Scraping and Clawing: Boston 2, New York 1
- 6 min read

Scraping and Clawing: Boston 2, New York 1

Scraping and Clawing: Boston 2, New York 1 by Zoë Hayden

New York's first game at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey was their best crowd of the season, but they unfortunately couldn't give them a W.

What happened?

It was a pretty evenly-played first period between the teams, with no penalties and just a handful of quality chances. Both Corinne Schroeder and Aerin Frankel made big stops, with Schroeder's saves eliciting loud cheers from biggest crowd yet at a PWHL New York home game.

In the second period, Boston came out flying and cycled, and got the opening goal at 6:13. Sophie Shirley threw the puck in front, where it hit some bodies. Nicole Kosta (just signed to a contract for the remainder of the season) went to the net and poked it home, crashing herself into the goal in the process. There was a short review to determine whether Kosta had put it in with her glove, but it was called a good goal, and Boston had the 1-0 lead.

The combination of Jessie Eldridge and Alex Carpenter continued to be threatening throughout the second period, but it took some time and some help from Jill Saulnier for them to get on the board. Carpenter did a beautiful zone entry, recognizing that the Boston defense was hanging back on her a bit, so she dropped the shoulder a little and got in tight on Frankel. Her shot was saved, and so was Saulnier's backhanded rebound chance, but Eldridge was parked net-front to put home the third opportunity, and the game was tied at 1.

The third period started with Boston pushing to re-take the lead, but New York was defending – Jaime Bourbonnais put her stick down to stop a scoring chance, and Schroeder's blocker-side post was also getting a workout, stopping chances by Fratkin and Jamie Lee Rattray. New York had a few opportunities of their own – including a stunning 2-on-1 chance for Eldridge and Emma Woods, which was stopped by Frankel and Hannah Brandt kept the rebound out of harm's way as it trickled across the paint. New York also killed the game's only penalty, a hooking call on Bourbonnais to stop a breakaway chance.

But late in the game, Boston reclaimed the lead on a shot by Adzija that seemed to deflect off of Eldridge and got behind Schroeder. Boston had a few chances at an empty net (and Alina Müller hit that post again), but they would hang on to win 2-1 and take three big regulation points on the road – and play spoiler to New York's best home crowd of the season.

Three up, three down

↑ Vibe check – The mood around PWHL New York hasn't felt amazing lately. A recent New York Times article highlighted their smaller crowds and poor record (stopping short of calling a pro women's hockey team in the NYC area a mistake). This is also a team whose chances of making the postseason are shrinking by the day, as both of their rivals for that #4 playoff spot took 3 regulation victory points on Saturday. But the crowd at Prudential Center was their best attendance of the season at 5,132. It wasn't just the numbers, either – they were loud and deeply invested in the game, cheering for Schroeder's saves, spontaneously bursting into "Let's Go New York" chants, booing the refs for perceived slights, and audibly gasping at any puck that looked close to crossing the line. If this is the showing for a late-season game with a home team unlikely to make the playoffs, it could be even better for a team playing at Prudential all season (perhaps with a winning record). I think PWHL NY now has a good case for being at Prudential regularly, if not permanently, next year.

↓ Convincing – It wasn't quite the kind of win that Boston wants if they're going to be a playoff team. "I don't think it's how we want to go in [to the playoffs]," said Boston head coach Courtney Kessel. "But it's the win that counts. I wish we came out with the same speed and intensity we did against Toronto. I thought we looked a little tired. But it puts us in a better spot headed into a playoff run." The three points are indeed huge, keeping them just two points back from Ottawa (who also won in regulation on Saturday) – and looking ahead to their head-t0-head matchup on Wednesday, which could very well decide their fates for the postseason.

↑ Savannah Norcross – Norcross played 11:04 on Saturday, her most ice time since February 4. She used that time to showcase her speed and persistence on the puck, and she's always been noticeable to me as a 13th forward even with limited minutes. Her bursts of speed on zone entries generated great energy for her team. I asked Howie Draper about her getting that opportunity. "She has amazing speed. We felt we needed a different skill set earlier in the season, and that kind of bumped back a little bit in terms of our roster. But she's been working her way back in, and that starts with practice," Draper said. "She's been great in practice. She's really been pushing the pace there, and helping everyone around her get better. So she made her way back onto the bench. We got her into a few shifts here and there over the last couple of games, and the opportunity presented itself again for her in the game today, and I thought she was one of our best players."

↓ ↑ Unavailable players and roster reserves – Both Boston and New York were without some key players in their lineups due to the IIHF Division IA tournament taking place in Klagenfurt, Austria from April 21 through 27. While the PWHL had a break for the top division tournament, players from countries not in the top division had to depart their club teams to compete for their countries.

New York's Chloé Aurard had already departed to join Team France, while Taylor Baker left to join Team Hungary after Saturday's game. As a result, New York dipped into their reserves and signed forward Alexa Gruschow and defender Carley Olivier to 10-day SPAs.

Boston was without Theresa Schafzahl who has joined Team Austria to play for her country on home soil, and put Loren Gabel on injured reserve – so they signed reserve forwards Kelly Babstock and Nicole Kosta to a 10-day SPA and a 1-year SPA, respectively.

Austria, Hungary, and France will all be vying for promotion to the top division tournament in 2025, along with the Netherlands, Norway, and South Korea.

Gruschow and Kosta both made an impact. Gruschow skated 12:29 and was a noticeable presence keeping Boston shooters to the outside. Kosta had her first multi-point game of the season, assisting on Adzija's goal and scoring her first in the PWHL. (Babstock skated 1:00, and Olivier's contract will kick in for New York's next game.)

"I think I can speak for all of us – we were just chatting about how great we thought our chemistry was for not having a practice together before," said Kosta about being on a line with Adzija and Sophie Shirley. "We were communicating a lot, which I think helps us all on and off the ice."

↓ New York's playoff hopes – While not mathematically eliminated yet, New York would have to beat Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Minnesota – ideally in regulation – and Ottawa would have to take no more than 1 available point from the rest of their remaining schedule to guarantee a New York playoff berth. The next time Ottawa wins a game, in any fashion, New York will probably be playing for draft order points. The odds are tall. "We know that we have to keep fighting," said Alexa Gruschow. "However deep we've been digging, it's time that we have to dig even deeper. So this is a time we can't turn our backs on each other. We need to turn towards each other and play for each other and play with each other." Madison Packer added: "We need more from a lot of people right now. So, just hitting the drawing board again, focusing on the positive."

"As you can imagine, it's not a great feeling to be last in a league like this, and you know, have some heartbreaking games," said Alex Carpenter. "So obviously it doesn't feel great. But as a professional athlete, you learn to deal with it, you move on, and then you look forward to the next game."

VP's Player of the Game

Aerin Frankel – While she was less busy than Corinne Schroeder at the other end, several of her saves late in the game were on high-danger chances that very nearly gave New York the lead. Instead, Frankel kept the game even and gave Boston a chance to put one in.

  • 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

With three games in the PWHL on Saturday, and with Zoë traveling back home from Newark, we were unable to recap the 4-0 Ottawa win over Minnesota. Check out this recap from our friends at Silver Seven Sens.

(Photo: PWHL)