Again?: Minnesota 2, Ottawa 1
- 4 min read

Again?: Minnesota 2, Ottawa 1

Again?: Minnesota 2, Ottawa 1 by Zoë Hayden

In a rematch of Wednesday's game, this time in Ottawa, the teams ended with the same score. This is fine for Minnesota, who continue to sit atop the league, but for Ottawa it continues a frustrating skid to the bottom of the PWHL.

What happened?

The pace of the first period was intense, with both teams getting quality opportunities, though Ottawa spent a little more time in the offensive zone and seemed to be testing Nicole Hensley well. They did have to kill a penalty as well, after Kateřina Mrázová pasted Kendall Coyne Schofield into the boards. (Coyne Schofield left the game after the hit but did return before the end of the period.) After so much back and forth, it felt kind of silly that the late first period goal from Minnesota was scored on an almost slapstick error by the Ottawa defense. Savannah Harmon and Ashton Bell collided with each other in the neutral zone near their own blueline, giving Sophia Kunin a clean breakaway on Emerance Maschmeyer. Kunin put it five-hole on her and it was 1-0 just like that.

After tons of back-and-forth in the first, it made sense that the second started a little slower, with both teams playing a little tighter in the neutral zone. But Minnesota thrives off the rush, and started playing a little freer hoping to extend their lead. One perspective could be that Minnesota was forcing the issue – but they were also giving Ottawa a chance to adapt, since they have no short of weapons off the rush themselves. (Daryl Watts, in particular, has continued to engineer great breakouts.)

And Ottawa did adapt. Minnesota tried to get the puck up-ice, but it was stopped at the blueline and kept in expertly by Aneta Tejralová. The puck ended up along the boards for Gabbie Hughes, who found Amanda Boulier streaking down towards the net. Boulier drew Hensley's attention, but left her opposite post open for Emily Clark, who tapped it home and tied the game for Ottawa.

After the goal, it was all Ottawa, but Hensley was stunning and Minnesota defended well to limit second opportunities. At the other end of the ice, Maschmeyer was also tested and let up some big rebounds, but Ottawa also did their job to clean up the crease and the slot and prevent sustained pressure on their goaltender.

The final minute of the second period, though, was enough time for Ottawa to make a costly mistake. They gave Grace Zumwinkle a clean opportunity on Maschmeyer, which she shot wide, but the puck was still in play. She circled the net and was parked there to pick up another rebound from Maggie Flaherty, giving Minnesota their one-goal lead back.

In the third, Minnesota played an absolutely thorny defensive game, and while Ottawa maintained possession for long stretches they couldn't quite capitalize. Brianne Jenner had some great late chances for Ottawa, it seemed, picking up rebounds and backhanding shots through the crease. In the final minute, with Maschmeyer on the bench, Hughes and Clark both had very-near-misses in Hensley's crease, but the puck went the other way. Minnesota almost scored on the empty net several times, but Mrázová made a couple saves in the paint to keep that from happening. It wasn't meant to be for Ottawa who have now lost five straight and the last two in regulation.

Ottawa plays next against Boston on Monday, who are also struggling. Someone will get a boost then.

Three up, three down

↑ Aneta Tejralová – The Ottawa defender didn't get an assist on the Clark goal, but her play was essential, and this is the sort of thing that Tejralová is doing consistently for her team. Defenders who can make smart, aggressive plays like this are one of the only things that can really disrupt a team like Minnesota.

↓ Hits – Coyne Schofield was hit hard in this game and so was Ottawa's leading scorer Lexie Adzija; both returned to the game but were shaken up. Sometimes I feel like it's just a matter of time before someone in the PWHL misses significant time with a head injury and I really hope I'm wrong.

↑ Grace Zumwinkle – In the absence of Taylor Heise, Zumwinkle is making sure they don't miss a beat. She gets tons of scoring chances no matter which way the game is going for Minnesota, and today she got a goal and five shots landed on Maschmeyer. She got the game-winner in this big regulation win for her team that extends their lead over Montreal in the standings.

↓ Ottawa finishing – It'd be hard to name any area of Ottawa's game where they struggled on the whole, but they didn't finish, and it was a fluke and a coverage mistake that led to their downfall. If they can bury just one more chance, it changes the whole tenor of this game, but the margin for error in this league continues to be razor thin.

↑ Goalie battles – That said, both Hensley and Maschmeyer were unbelievable and difficult to beat, with great glove hands and levelheaded responses to chaos in their creases. It's been said before, but there's a reason scoring is so difficult in this league. The goaltending position is just so elite across the PWHL, and getting to watch Maschmeyer and Hensley square off is always a treat.

↓ Late in the game – Ottawa was credited with just five shots on goal in the third period and looked truly demoralized at the end of the game. Mrázová sitting in the blue paint having just made two saves on the empty net, shaking her head, was a sight to behold. They now sit at the bottom of the league. There isn't a lot of runway left to turn their season around, but Toronto has already shown what getting a few victories in regulation can do in the standings.

VP's Player of the Game

Emily Clark – Clark was a force, leading the game with six shots and getting her second goal of the season. She very nearly had the equalizer on her stick in the final minute of play.

(Photo: Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography/PWHL)