Clinched: Toronto 4, Montreal 3
- 4 min read

Clinched: Toronto 4, Montreal 3

Clinched: Toronto 4, Montreal 3 by Melissa Burgess

PWHL Toronto became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot, beating Montreal 4-3 in overtime in front of a sellout crowd at the Bell Centre.

What happened?

9:44 in, Blayre Turnbull gave Toronto a 1-0 lead. Turnbull got a pass from Natalie Spooner and was looking to make a pass, but elected to fire the puck from the slot. Ann-Renée Desbiens got a piece of it, but the puck dropped from the goalie's arm and trickled into the net. Though the packed crowd was largely pro-Montreal, there was an audible contingent of Toronto fans cheering after the goal.

Toronto's league-best penalty kill was put to the test just moments later as it had to kill off a 3-on-5 opportunity, and did so successfully. Montreal also found itself on the kill later in the period, but Toronto couldn't capitalize.

Montreal tied it with 19.4 seconds left in the first period on a beautiful goal by Sarah Bujold. A turnover in the neutral zone led to a 3-on-2 for Montreal at the other end. Bujold picked up a cross-ice pass, and she executed a toe drag as she moved to the middle of the ice. Her shot beat Kristen Campbell top-shelf on the blocker side.

After giving up the tying goal late in the first, Toronto wasted no time regaining its lead early in the second. Just 40 seconds in, Allie Munroe threw the puck on net from the point; it was tipped by Sarah Nurse in front before beating the goaltender. The goal was reviewed for a potential high stick.

Both teams had opportunities as the second period went on, including a power play on each side. Toronto rallied back well after being out-shot 17-8 in the first period, coming up with 15 shots on goal to Montreal's 12 in the second period. They held onto their lead well, at least until...

Once again, Montreal scored late. This time, Erin Ambrose tied it for Montreal with a clean shot from the high slot on the power play, once again sending the fans in the arena to their feet. Ambrose's shot made it through a crowd and sailed into the net over Campbell's glove.

A penalty-filled third period solved nothing, pushing the game to overtime. But the pattern of goals coming early in the period continued. Just 13 seconds in, Nurse scored to give Toronto the win. A battle along the boards in the zone popped the puck out to Renata Fast at the point, who got it over to Nurse. Nurse fired a shot from the circle to Desbiens' left, popping it in just under the crossbar.

Three up, three down

↑ Records are meant to be broken, again – Another new record attendance for women's hockey was set Saturday afternoon, with 21,105 fans in the house at the Bell Centre. Whether you were there or watching from home, we can all agree that it was an incredible crowd & a great atmosphere.

↓ Power-less plays – Toronto and Montreal combined went 1-for-10 on the advantage Saturday. Montreal capitalized on one of six chances, Ambrose's tying goal in the second period, while Toronto couldn't take advantage of four opportunities.

↑ Toronto clinches – Toronto has become the first team to clinch a spot in the Walter Cup Playoffs. They needed only a point to clinch, which they earned as soon as the game went to overtime. The final playoff seeding will be determined over the next few games, as Toronto, Minnesota & Montreal all remain in contention for the top spot.

↓ Where is Willoughby? – Toronto's usage of forward Kaitlin Willoughby has been, well, scarce. She played just seven seconds in Saturday's game, after playing 3:01 on Thursday. At the beginning of the season, she was playing between nine and 13 minutes a night, so it's changed quite a bit over the course of the season. At this point, she'll have to ride out the rest of the season in Toronto, but I wouldn't be surprised if she signs elsewhere in the summer.

↑ Back to winning ways – After dropping two straight, Toronto has returned to victory with Saturday's win. They previously had an impressive 11-game winning streak going, and will no doubt look to stretch this into success as the final three regular season games loom.

↓ Winless against Toronto – Montreal went 0-5 against Toronto this season with Saturday's loss, though they did get two points against them (one in a shootout, one in today's overtime). It's not a great record heading into the playoffs, especially considering that the first place team (currently Toronto) will get to select its first-round opponent from the third (currently Montreal) and fourth (currently Ottawa) seeds. Would Toronto pick the team they've beaten the most, or the team that wouldn't be motivated by that winless record?

VP's Player of the Game

Mikyla Grant-Mentis – Mikyla-Grant Mentis' 10-day contract with Montreal was completed, and the team has signed her to a Standard Player Agreement. She didn't get on the board Saturday, but had an impressive game nonetheless, drawing two Toronto penalties and adding five shots on goal in 11:37.

  • 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