PWHL Finals - Game 1: Boston 4, Minnesota 3
- 5 min read

PWHL Finals - Game 1: Boston 4, Minnesota 3

PWHL Finals - Game 1: Boston 4, Minnesota 3 by Melissa Burgess

PWHL Boston's scoring depth played to their favor on Sunday evening, with a close 4-3 win over PWHL Minnesota in Game 1 in front of a raucous crowd at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Massachusetts.

What happened?

Given how both teams' semifinals were relatively low-scoring, it seemed reasonable to expect that Sunday's first game of the championship series would be similar. A five-goal second period, combined with two goals in 2:30 in the first period, quickly changed that thought. Twelve different players recorded at least a point.

Boston found itself down a player early, as Megan Keller was called for interference just ten seconds into the game. Safe to say that's not ideal, but to the team's credit, Minnesota was allowed just one shot on the goal on the early advantage. Minutes later, however, Michela Cava gave her team a 1-0 lead.

After Minnesota won the draw, Lee Stecklein sent the puck in deep, bouncing it off the end boards. The players cycled it around the ice, and Taylor Heise sent a backhand pass to Cava, who circled behind the net and capitalized before Aerin Frankel could get back over. Cava dished the puck in between Frankel's leg and the post to make it 1-0.

Susanna Tapani, who has been excellent for Boston since being traded from Minnesota, tied the game 2:30 later. Tapani pounced on a rebound in front of the net and was able to backhand it in past Maddie Rooney to make it a 1-1 game. Minnesota out-shot Boston 10-8 in the first period, but in a physical game, Boston was up in hits 14-3, including four from Kaleigh Fratkin.

Heise regained Minnesota's lead just 8:04 into the second period. Minnesota squeezed Boston out along the boards to keep the puck in the zone. Mellissa Channell got the puck over to Kendall Coyne Schofield, who passed it over to Heise. Heise's shot found the net over Frankel's glove side, kicking off an offensive second period.

Taylor Wenczkowski tied it with her third goal of the postseason less than five minutes later. She did it all on the play, including a big hit in the neutral zone, before getting her stick on a loose puck in the slot and beating Rooney.

The goals kept coming, as Hannah Brandt gave Boston its first lead of the night just 2:21 later. Brandt was left alone along the wall and found the puck, then went five-hole from the faceoff circle to Rooney's left.

Boston may have been playing with a lead, but it only lasted about two minutes as goals came fast and furiously. Heise potted her second of the night, scoring backdoor from just above the goal line after a nice sequence of plays from Cava and Coyne Schofield. Her fourth of the postseason – after scoring four goals in 19 regular season games – made it 3-3.

Jess Healey called game just 15 seconds later, though, releasing a shot from the point near the boards. Her high shot was deflected, appearing to go off either Minnesota's Maggie Flaherty or Emma Greco, and fooled Rooney, sailing in over her glove.

Despite two Minnesota power plays in the third period, Healey's goal stood as the game-winner. Minnesota out-shot Boston 23-14 in the final 40 minutes, including 13-7 in the third period, but went 0-for-3 on the power play.

Boston now leads the best-of-five series by a 1-0 margin.

Three up, three down

↑ Scoring depth – How important has getting goals from throughout the lineup been in the PWHL postseason? Boston certainly showed it in this one. While Minnesota's scoring all came from the top line, Boston had contributions from all across the lineup. Tapani was the first-line center; Brandt on the second line. Wenczkowski played left wing on the fourth line, and Healey was part of the third defensive pairing.

↓ Goaltending/defense – This was not the kind of game that we expected from these goaltenders and defense. Maddie Rooney made 92 saves and had two shutouts, allowing just two goals against in four semifinal games. Here, she allowed four goals on 22 shots faced. Aerin Frankel had 141 saves and four goals against in three semifinal games, but on Sunday, she allowed three goals on 33 shots. The trend may not carry over into the rest of the series, but for now, things have opened up for both of these teams.

↑ Taylor Heise – Heise had two goals and an assist for Minnesota, playing a factor in all three of her team's goals. She's really found her stride and had five points in the last two games, including four goals.

↓ Minnesota's power play – I keep talking about Minnesota's power play, but it's still worth mentioning. It looked like the team finally had it figured out in game five of the semifinal against Toronto, as they went 2-for-3 after failing to score on the previous 12 opportunities. But they were unable to build on that success and went 0-for-3 on Sunday in Lowell. If they capitalized on any of those opportunities, it could have been a very different game.

↑ Fresh start – Boston looked refreshed and ready to go, having four days of rest after sweeping Montreal in the semifinal. On the flip side, Minnesota had barely any time to breathe after Friday's game five in Toronto, but seemed propelled by the momentum of that series win. Both teams came into their semifinals as underdogs and now have a fresh start in this series.

↓ No Boreen – Abby Boreen isn't eligible to sign another short-term contract after playing for Minnesota in the semifinal, and it's a shame. While she wasn't a huge factor in the semifinal, she did spend some time on the team's top line and had five points in nine regular-season games. What she could've done for Minnesota this series, we'll never know. With her absence, Minnesota made some lineup changes, including slotting in Sydney Brodt on the fourth line instead of as the extra forward.

VP's Player of the Game

Emily Brown – Brown had two assists in Sunday's win, with the primary helpers on both Tapani's and Brandt's goals. Playing on the top pairing alongside Megan Keller, she led all Boston skaters in TOI (26:30) and also had five hits. She's not exactly known for her offense – she had only four points in 24 regular-season games – so it was great to see her contribute to that side of the game.

  • 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

Upcoming schedule

Here is the schedule for the rest of the series:

  • Game 2: Tuesday, May 21 @ 7:00 PM Eastern | Tsongas Center, Lowell, Massachusetts
  • Game 3: Friday, May 24 @ 7:00 PM Eastern | Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Game 4: Sunday, May 26 @ 6:00 PM Eastern | Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota *
  • Game 5: Wednesday, May 29 @ 7:00 PM Eastern | Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota *

* Games 4 & 5 if necessary.

Games air on TSN and RDS in Canada, NESN/NESN+ in New England, and Bally Sports North/Bally Sports North Extra in the Minnesota Market. Games are also streaming on the Women's Sports Network and the PWHL's YouTube channel, and games will be available on the MSG family of channels in the New York market.

(Photo: PWHL)