Game 11 - Team Harvey's 4, Team adidas 3
The patented Team Harvey's MO seems to be to have a bit of a slow start, but once they get going, they really don't stop. Team adidas goaltender Shea Tiley wasn't particularly busy early, but Geneviéve Lacasse was at the other end, and her strong play set the table for a dramatic first goal by Jamie Lee Rattray. Rattray had been penalized for a trip, but was off to the races all alone out of the box and was able to cleanly beat Tiley to make it 1-0.
Less than a minute later, Emily Clark tipped in a shot by Lee Stecklein and it was 2-0.
During a delay of game penalty to Team adidas in the second period, Kendall Coyne Schofield added a shorthanded tally to cut the lead in half. The aggressive penalty killing by PWHPA teams has been notable this season; while often a feature of women's hockey games due to the lack of legal bodychecking and mobile blueliners, it's easy to see how groups of skilled players can take that to the next level, as we've seen both in these PWHPA showcases and in the Rivalry Series matchups this year. Coyne Schofield's speed allowed her to pull away from three defenders and her backhand didn't miss.
Jessie Eldridge got the 2-goal lead back, for the last time, with a wicked shot from one knee in the slot, a lead that would carry Team Harvey's to the second intermission.
But the third turned out to be the Laura Stacey show; after her first goal to make it 3-2, I began wondering how Team Harvey's responds if Marie-Philip Poulin is held without a point. Stacey's second goal, an awesome effort to go to the net and find rebound, intensified my interest in that question. But, as luck would have it, I didn't have to worry about that too long. With three minutes to go in the game, Eldridge fed Poulin, whose first shot was stopped, but she picked up her own rebound and put it behind Tiley. The 4-3 score would stand. MPP was not denied, and Team Harvey's remains the best in the PWHPA.
Game 12 - Team Scotiabank 5, Team Sonnet 4
Team Scotiabank continues to take a lot of penalties, but they usually have the PK and offensive firepower to often dig themselves out of trouble. This time, a game that was tied at 1 after 2 periods, a long pause for a goalie mask equipment issue, and a few contact penalties turned into a wild, back-and-forth third period. Had Team Sonnet executed better on special teams, the scoreline would have been much different.
Alex Carpenter scored the opening tally early, taking her shot instead of passing on a 2-on-1 chance. The tying goal for Sonnet came midway through the second period when Malia Schneider carried the puck in and flipped a pass to the front of the net to a waiting Alexa Vasko.
Four third-period goals to Team Sonnet's three, though, would be the difference maker. Erin Ambrose walked down into the right circle on the power play and ripped a shot from a tough angle that beat Kristen Campbell, giving Team Sonnet their first lead of the game, but they were unable to finish on a second power play chance shortly thereafter.
Rebecca Johnston's goal to get her team back in it was a thing of beauty – usually, when a goal like this ties the game, it changes the energy in an entire building:
A holding penalty by Emily Brown would put Team Scotiabank back on the advantage and they took the lead on a goal that was dug out in the crease by Blayre Turnbull. The game had turned into a bit of a track meet, with chances at one end usually leading promptly to more chances at the other. As the clock wound down, though, things started to tighten up. With less than 5 minutes to go, Roque maintained possession and flipped a nifty backhand pass to Hannah Brandt, who was able to shoot from in tight and get it past Campbell.
But Scotiabank wasn't done yet, and there were still regulation goals to come. Erin Ambrose cleared the puck out of play and took 2 minutes for delay of game, setting the stage for the go-ahead goal by Jamie Bourbonnais, who cut to the middle of the high slot with a fancy deke and found the back of the net with a quick shot. Rebecca Johnston would increase the lead by tipping a shot from Makayla Langei with just 2:03 on the clock.
Team Sonnet worked until the buzzer defending their empty net and desperately trying to put pucks on Campbell. Alexa Vasko managed to grind out a goal from one knee, right above the blue paint, to put her team within 1, but it was literally a buzzer beater, determined to have been scored with just 0.1 on the clock, and Team Scotiabank would hang on for the 5-4 win.
Game 13 - Team Scotiabank 3, Team Harvey's 5
Team Scotiabank were in a position to tie Team Harvey's in the standings with a head-to-head win. It didn't start well, though, with an unforced turnover by Megan Keller on the power play for Scotiabank. That turnover was essentially a tape-to-tape pass to Marie-Philip Poulin, who beat Emerance Maschmeyer shorthanded. Later, Team Harvey's made it 2-0 on the power play when a puck squeezed gently over the goal line behind Maschmeyer for a tally that was eventually also credited to Poulin, after the initial shot by Laura Fortino and a few whacks by Eldridge in the blue paint.
Megan Keller redeemed herself for her giveaway early in the second period with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that beat Ann-Renée Desbiens. Laura Fortino reestablished the 2-goal lead not long afterwards, however, as she shot from a slightly awkward angle into traffic from up high. The puck bounced past Desbiens for a dirty goal. Harvey's typically did a good job keeping traffic minimal in Ann-Renée's crease, and keeping that traffic and obstruction is key to beating her, but this was one of the only times it connected for Team Scotiabank.
Team Scotiabank had some power play chances to get back in it, and momentum did seem to be swinging their way in the third period. It was a deceptively simple play at even strength by Katelyn Gosling to Tatum Skaggs who was able to bat a rebound past Desbiens. But with just under six minutes to go, Marie-Philip Poulin netted a hat trick off a 2-on-1 (again with Eldridge), and it was no looking back after that. Poulin also fed Alexandra Poznikoff for the empty netter to seal the deal.
Game 14 - Team Sonnet 1, Team adidas 3
This was a close one, and showcased some of the better defensive play we've seen in PWHPA, but wasn't short on back-and-forth action either.
Kendall Coyne Schofield got Team adidas on the board early by sneaking in between multiple Sonnet defenders to get to the middle of the ice and shooting a rebound chance past Lindsay Browning. It would take less than two minutes for Team Sonnet to find the equalizer, after a strong shift kept the puck in the zone and Abby Roque was able to pick up a rebound chance and beat Sydney Scobee.
The game remained relatively open throughout the rest of the first period and into the second, but Team adidas found themselves ahead thanks to two quick goals late in the second. Coyne Schofield got her second on a tap-in from a cross-crease feed by Jessica DiGirolamo, pinching in as a defender. (Coyne Schofield had gotten close to Browning again, basically unchecked.) Then, after some sustained cycling pressure, Kristin O'Neill was able to feather a pass across the blueline to Emily Curlett, who fired a wrist shot that Browning couldn't get to in time, making the score 3-1.
This set up a third period with Team adidas employing an absolutely ridiculous forecheck to keep Team Sonnet from getting close to Sydney Scobee. Scobee did have to make several very good saves, and Sonnet didn't take their foot off the gas, but they were largely kept to the outside and disrupted on their zone entries, and had trouble pulling Browning until there was no time left. With that regulation victory, Team adidas earned their #2 spot in the standings.
Team Sonnet dropped to 2-4-0-1 and are in last place. Team adidas moved up to 2nd place thanks to their shutdown defense on Sunday, and by virtue of the extra point awarded for an OT/SO loss, which they picked up back in Montreal.
As a reminder, 3 points are awarded for a regulation win, 2 points for an OT/SO win, and 1 point for an OT/SO loss.
- Team adidas was without several players over the weekend, apparently due to illness, including Amanda Kessel and Maddie Rooney. Kessel has not played any PWHPA games this season.
- The following rostered players have not played in a game yet this season: Kessel (adidas); Natalie Spooner (Scotiabank); Nikki Nightengale and Ella Matteucci (Sonnet)
- Some of the odd-player rushes and breakaways in these games can be attributed to skill, but some of them seem like just bad changes – which are a lot more common when you aren't playing a full/regular schedule. Second periods for the designated away team have been rough at times.
- The first day of action was called solo by Josh Getzoff of the Pittsburgh Penguins Radio Network. On day 2, Getzoff was joined by Liz Knox for color commentary in the first game and Team Sonnet's Erica Howe in the second game. Since Getzoff is a radio announcer, he was great at focusing on the play at hand and ensuring viewers/listeners knew what was going on at all times. Despite not having much background knowledge about the players, Getzoff did a great job on the call and seemed to really be enjoying the action and the fun facts in the info sheets provided to him. Knox and Howe, of course, are delightful. Some might criticize Howe's obvious rooting interest but I think fans definitely benefited from her knowledge and analysis, as well as some fun anecdotes about her friends and teammates and insight into how it feels when your best friend scores on you.
- I took a look at PIMs by team (something that isn't officially tracked by the PWHPA, but you can look at skater PIMs and filter from there). Goalie PIMs are not included, so I also checked individual game sheets. As far as I can tell, the only goalie penalty assessed so far this season was Shea Tiley for delay of game on 11/26. Jocelyne Larocque also took a lot of minutes in the box for Team adidas, especially in the first weekend, and leads the PWHPA with 18 PIMs. After the Pittsburgh showcase, PIMs by team are as follows:
– Team adidas - 50 PIM
– Team Scotiabank - 38 PIM
– Team Harvey's - 28 PIM
– Team Sonnet - 24 PIM
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ Three Stars of the Weekend
⭐ Marie-Philip Poulin - this is a cop-out perhaps, but a GWG in one game and a hat trick in the next is kind of impossible to ignore. Every day Pou delivers.
⭐ ⭐ Laura Stacey - Win or lose, Stacey's shifts have a way of completely changing what's going on for Team adidas. Her two goals in a losing effort on Saturday were stunning, and while she did not tally any points in her team's Sunday win, she was shifting the momentum by maintaining possession throughout, especially late in the game.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ Nicole Hensley - The Team Sonnet goalie continues to perform well in both wins and losses to lead the PWHPA in saves with 137 (and tie Ann-Renée Desbiens in save percentage with 0.932).
- Victoria Bach - Every time I see her she's doing something creative with the puck and often creating scoring chances, but she hasn't been finishing much lately, as she only has 1 goal and 1 assist for Team Scotiabank.
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 will be the Ottawa All-Star weekend, with regular season games being played in Kemptville, Gatineau, and at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Note: I had planned to attend these games in person but was unable to due to illness.
(Photo: Heather Pollock/PWHPA)