Hilary Knight finally broke her scoring drought with two points, including the overtime game-winner, as PWHL Boston beat PWHL Minnesota 4-3 on January 27 at Tsongas Center in front of 4,059 fans.
Although Minnesota dominated possession early on, it was Boston who would find the back of the net first. Less than four minutes in, Boston finally managed some offensive zone time and Kaleigh Fratkin rocketed off a point shot that deflected off Minnesota's Susanna Tapani in front for her first PWHL goal.
Less than 90 seconds later, Boston went up by a pair. Shiann Darkangelo picked up the puck after a turnover and took an initial shot, which was blocked. Taylor Girard found the loose puck and finished the play, beating Maddie Rooney who was attempting to get across to make the save. Boston recorded goals on their first two shots of the game.
Minnesota, meanwhile, failed to record a shot on goal for at least the first seven or eight minutes of the game. They dominated possession early, but Boston did a good job of blocking shots and clogging up shooting lanes. Brittyn Fleming finally opened the scoring for her team, taking a very quick shot following a turnover behind the Boston net. Liz Schepers got the puck to Fleming in front, who wasted no time on the shot and beat Emma Söderberg.
To their credit, Boston was quick with their response. The dynamic duo of Loren Gabel and Alina Müller was at it again, as Gabel threw a pass to Müller from along the wall and she scored off a wrist shot from the slot with Hilary Knight in front, screening the goaltender.
Minnesota came out for the second period down by a pair of goals, and they carried much of the play in the middle frame as they looked to cut the lead. Each team had an unsuccessful power play in the second period, and Minnesota was outshooting Boston by a wide margin as the period went on.
Grace Zumwinkle potted her league-leading sixth goal of the season with less than a minute to go in the second period. A shot by Lee Stecklein from the point was stopped, but a big rebound came out to Zumwinkle just outside the crease. With Söderberg out of position, Zumwinkle capitalized to trim the deficit.
They may have been down by one, but Minnesota absolutely dominated the third period. Sure, a pair of power play opportunities contributed to that, but even early on, Minnesota really controlled the puck and the play. There's a reason they outshot Boston 9-2 that period, and put several high-quality chances on net.
It took a while, but their effort was finally rewarded when Kendall Coyne Schofield tied the game with less than a minute to play. With just under a minute left in regulation and the extra attacker on the ice, Coyne Schofield capitalized after a big shot from Lee Stecklein bounced out off the boards. Söderberg couldn't follow the quick-moving puck fast enough, and Coyne Schofield came out on top.
Boston captain Hilary Knight finally scored her first PWHL goal on the game-winner just 52 seconds into overtime. Knight hopped off the boards and quickly gained possession of the puck as her teammates changed; she held onto the puck and circled back through the neutral zone, then turned the jets on and sped up the ice. A low wrist-shot from the face-off dot to Rooney's right side beat her and rolled slowly in, giving Boston the win.
Three up, three down
↑ Alina Müller – With a goal and an assist Saturday night, Alina Müller now leads the PWHL in points. She's really demonstrated her playmaking abilities, evident through her league-leading seven assists, and her overall play has been impressive. Müller was one of the rookies I was most excited about entering this season, and she's definitely lived up to the hype.
↓ Record-keeping – Something I noticed while writing this is that the first two goals of the game, as inputted in the online scoresheet, don't seem to match the timing in the game itself. They're small things, but it's important to get it right. Fratkin's opening goal came at 3:49, not 5:35, and Girard's goal came at 5:05, not 6:05. Below is a screenshot of the online scoring report:
↑ Having fun – A tidbit that was picked up from Saturday's broadcast, per head coach Courtney Kessel: Boston has named its power play units. Appropriately, they're The Wicked and The Salem. That's fun, particularly since those two names have been thrown around on the Internet as potential team monikers.
↓ Work on special teams – Boston and Minnesota combined to go 0-for-5 on the power play Saturday night. Boston is now 16.7% on the advantage this season, while Minnesota is 14.3%. They're not the worst in the league, but also decidedly not the best. Some of the league-wide issues on the PP can be attributed to great penalty killing and goaltending, but it remains surprising that teams with so much firepower can't successfully shift momentum with the advantage.
↑ The crossover – We love a good women's sports crossover. PWHL Boston welcomed Samantha Mewis, one of the most decorated players in U.S. soccer history, to do a ceremonial puck drop Saturday. Mewis also read the team's starters in the locker room before the game. Mewis is an NWSL champion, World Cup winner (2019) and former USWNT midfielder who announced her retirement earlier this month. She is a native of Weymouth, Massachusetts.
↓ Wenczkowski suspended – Boston forward Taylor Wenczkowski missed Saturday's game after she was handed a one-game suspension from the PWHL. The suspension came as a result of a hit to the head she delivered to Ottawa's Amanda Boulier. Wenczkowski was given a minor penalty for roughing on the play. The Player Safety Committee did not include an explanation of what makes the incident suspension-worthy, as the NHL typically does when issuing supplementary discipline, though Wenczkowski's hit does pretty much speak for itself.
VP's Player of the Game
Kendall Coyne Schofield – Coyne Schofield is the reason Minnesota was able to garner a point from Saturday's game, as her goal very late forced it to overtime. That's exactly the sort of clutch play you would expect from a captain – to show up when it counts most – and she did just that. She also led the team with four shots.
(Photo: Michael Riley/PWHL Boston)