The first back-to-back for any team in PWHL history wasn't hurting for its pace. After taking down Toronto 3-1, Ottawa came back into TD Place and took a heartbreaker loss to Boston on home ice after a fast-paced tilt. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also in attendance with his children.
In the first period, Boston executed their game almost perfectly. They pressured Ottawa hard, rarely got caught in their own zone, and came away with two goals – a power play tally, Alina Müller's first of the season through traffic, and a two-on-one tap-in by Jamie Lee Rattray from Sophie Shirley. That second goal also resulted in an injury to Ottawa goaltender Sandra Abstreiter in her first start of the year; she was replaced by Emerance Maschmeyer who had started the previous evening. Abstreiter left the game and Rachel McQuigge dressed to back up Masch.
Rattray's goal was a special one. The Kanata, Ontario native had her parents in the stands, and the Ottawa crowd cheered for her goal even though it was against the home team.
Ottawa came out possessed in the second period and wore down Boston with speed and possession. Boston started off keeping them to the outside, until they couldn't anymore. Aerin Frankel made the stops she had to make, including swallowing the puck well outside her crease to stop play. But they could only hold the fort so long, it seemed – Ottawa knew they were going to score the next goal and continued to punish Boston every time they tried to clear the zone. On one such sequence, Natalie Snodgrass pounced on a loose puck from a miscued Boston clearing attempt and fed Kristin Della Rovere who was driving the net and she redirected the puck past Frankel to make it 2-1.
In the third period, Boston's Taylor Wenczkowski committed a bad illegal hit against Amanda Boulier in the neutral zone, just blatantly delivering a shoulder check directly to Boulier's head. For some reason this was called 2 minutes for roughing. Luckily, Boulier seemed to be okay, and for Ottawa's part they executed on their power play to make Boston pay for the transgression. Lexie Adzija parked herself in front of the net to tap a rebound past Frankel.
The rest of the period took on a physical tone, with scrums around the net and lots of back and forth. It definitely seemed like we were destined for another 3-2 scoreline, and perhaps overtime, but Ottawa made a deadly mistake in the defensive zone in the final minute of play. Savannah Harmon cleared the puck up-ice, but directly onto the stick of Alina Müller in the high slot. Müller was patient and waited for a lane to Maschmeyer, much as she had done against Abstreiter in her goal that opened the scoring. This time, there was a rebound, though, and while Gigi Marvin got a whack at it as well, Theresa Schafzahl was in the right place to put it home. There wasn't enough time left for Ottawa in this one, and it was a regulation win for Boston.
Three up, three down
↑ Opportunism – Boston gave up a lead and got hammered by Ottawa's offense for 16 shots in the second period and 16 shots in the third. The game-winner was on a mistake by Ottawa's defense – the kind of blatant giveaway in the d-zone that we haven't really seen in the PWHL yet. But Boston capitalized, and being able to make opponents pay for their mistakes, especially when they're rare mistakes, is going to count for a lot in this league down the stretch, especially when it gets you three points in the standings.
↓ "Roughing" – There were four roughing penalties called in this game but only two of them were actually for roughing. The other two were for illegal hits, including Wenczkowski's hit to the head on Boulier. The PWHL needs to have a serious talk with its pool of officials about the body checking rule and how to call it. It's not "roughing" and the illegal hits need to stop before somebody gets seriously injured. Deliberate or avoidable head contact is illegal and should be penalized for what it is, not "roughing."
↑ Power plays – Almost every team has been anemic on the advantage in the PWHL, but Boston and Ottawa each went 1 for 1 on the power play on Wednesday. Ottawa broke Boston's perfect penalty killing streak; they'd gone 9 for 9 heading into this game.
↓ Sandra Abstreiter's home start – The goaltending position is a deep one in this league, and everyone perks up when someone new gets a start in goal. Abstreiter only got to play 17:37 before leaving the game with an injury, during a scoring play no less. It's a huge bummer to see anyone leave a game with an injury, but it feels especially cruel for it to be a great goaltender in her first home start. Here's hoping for her speedy recovery and getting another PWHL start very soon.
↑ Streaks – Lexie Adzija has scored in every single game she has played for PWHL Ottawa, with a 5-game streak. She is also on a 3-game goal-scoring streak, for that matter. Her shooting percentage is sitting at 50%.
↓ Any concern you might have had about Sophie Jaques – Jaques hasn't seen a lot of ice time and has looked a little unsure of herself in her Rivalry Series appearances, and hadn't been incredibly visible for PWHL Boston, either, heading into this game. On Wednesday night, she seemed to find her groove a little more. She put four shots on target and was playing with a lot of confidence at her offensive blueline.
VP's Player of the Game
Alina Müller (again) – Müller trusted her shot in this game and it paid dividends, earning her 2 points on the evening, including a crucial helper on the game-winner. She's scoring at a pace of 1.4 points per game, which is the best rate in the PWHL right now, and is tied for second in overall scoring.
(Photo: Andrea Cardin/PWHL)