At Ottawa's second-ever home game on Wednesday, January 17, Minnesota came into TD Place to stun the home team and take their league-leading fourth win of the season.
For the first part of this game, it seemed like both teams were passing more than shooting, but Ottawa found themselves on top early when Savannah Harmon managed to cleanly beat Nicole Hensley (through a seemingly invisible gap between her arm and her body) from the hash marks. Ottawa extended their lead later in the period on the power play, with Lexie Adzija parked in front of Hensley to pick up a rebound and put it home.
Minnesota clawed back in the second period, though, on the strength of their first-ever power play goal, a snipe by Susanna Tapani from the left point that eluded Emereance Maschmeyer, catching her off her angle. Tapani also factored into the game-tying goal because she was in the box for tripping when it happened. Grace Zumwinkle made an outstanding individual effort to gain body position on Amanda Boulier and cut directly in front of Maschmeyer, roofing a forehand shot over the goaltender, and freeing Tapani from the box.
The third period may have been scoreless but it was not without action. Ottawa made a concerted, aggressive effort to put the game away in regulation. Hensley had to be perfect for Minnesota and she ensured that she was, even if it didn't always look pretty while it was happening – she made brilliant recoveries and Ottawa had to feel like they were being thwarted by an unseen hand.
The OT winner came again from Susanna Tapani – off a shot that at first seemed harmless, but deflected off of Jincy Roese's stick and ricocheted high past Maschmeyer.
Three up, three down
↑ Ex-captain rookies – Quinnipiac's captain last season, Lexie Adzija, scored her first professional goal, and Grace Zumwinkle (Minnesota's captain last season) continued her scoring tear as a pro, adding her fifth goal of the season.
↓ Regulation – The last five PWHL contests have been decided by a score of 3 to 2. The majority of PWHL games this season have been decided by just one goal, with this exact same score line – so if they didn't go to overtime, they very nearly could have.
↑ Nicole Hensley – Hensley put her team on her back with a series of spectacular saves late in the game. Ottawa had the lion's share of chances late in the third period and Hensley managed to stop them all and ensure her team had a chance to win in OT.
↓ Ottawa's special teams – The second period's mishaps on special teams were the difference in this game for Ottawa. They allowed Minnesota's first power play goal of the entire season, and also allowed a shorthanded goal.
↑ Broadcasting duos – Kenzie Lalonde picked up the call of this game alongside Saroya Tinker and they were a pleasure to listen to. Tinker is new to broadcasting and has so much insight as a recently retired player, particularly about being a defender and how defenders manage the puck.
↓ Offense for offense's sake – What makes Minnesota a tough team to play against is that they forecheck hard and play defense first, which is more often the strategy of a team that doesn't have so many offensive weapons. At times, they fail to generate shots on goal for long stretches, but the flip side is that they do have the offensive firepower that can make every shot on goal count. It's a quality over quantity situation for Minnesota. When they can force opponents into playing this style of hockey, they will often find themselves in a good position to win, with stellar goaltending as their last line of defense when they make mistakes of their own. Ottawa came very close to being able to play their game with them, but got stymied by Hensley and great defense that cleaned up the crease to prevent second opportunities. The deflection on the game-winner was more bad luck than anything else for Maschmeyer, but Minnesota will definitely win a few games this season simply by putting their opponents in situations where bad luck really counts. It's a short season, and part of Minnesota's record so far is puck luck, but a not-insignificant part of it is how they prioritize their forecheck even when they don't necessarily have to.
VP's Player of the Game
Gabbie Hughes – The Ottawa forward was all over the ice and led the game in shots with 5. At some point this season, Hughes is going to start scoring at will and lift Ottawa's record along with her.
(Photo: Andrea Cardin/PWHL)