Still On One: Toronto 2, Montreal 1
- 4 min read

Still On One: Toronto 2, Montreal 1

Still On One: Toronto 2, Montreal 1 by Zoë Hayden

Toronto and Montreal visited PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh for PWHL Takeover Weekend for what was technically a "home game" for Montreal. Toronto played a stifling defense and got the offense they needed to take the narrow regulation victory, and win their tenth straight game. Official attendance in Pittsburgh came in at 8,850 fans. Overall, PWHL Takeover Weekend saw 31,592 fans in attendance at PWHL games (with the record-breaking crowd for US attendance in Detroit at 13,736, and 9,006 in Minnesota on Saturday).

What happened?

The game started with a lot of dump-ins and forechecking that didn't really result in huge scoring opportunities, but Toronto was able to open the scoring after an offensive zone face-off win and some hard work down low. After some quick puck retrieval, Natalie Spooner forced the issue behind the goal line and flipped a backhand pass to Hannah Miller, who ripped a shot from the hashmarks to beat Ann-Renée Desbiens up high and make it 1-0 before Montreal was even credited with their first shot on net.

Toronto kept playing their usual tight defensive game, but it was an individual effort by Kristin O'Neill that smoked Maude Poulin-Labelle at the Toronto blueline and got both the first shot for Montreal and the game-tying goal with a filthy shot that beat Kristen Campbell.

Toronto had a late power play, but did not capitalize and the game was tied heading into the second period.

After an unsuccessful Montreal power play, Toronto took the lead on a sharp angle shot. Maggie Connors fired a shot high and wide, but it bounced down off of the glass and Kali Flanagan picked it up in the corner and just threw it on net, where it snuck over Desbiens' shoulder.

Both teams exchanged opportunities in the offensive zone but didn't really bring too much into the middle of the ice, and Toronto went to the intermission with the 2-1 lead.

In the third period, Montreal was basically trying to scrap one out, but Toronto's defense (and certainly some interference and bad hits that didn't get called) kept them from really getting a clean zone entry or zone exit, for that matter. On one particularly spirited shift, Jocelyne Larocque took the puck in herself and worked hard to generate shots for Toronto, forcing Desbiens to make several saves. Montreal (and Laura Stacey in particular) were playing with a purpose and Stacey created a sequence of the best opportunities for Montreal in quite some time after a media timeout. But it was going to take consistent pressure to break through Toronto's tight management of the neutral zone, and Montreal just did not have that consistency.

Blayre Turnbull got whistled for a bad hit on Kati Tabin and Montreal got a late power play, and held the puck in the offensive zone for a brief flurry of pressure. But Toronto got in shooting lanes and ensured that time ran out on Montreal, who have now dropped three straight games.

Three up, three down

↑ Mikyla Grant-Mentis – Montreal signed the former Ottawa forward to their reserve list on March 10, and called her up on a 10-day contract on March 16. Grant-Mentis took on a third-line role in this game, showcasing her creativity in the offensive zone and making some good defensive plays. She was also called upon late as Montreal tried to muster the tying goal with Desbiens on the bench. It's great to see Buckey back on the ice.

↓ Injuries for Montreal – Despite being able to activate Grant-Mentis, Montreal is still struggling with injuries in their lineup. Marie-Philip Poulin being out is always like losing an ace up your sleeve, but with Kennedy Marchment on LTIR and Ann-Sophie Bettez also held out for precautionary reasons, Montreal's forward depth struggled against a Toronto defense that was just purely clinical for long stretches.

↑ Kristen Campbell, still – The netminder's personal win streak is now at 11 games.

↓ Officiating – I hate to sound like a broken record, but officials in this league still do not have any consistency regarding body contact and there were still a lot of missed calls in this one (mostly on Toronto). To be clear, Toronto would still probably be on a 10-game winning streak if they'd gotten whistled a few more times for things like interference and bodychecking – among other things, their penalty kill is outstanding. But the pace of Toronto's games has been impacted a bit by some stuff that is at the very least interference, and it's frustrating to not see consistency with contact penalties this late in the season. Hopefully, the league will spend the international break locking down their officiating crews for the postseason (or, maybe, the rest of the regular season???) and providing them with clear direction and standards. So many different officials have staffed PWHL games this season that it's hard to get a read on anything.

↑ ↓ Shots – Montreal only mustered 18 shots on goal through 60 minutes, and Toronto wasn't that much better with 26. What's more, the teams only combined for 3 shots on the power play (Montreal with 2 opportunities, and Toronto with just 1). Montreal did not get a single shot on goal in their late power play with an opportunity to tie the game. That said, this game is a great illustration of how throwing the puck to the net, even if it's not a shot with a high chance of success, can win a game. Kali Flanagan's shot probably doesn't sneak in far side corner most of the time, but it stood as the game-winner.

VP's Player of the Game

Hannah Miller – Miller's 6 goals on the season are second on her team behind Natalie Spooner's twelve. Her offensive consistency has been there throughout the season, even when Toronto was not playing well or on a dominant win streak.

  • Game replay link (YouTube) – The PWHL has started posting "condensed game archive" video, after taking their videos private after broadcast as of late. Check their video uploads page for the game archive content as it becomes available. (This game is not yet as of press time.)
  • Game data

PWHL Standings (as of March 18, 2024)

  1. PWHL Toronto, 33 points (9-3-0-5), 7 games remaining
  2. PWHL Minnesota, 33 points (8-3-3-4), 6 games remaining
  3. PWHL Montreal, 30 points (7-3-3-5), 6 games remaining
  4. PWHL Boston, 22 points (4-4-2-7), 7 games remaining
  5. PWHL Ottawa, 21 points (5-0-6-6), 7 games remaining
  6. PWHL New York, 17 points (2-4-3-8), 7 games remaining

(Photo: Arianne Bergeron/PWHL)