Records Are Made to Be Broken: Minnesota 3, Montreal 0
- 4 min read

Records Are Made to Be Broken: Minnesota 3, Montreal 0

Records Are Made to Be Broken: Minnesota 3, Montreal 0 by Melissa Burgess

PWHL Minnesota became the first team in league history to win on home ice on Saturday afternoon, with a Grace Zumwinkle hat trick powering the team to victory in front of a record 13,316 fans at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

What happened?

Montreal, coming off Tuesday's overtime win in Ottawa, came out strong Saturday. They dominated play early on, limiting Minnesota's possession time and holding them without a shot on goal until over seven minutes in. As the first period went on, Minnesota stepped up, but much of the play happened in the neutral zone and neither team had any great opportunities.

Grace Zumwinkle finally broke the game open late in the first with a sneaky backhand shot that beat Desbiens, sending Minnesota to the locker room with a 1-0 lead. Luckily for them, Minnesota held off Montreal's efforts in the second period despite taking three penalties. Partly as a result, Montreal outshot Minnesota 12-5 in the middle frame.

The third period, however, was really all Minnesota. Zumwinkle scored just 1:47 in to double the lead, then added an empty-netter with under three to play in regulation. Montreal didn't do themselves any favors, taking four penalties, and were outshot 10-3 in the third. They pulled goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens at 16:09, which gave Minnesota plenty of time to get the extra tally.

Zumwinkle's hat trick was the first in PWHL history, and Maddie Rooney made 24 saves in the second-ever shutout in league history. Ann-Sophie Bettez missed Saturday's game for Montreal for "precautionary reasons."

Special shoutout to Madison Bizal, an Elk River, Minnesota native who made her professional debut with PWHL Montreal in her first game since being declared cancer free in September 2023. She had previously been diagnosed with nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma in November 2020.

Three up, three down

Homegrown talent - Everyone knows there's plenty of women's hockey talent that has come out of Minnesota, and PWHL Minnesota's Grace Zumwinkle is a great example. Zumwinkle scored the first goal on home ice in franchise history, opening the scoring in front of a passionate crowd. Zumwinkle is a native of Excelsior, Minnesota and is coming off five seasons with the Golden Gophers, including two years as the team's captain. She now leads the PWHL with four goals.

Special teams play - While there were plenty of penalties on either side Saturday, neither team managed to capitalize. I suppose in a way, that's a good thing for the team's respective penalty kills, but at the same time, that's a lot of talent on the ice that can't seem to click on the advantage. Minnesota had four opportunities, including a 5-on-3 for 30 seconds. Montreal had three opportunities.

Attendance record - Earlier this week, the PWHL broke an attendance record for a professional women's hockey game with 8,318 fans in Ottawa. Saturday, that record was broken again by a fantastic, loud, passionate crowd. (Seriously... have you ever heard anyone cheer so loudly for an empty-net goal?) It's great to see fans showing up for women's hockey in their respective venues, and important to keep in mind that it's hard to compare across teams given the variety in capacities, days of the week, arena locations, etc. I love seeing the big crowds in these opening games, but it's critical that the fans keep coming as the season goes on.

Intermissions - Something I'd love to see the PWHL add is intermission content. Right now, the YouTube stream cuts to a screen with team logos for the intermission between periods, with some very short studio segments or video features aired at the beginning or end of intermission. It's fine for the first few games, and if it has to be that way for the first season, it's not going to hurt anyone. However, intermissions are a great time to show highlights and replays, talk more extensively about the team, players and league, and talk about upcoming games to watch. It's also a potential space to leverage for sponsorship deals and advertising. Viewership on YouTube drops significantly during intermissions (understood) and it can be tricky to rebound sometimes. It'd be nice to see the league/teams fill that time.

A shot counter! - One of the things that many PWHL viewers were hoping for after the first few games earlier this week was a simple shot counter on the broadcast. The league wasted no time in getting that set up, and we were able to watch Saturday's game with one in place. It's a small thing, sure, but it helps paint the overall picture of the game better than just the score. For instance, without paying too close attention to the game, it was the easiest way to tell that Montreal didn't register a shot on goal for the first 11ish minutes of the third period, or that it took almost eight minutes of game time for Minnesota to record its first shot.

More stats, please – The statistics we've gotten in the first week of PWHL games have been great, but I'm ready to ask for more! One of the specific things I'd like to see is how many shots each team took at different situations - 5v5, 5v4, etc. It's just another small stat that helps contribute to the overall picture of the game. For instance, in this game, you can look at how many opportunities each team had on the power play, but it'd be great to see a breakdown of how many shots they had. It would also be awesome to see things like shot maps, skater TOI, and average shift length.

VP's Player of the Game

Susanna Tapani - Aside from Zumwinkle's hat trick and Maddie Rooney's shutout, I thought Susanna Tapani played a strong game. She had two assists, factoring on Zumwinkle's first two goals, and was on the ice for all three. She also had two shots on goal and has stepped into the North American game nicely early on in the season.

(Photo: PWHL)