ann-Renée Desbiens, and Kelly Gribbons was able to find the puck in a pile of bodies and shuffle it into the net. Later, Sarah Potomak tied the game by going to the net and using patience as a weapon against Desbiens, waiting her out and getting her to come out to challenge, so there was a wide open space for her to slide the puck in.
The go-ahead goal came from a 2-on-1 between Jill Saulnier and Kendall Coyne-Schofield – Saulnier passed and Coyne-Schofield didn't miss. Potomak added an empty netter for the 4-2 final.
Game 3 - Team adidas 0, Team Scotiabank 5
Team Scotiabank got ahead early and stayed ahead in a messy, penalty-filled affair.
Early in the first period, Alex Carpenter drew the entire Team adidas defense towards her and found Ella Shelton at the top of the left circle with a hard pass. Shelton ripped a shot to beat Aerin Frankel and make it 1-0.
Later in the first, Shelton scored the first power play goal of the weekend and her second of the game. The team was finally able to get a cycle going on the advantage after several consecutive penalties by Team adidas. Before Shelton's goal was finished being announced in the arena, Rebecca Johnston was able to rip a shot over Frankel's blocker with 40 seconds left in the frame, making it 3-0 for Team Scotiabank before the end of the first period.
In the second period, Team Scotiabank got into a lot of penalty trouble, but Team adidas was unable to capitalize. When Team adidas finally went to the box themselves, Team Scotiabank made them pay. Blayre Turnbull, who was responsible for 4 of those penalty minutes, even got an assist on Mélodie Daoust's goal that made it 4-0.
There were even more penalties throughout the rest of the second and the third period, and neither team really settled into a good flow for the rest of the game due to the frequent stoppages. Team adidas did pull their goaltender late and Rebecca Johnston was able to pot an empty-netter, bringing the final score to 5-0 for Team Scotiabank.
Game 4 - Team Sonnet 2, Team Harvey's 3 (SO)
A close, shootout thriller fittingly capped off the weekend action in Montreal.
Team Harvey's had more jump at the beginning of their second game and also got the first goal, a rebound effort by Alex Poznikoff. They looked more coordinated on the power play as well, but Team Sonnet still performed extremely well on the PK – including a shorthanded goal by Hilary Knight that tied the game at 1.
Both teams scored in the third period, and in quick succession. Sophia Shaver put a shot wide and hard off the glass, but was able to pick up her own rebound and throw it to the front of the net, where Clair DeGeorge pounced on it and put it behind Lindsay Browning to give Team Harvey's a 2-1 lead. Alexa Vasko tied the game for Team Sonnet on the next shift, though, by scooping up a loose puck off a scramble and putting it behind Geneviève Lacasse.
The final minutes kept a frenetic pace and both Lacasse and Browning had to make spectacular saves to keep the score tied. A 5-minute 3-on-3 overtime followed with more of the same (and honestly I would have watched these two teams play 3-on-3 indefinitely – it was really fun hockey).
The shootout of course provided its own drama. First, Marie-Philip Poulin made a ridiculous move on Browning to put Team Harvey's up 1-0. Then it was the Geneviève Lacasse show – she made big stops on Abby Roque and Hilary Knight (the latter a flashy glove save). But the shooters for Team Harvey's kept hitting the pipe behind Browning, who made herself large in the net. Brianne Jenner beat Lacasse five hole to keep the shootout going, but it was Clair DeGeorge who was finally able to find some open space on Browning. Rebecca Leslie was then stopped by Lacasse, giving Team Harvey's the 3-2 victory.
- Jared Book did a great job calling the weekend's action solo for CBC's stream; he was without a color commentator so he had a heavy lift. He provided both excellent play-by-play and insight into the players' backgrounds. The Radio Canada Sports call in French did have both play-by-play and an analyst. Jared was joined on the mic by Ann-Renée Desbiens briefly during the first period of Team Scotiabank vs. Team Sonnet on Saturday.
- On Saturday's broadcast, the scorebug graphics included the old PWHPA team logos which had region abbreviations (as shown here from April's Quartexx Showcase in Montreal). On Sunday's broadcast, this had been corrected and the scorebug showed just the sponsor logos to differentiate the teams, since each of these teams is region-agnostic.
- Injury notes: Jamie Bourbonnais (Team Scotiabank) was hit with a puck late in the third period of Sunday's game and went to the dressing room. Erin Ambrose (Team Sonnet) left Sunday's game as well with an injury and did not return. Their statuses for the Truro showcase will probably remain unclear until those dates.
- The official game summary sheets sent out by the PWHPA don't have some basic things like shot totals or goaltending statistics, which is unfortunate. With full game tape available on YouTube this could be compiled later on. (Shoutout to everyone who does the work to record stats in women's hockey! We'd be nowhere without you.)
Team Sonnet has the luxury of first place based on their only loss coming in a shootout. The closeness of these games (with the exception of Team Scotiabank's 5-0 rout of Team adidas) illustrates that we can expect parity, but the showcase format will also guarantee some bumps in the road as each team works to find consistency and discipline.
- 1st place – Team Sonnet
- 2nd place – Team Scotiabank
- 3rd place – Team adidas
- 4th place – Team Harvey's
Teams get 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an OT/SO win, 1 point for an OT/SO loss, and 0 points for a regulation loss. Presumably, the tiebreaker for Team Scotiabank and Team adidas has to do with total goals scored. Team Scotiabank had 7 goals on the weekend while Team adidas had just 4. I've asked the PWHPA for full details about the points system and will update when I hear back.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 3 Stars of the Weekend
For the PWHPA Showcases this season, I'll give my own 3 stars of the weekend.
⭐ Alexa Vasko – The former Mercyhurst captain is a force to be reckoned with in messy situations around the net. She picks up loose pucks that seem to elude everyone else and finds open space. She scored in each game she played and made her presence known on every shift.
⭐⭐ Ella Shelton – It's impossible to ignore Ella Shelton's dominant offensive performance in Scotiabank's win on Sunday, and she was strong on the puck at the other end of the ice as well. Every team in the PWHPA has the luxury of talented defense, but Shelton stood out from the pack.
⭐⭐⭐ Sarah Potomak – There were a lot of pretty goals over the weekend, but Potomak's goal against Desbiens (and at a crucial moment in the game, no less) has been playing over and over in my head since Saturday.
- While Lindsay Browning didn't get the shootout win for Team Sonnet on Sunday, she was outstanding, especially late in regulation and in overtime. In her first post-collegiate season, the former Cornell goalie is proving that she's an excellent starting option for Team Sonnet.
- Jamie Lee Rattray created offense from every area of the ice, but particularly down low. The only surprising thing is that she only had 1 goal to show for her efforts. The Team Harvey's forward made her Olympic debut earlier this year and has not slowed down at all.
If you missed any of the action, you can watch the games themselves and scoring highlights at the PWHPA YouTube channel.
The next PWHPA Secret Dream Gap Tour stop is in Truro, Nova Scotia from November 4 through November 6.
STATS: PWHPA, Mike Murphy