PWHL Semifinals - Game 4: Minnesota 1, Toronto 0 (2OT)
- 4 min read

PWHL Semifinals - Game 4: Minnesota 1, Toronto 0 (2OT)

PWHL Semifinals - Game 4: Minnesota 1, Toronto 0 (2OT) by Melissa Burgess

PWHL Toronto and Minnesota battled through 84:27 of a scoreless stalemate before Claire Butorac finally beat Kristen Campbell, giving Minnesota a 1-0 win and tying the semifinal series.

What happened?

The wait was long, but for Minnesota, it was worth it.

Thursday's game certainly wasn't the most exciting or fast-paced game of the PWHL season, but it proved a critical one as Minnesota tied its series and forced Friday's game five. This game also showed the importance of scoring depth, as it wasn't any of the top forwards who sealed it; Claire Butorac, on Minnesota's third line, had the lone goal.

Both teams saw a lot of perimeter play early on in the game, which began with few stoppages. The teams combined for just eight shots on goal in the first period, including five for Minnesota. Toronto came out with a stronger start in the second period, but the middle frame was stilted by penalties on each side. It was a lot of the same as the game went on. Minnesota outshot Toronto by a 14-2 margin in the third period, but neither team could score and the game was pushed to overtime tied 0-0.

The first overtime period went by without incident. Minnesota did a good job of keeping Toronto to the outside early on. Toronto's best chance nearly came when Maddie Rooney misplayed the puck behind her own net; it got caught in her skates, and Emma Maltais was nearly able to poke it free and would've had a wide open net if she'd done so.

As the second overtime opened, Toronto looked like the sharper team. Neither team had a shot on goal for the first 2:06 of the period, until Sarah Nurse blasted one at the net – also her first shot on target of the game. Moments later, Maltais had a good chance before Rooney got her blocker on it.

The start, as it turned out, didn't matter, as soon after, Minnesota carried it down the ice and finally scored to win the game. Sophie Jaques released a shot from the point to get the puck in deep; it ricocheted off the end boards to the side of the net. Liz Schepers found it and nearly scored a between-the-legs goal, but instead redirected it to Butorac in front. She was able to get just enough of her stick on it to lift the puck up and over Campbell's right shoulder into the top corner.

All four games of this series have been shutouts, an absolutely wild statistic when you think about it. Kudos to Campbell and Rooney, as both have played outstanding. Here's a look at the final stats from Wednesday's game, as shown on the broadcast:

And here's a look at the TOI leaders through 84:27:

Toronto TOI leaders:

  • Jocelyne Larocque 35:41
  • Renata Fast 35:24
  • Emma Maltais 31:36
  • Sarah Nurse 30:54
  • Allie Munroe 29:56
  • Kali Flanagan 28:33

Minnesota TOI leaders:

  • Sophie Jaques 34:24
  • Lee Stecklein 31:52
  • Natalie Buchbinder 31:51
  • Melissa Channell 28:10
  • Kendall Coyne Schofield 27:17
  • Taylor Heise 26:16

Three up, three down

↑ It all comes down to this – This has been quite a series, with Toronto handily taking the first two games and now Minnesota tying it with two shutouts of their own. It all comes down to what should be a thrilling winner-takes-all game five on Friday night in Toronto, with the winner set to face Boston in the Walter Cup Final.

↓ Toronto's top line – With Natalie Spooner's season done, Toronto's top line swapped Brittany Howard in alongside Emma Maltais and Sarah Nurse. By and large, the top line was a non-factor. They combined for four shots on goal and five hits when all was said and done, but for much of the game they were neutralized.

↑ Minnesota's top line – On the flip side, Minnesota's top line looked much better. Grace Zumwinkle, Abby Boreen and Taylor Heise combined for 11 shots on goal and one hit. It's critical for both teams that their best players step up, and it could be the difference-maker in who wins on Friday night.

↓ Ice times – Jess Jones, who was activated from Toronto's reserve list and signed to a standard player agreement in light of Spooner's injury, played just 1:04. She didn't see the ice at all in the first half of regulation. Sydney Brodt has been dressed as Minnesota's extra forward and has only seen 6:55 of ice time in the entire series, all in game two.

↑ Maddie Rooney – It's wild to think that PWHL Minnesota didn't even draft Maddie Rooney, but signed her out of training camp instead. We all knew that she is a more than capable netminder, but she's really shown up this series. After not playing in game one, Rooney came in fresh in the second game of the series and hasn't looked back. She's only allowed one goal on 66 shots against for a 0.29 GAA, notching two shutouts on home ice.

↓ Power plays – At some point, one of these teams needs to figure out how to get it done on the power play. Toronto and Minnesota are a combined 0/21 on the advantage in this series. Minnesota hasn't scored on the power play since April 18, going 0/26 since then. Yikes.

VP's Player of the Game

Sophie Jaques – Jaques' shot led to the eventual game-winning goal, but she also had a good night at large. She led all Minnesota skaters in ice time (34:24) and recorded three shots on goal and one hit. She has continued to elevate her game on both ends of the ice since joining Minnesota via trade and is making an impact in the playoffs.

  • 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: Kelly Hagenson/PWHL)