Let Me Stop You There: Minnesota 1, Toronto 4
- 6 min read

Let Me Stop You There: Minnesota 1, Toronto 4

Let Me Stop You There: Minnesota 1, Toronto 4 by Zoë Hayden

Minnesota came into this game needing just one point to clinch a playoff berth – still – but Toronto had some feedback regarding that proposition.

What happened?

Minnesota came out flying early and tested Kristen Campbell, earning the first goal at Mattamy Athletic Centre on a tip in front. Taylor Heise worked the puck low and got the it to Maggie Flaherty at the blueline, whose shot was redirected by Michela Cava in the slot to make it 1-0.

Minnesota made Toronto miserable in the neutral zone for awhile, but the home team did draw a penalty on an errant stick by Clair DeGeorge. Unfortunately for Minnesota, their poor penalty killing got them in trouble again. They failed to pick up Hannah Miller on the backdoor and she snapped a shot past Maddie Rooney to tie the game at 1.

Minnesota continued to threaten and generated a few opportunities. With Renata Fast in the box for a cross-check at the end of the period, Heise and Kendall Coyne Schofield created traffic in front of Campbell, but couldn't score. At the very end of the period, Emma Maltais was assessed an additional penalty, so Minnesota had the opportunity to begin the second with 42 seconds of 5-on-3.

The visitors came out flying to start the middle frame and had two huge grade-A chances on Campbell during their 5-on-3, but neither would go, including Kelly Pannek on the doorstep – she hit the post and didn't find space between it and Campbell's pad.

While they returned to the power play just a few minutes after those penalties expired, Toronto executed a strong kill with heavy play along the boards to keep Minnesota hemmed in and fighting for control. Toronto had generated the only real scoring chances of the period when Minnesota ended up in the box again and promptly surrendered the go-ahead goal to Natalie Spooner, from her office in front of the net.

Down 2-1, Minnesota was working hard to try to hold possession, but Toronto sticks were in the lane every time, so it was an uphill battle to find space in the offensive zone. It took until the last few minutes of the period for them to start to find a rhythm – but then Natalie Spooner drew a hooking call on the counterattack. In this case, Minnesota was able to hold on until the end of the period, with over half of Toronto's power play extending into the third.

Minnesota finished the kill to open the final period by the skin of their teeth, regrouped, and were able to protect the puck into a few quality shots, including a hard cycle that culminated in a laser through traffic by Sophie Jaques, but Campbell made the save. However, when they got another cycle going, Lee Stecklein fanned on her shot from the blueline, and Natalie Spooner hopped on the loose puck to give herself a clean breakaway on Rooney. Rooney bit on her first move and left a wide-open cage, and it was 3-1 Toronto.

Rooney had to shut down a few more Toronto chances before Minnesota got back into the offensive zone, but all the net-crashing they could muster didn't break Kristen Campbell, and as the clock wound down under 10 minutes, you could tell Minnesota was desperate. Grace Zumwinkle single-handedly kept the puck below the Toronto goal line for an extended period of time, and created a scramble in front of Campbell, but Allie Munroe was able to bat it out of danger.

Rooney went to the bench with over three minutes to go and an offensive zone faceoff for Minnesota, and while they held the zone for quite some time, Toronto's defense high in the zone paid off. Emma Maltais eventually pushed it out beyond the blueline, carried it in herself, and with Minnesota players closed around her, scored an empty-netter from her stomach to make it 4-1.

It was another dominant performance by Toronto, and another troubling outing for Minnesota who just can't get themselves that final point to guarantee a playoff berth. They will have to do it against New York on Saturday if they don't want their playoff fate potentially decided by a tiebreaker scenario – that they could lose.

Three up, three down

↑ Natalie Spooner – Ridiculous powerhouse of a player who seemingly cannot be stopped by mortals. Her second goal of the game almost felt inappropriate to witness because of how completely she beat both Stecklein and Rooney.

↓ Minnesota, on the PK and in general, since the break – Minnesota's penalty killing has seemingly gotten worse as the year has gone on. They never pressure high in the zone and seemingly always allow their opponents to orchestrate backdoor plays. They've allowed a goal in an extra-skater situation 8 of the last 11 times they've faced it (power play and empty net). They did manage to kill Toronto's third power play of the game, but damn if it wasn't close. They've also just lost 4 straight games to go completely winless since the international break. You can't blame all of that on poor penalty killing but it certainly didn't help. Some of those goals were back-breakers.

↑ The Michela Cava/Taylor Heise combination – Cava looks right at home on Heise's wing and the two have a way of weaving the puck into the zone cleanly along the boards together. It was one of the only effective strategies for creating offensive zone time against a Toronto team that made zone entries straight-up painful through 60. Heise is expected to be a beast as a #1 overall pick, but the way Cava played herself into a top six role and stayed there has been one of the great on-ice stories of the inaugural PWHL season. Cava also scored Minnesota's only goal.

↓ Clinching scenarios – With three teams battling for playoff berths, the teams whose fates are already decided have made things interesting. Toronto has locked up the #1 seed with this victory and will have the opportunity to select their opponent, but everything else is pure chaos. If Minnesota can't get any points against New York on Saturday, they risk a three-way tie in points with Boston and Ottawa and will have to scoreboard-watch to figure out how they finish. New York has already played spoiler once and it seems like they'd love to do it again.

Carly Jackson – Jackson dressed in their first game this season to back up Kristen Campbell and was a prominent part of the on-broadcast and in-arena celebrations of Pride Night at Mattamy. It's tough being a #3 goalie in this league, especially in this first, short season, where you're unlikely to dress, let alone see the ice. But third goalies are important parts of their teams and it was great to see Jackson in the lineup on Wednesday. Would Troy Ryan consider starting her against Ottawa with very little on the line for Toronto? We can dream.

↓ Everything else in the world right now – I feel obligated to use this platform in a small way to draw attention to the ongoing genocide of Palestinians and the student protests which are taking place across the globe to oppose this. We write about social issues at the Victory Press and have often tried to call attention to the connections that exist between sports and our cultural norms. This current situation is much bigger though than, say, a critique of white feminism or the overwhelming presence of police, nationalism, and militarism in sports culture. This is a global issue and a pivotal moment in our human history and just because I don't have the capacity right now to write about it myself doesn't mean I shouldn't dedicate space to it. I highly recommend reading Marisa Kabas at The Handbasket in general; this account at Hellgate NYC of the NYPD's raid on Hamilton Hall at Columbia along with Hellgate's other coverage of student protests in New York City; and ongoing coverage by Al Jazeera about what is going on in Palestine. Always pay attention to who is wielding power, how, and why. Sports might be an escape right now but they are not an excuse for looking away.

VP's Player of the Game

Kristen Campbell – The offense may have made her job look easy, but it wasn't. Minnesota was generating a ton of chances in and around the paint and she had to track the puck through broken plays. It was a huge team win for Toronto and it started in net.

  • 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

(Photo: Alex D'Addese/PWHL)