Close Calls: Minnesota 2, New York 1 (OT)
- 5 min read

Close Calls: Minnesota 2, New York 1 (OT)

Close Calls: Minnesota 2, New York 1 (OT) by Zoë Hayden

Minnesota came into New York and got a gritty, hard-fought OT win against a New York team that remains the lone squad to not get a home victory headed into the short All-Star break.

What happened?

In an up-and-down affair that featured a lot of scoring chances or almost-chances, Minnesota managed to get the advantage late in the first when Abby Cook beat Abbey Levy by being patient and shooting through a screen. Despite a late first period power play opportunity, and another one about midway through the second period, New York was unable to beat Nicole Hensley. The second period really saw New York start to pull away in the shot count, but Levy had to be sharp as well, making a stunning stop at the buzzer of the first and preventing Minnesota from converting on giveaways throughout despite having some juicy rebounds.

With about three minutes to go in the second, New York pulled out of the neutral zone on a 3-on-1 and somehow managed to not get a shot off, and Lee Stecklein shoved Alex Carpenter and Chloé Aurard into the net, getting penalized for interference. New York's third power play went much the same as the first two; they got some shots towards the net but Minnesota was mostly able to clean things up and protect Hensley well.

After the power play expired, things started to get spicy. New York thought they had scored as the puck was loose and ended up squeaking underneath Henlsey and into the back of the net, but a quick whistle from the referee meant that it was not a goal. (It definitely seemed like it should have counted. The whistle did blow – it just wasn't a good whistle.) Meanwhile, Jade Downie-Landry was getting into it with Maggie Flaherty (like pushing each other in the face) and they were assessed matching roughing calls. Kelly Pannek then ended up in the box on a trip, giving New York about 30 seconds of a 4-on-3 power play at the end of the period, but the unit didn't shoot the puck much, except directly into Minnesota defenders.

When the third period started with the rest of the 4-on-3, New York didn't make the same mistake, getting good movement with Micah Zandee-Hart passing to Ella Shelton for the one-timer from the right circle to tie the game at 1. In the very next sequence, 4-on-4, Coyne Schofield had a chance 2-on-1 with Taylor Heise, but Heise's backhand was a bit too late and Levy stopped it handily.

Minnesota turned it on after letting up the tying goal and started to catch up to New York in shots, but Abbey Levy was equal to everything including a breakaway chance by Coyne Schofield. Things slowed down towards the very end of regulation, and OT seemed to sneak up on everyone.

The extra time was played at an unbelievable pace with Hensley and Levy both forced to make saves on high-danger opportunities, including Levy on a 3-on-1 chance. At the other end, Nicole Hensley started the rush that led to the game-winner, coming way out of her net to force the puck up-ice to Kelly Pannek. Pannek landed her shot on target, but Abby Boreen was driving the net to get a stick on the rebound and give Minnesota their OT victory after their OT loss the previous night.

Three up, three down

↑ ↓ Dave Starman – Starman's analysis of on-ice play on the New York broadcasts has been good and informative, and he seems to genuinely love the PWHL product, but he tends to go off on tangents about random men's careers, players' fathers, and also cited something as an "NHL pass" during the broadcast which just seemed unnecessary. It gives "old boys' club" vibes and takes the focus away from the actual players playing hockey on the ice. And using "NHL" as a way to describe something as being of high quality is laughable in this context. With some minor adjustments, his color commentary could be a highlight of the broadcast, but it was a little rough on Saturday.

↑ Goalie offense – Hensley earned an assist on the game-winning play, joining Emerance Maschmeyer in the goaltender scoring race. Both have 1 assist on the season.

↓ Minnesota's tight turnaround / schedule parity – This is the first of two back-to-backs on the road for Minnesota in their schedule. Ottawa was the only other team with a back-to-back in their schedule, and it was at home. (They also earned a split on the two games.) Minnesota will play back-to-back again on the road, both matinees, in Ottawa and Montreal on February 17 and 18, respectively. It definitely makes sense that Minnesota has the most complex scheduling concerns considering their distance from the other PWHL teams. But having a night game in Lowell turning around immediately to a matinee in Bridgeport is a situation that no other team in the PWHL will deal with this season. Minnesota's players and coach Ken Klee seemed to do an awesome job managing the situation. Circle this to come back around to at playoff time, when the league will likely have the challenge of scheduling a best-of-five series with Minnesota in the mix.

↑ Abbey Levy – It wasn't justice for Levy, who played her best game of the season but still hasn't found anything in the win column in her PWHL career. She made many absolutely stunning stops and seemed to get more comfortable as she took more shots, improving her rebound control and causing Minnesota's offense to have to skate away shaking their heads.

↓ Your PWHL hockey fix – The PWHL now will go on a mini break for the NHL All-Star festivities which will include a PWHL 3-on-3 challenge on February 1. The league will return for a few weekend games on February 3 and 4 before going on a longer break to accommodate the USA-Canada Rivalry Series, which will wrap up with a run of games in Saskatoon (February 7), Regina (February 9), and St. Paul (February 11).

VP's Player of the Game

Kelly Pannek – She contributed to both of Minnesota's goals, taking the huge lead pass from Henlsey to get the shot on net that Boreen picked up for the OT winner, but you might have missed her play that led to Cook's first goal. She drove the net hard with Coyne Schofield coming down the left wing, who threw her a centering pass. She didn't get a handle on it, but poked the puck to the opposite corner while falling down to find Schofield again coming around the boards. Hers was a smart, detail-oriented play that kept the puck in the offensive zone for her team and ensured New York wouldn't get a breakout out of the situation. Coyne Schofield found Cook with her next pass, and then it was in the back of the net.

(Photo: Nala Burton/PWHL)