MYHockey News

The Pulse of the PWHL: The Final Countdown

By Scott Lowe – MYHockeyRankings.com

Just like pretty much everything that has happened during the inaugural season of the Professional Women’s Hockey League, no Hollywood screenwriter could have come up with a more fitting conclusion to what already seems to have been a perfectly scripted Year 1.

Heading into the final week of regular-season play, Toronto and Montréal, two teams that have battled each other on the ice for the top spot in the league standings and off the ice to set women’s hockey attendance records, are tied atop the PWHL standings with 41 points apiece. Both teams have secured home-ice advantage for the four-team Walter Cup Playoffs, which start May 8, but of course there also are bragging rights at stake – and in an interesting twist, the No. 1 seed also gets to choose whether it will play the third or fourth seed in the opening round.

That twist allows the team finishing first to choose the opponent it feels will provide the most-favorable opening-round matchup, which also could prove to serve as a little motivation for the team that is selected.

Toronto, which has a game in hand in the race for the top spot and will play twice this week, can clinch the regular-season title with a victory at home against Minnesota Wednesday.

Meanwhile, three teams – Minnesota (35 points), Ottawa (32) and Boston (32) – remain in contention for the final two playoff berths. In addition to the game at Toronto, Minnesota also travels to last-place New York for its season-finale Saturday. Ottawa plays at New York Tuesday and at Toronto in the league’s final regular-season game Sunday. Boston hosts a Montréal team that may have nothing to play for on Saturday.

New York is the only team that has been eliminated. Ottawa can clinch a playoff spot with a regulation win Tuesday, while Minnesota needs a single point Wednesday to advance to postseason play.

Meanwhile, thanks to the league’s “Gold Plan,” New York can clinch the top pick in the draft by earning one point Tuesday vs. Ottawa. The team that earns the most standings points after it has been eliminated from playoff contention will be awarded the top pick in this year’s PWHL Draft.

It should all make for an exciting conclusion to what already has been a remarkable inaugural season.

CLICK HERE for the remaining PWHL schedule.

 

Speaking of the Draft

The PWHL announced April 27 that the 2024 PWHL Draft will take place in June and be held in Minnesota. The league’s six teams will make 42 total selections.

The 2024 Draft will consist of seven rounds, with New York likely to accrue the most standings points after being eliminated from the playoffs to secure the first overall selection. Next up will be the non-playoff team with the fewest “Draft Order Points,” while selections three through six will go to the four playoff teams in inverse order of where they finished in the final regular-season standings. The draft will utilize a traditional format; with each subsequent round proceeding in the same order as the first.

“The PWHL Draft is one of the most significant events on the league’s calendar as we officially turn the page into our second season and introduce the next wave of professional women’s hockey talent,”Jayna Hefford, PWHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, said in an announcement on the league’s website. “We know that our passionate fans in Minnesota will give all new players to the league a warm welcome and will help make this a memorable moment for everyone.”

Fans can register online to receive priority information and offers to attend official PWHL Draft events.

 

Mark Your Calendars

With Montréal and Toronto haviing secured the top-two seeds and home-ice advantage for the four-team Walter Cup Playoffs, the league was able to announce the dates and locations of the PWHL’s first four playoff games. The first two contests in each best-of-five semifinal series will be held May 8-11 in those cities.

All of Toronto’s home games will be played at Coca-Cola Coliseum, while Montréal will host its games at Place Bell in Laval.


Coca-Cola Coliseum, the home of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies, has a capacity of more than 8,000. It will be the 15th different venue to host a PWHL contest this year. Toronto played most of its home games at Mattamy Athletic Centre, a venue that holds about half the fans Coca-Cola Coliseum can accommodate.

Toronto had no trouble filling that building, and the team proved on more than one occasion that it has the ability of drawing many more fans for its home games. Montréal played four games at Place Bell, twice drawing sold-out crowds of better than 10,000.

The top-two teams will host the first, second and (if necessary) fifth games of each semifinal series. Whichever team ends up earning the top seed will have 24 hours to select either the third- or fourth-place team as its first-round opponent.

Tickets go on sale to the public for Toronto’s first two playoff games on Monday, May 6, at 4 p.m. EDT and will be available via Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster also is the place to go for tickets to Montréal’s first two playoff games. Tickets for those contests will be made available on Tuesday, May 7, at 12 p.m. EDT.

Toronto and Montréal season ticket members will be contacted in advance of the public sale for the opportunity to secure their seats and purchase additional tickets and packages. Fans can also sign up online for PWHL Toronto’s e-newsletter and PWHL Montréal’s e-newsletter for priority access.

 

PWHL Semifinal Playoff Schedule

Wednesday May 8
Game 1: Toronto vs. TBD at Coca-Cola Coliseum – 7:00 p.m. EDT

Thursday May 9
Game 1: Montréal vs. TBD at Place Bell – 7:00 p.m. EDT

Friday May 10
Game 2: Toronto vs. TBD at Coca-Cola Coliseum – 7:00 p.m. EDT

Saturday May 11
Game 2: Montréal vs. TBD at Place Bell – 7:00 p.m. EDT

Schedule details for Games 3, 4 and 5 of both series will be announced once the semifinal matchups are finalized.

 

Attendance is Mandatory

Heading into the season’s final week, the PWHL had drawn nearly 380,000 fans through 67 games, an average of better than 5,620 per contest. Minnesota concluded its home schedule with an average attendance of 7,138, while Montréal finished up at 6,881. Ottawa drew more than 8,000 fans for seven of its home games and likely will end up with the league’s top average attendance at 7,496.

 

Shout Out for the Shootout

Ottawa finally earned its first shootout win of the season, becoming the fifth team to do so, with its important 3-2 home victory against Boston April 24. For Ottawa, the win marked the team’s first win in a game that required any extra time after four previous setbacks. It also was their first one-goal victory of any kind this season. Meanwhile, Boston has played 15 one-goal games, winning nine, and Montréal has eight victories in 14 one-goal decisions.

KateĊ™ina Mrázová scored twice in the shootout, while winning goalie Emerance Maschmeyer thwarted four of the five attempts she faced, including two stops each of Hannah Brandt and Hilary Knight. Maschmeyer finished with 30 saves to earn second-star honors. Mrázová was named the game’s top star, and Jamie Lee Rattray got the nod as the third star.

Knight and Rattray each scored once for Boston, with Gabbie Hughes and Brianne Jenner tallying for Ottawa. Hughes’s tally 11:14 into the third period forced overtime.

 

Nurse’s Numbers

Toronto’’s Sarah Nurse appears to be heating up at the right time coming off another strong World Championship performance. The forward recorded the league’s eighth hat trick of the year April 28 in her team’s 6-2 win at New York, scoring twice in the first period and once early in the final frame. She now has 10 goals on the season and earned first-star honors, while teammates Kristen Campbell (31 saves) and Natalie Spooner (1-1-2) were the game’s other two stars of the game.

  

Back to Where She Belongs

Longtime Team Canada netminder Ann-Renée Desbiens finally joined the PWHL zeroes club, earning her first shutout of the season April 27 In Montréal’s 2-0 win at Ottawa. She made 31 saves to notch the clean sheet, bringing the total of league shutouts to seven for the season. Laura Stacey netted her 10th goal of the campaign in the victory, with Maureen Murphy adding her fifth. Desbiens, Daryl Watts and Stacey were the game’s three stars.

 

In Other Action

Montréal defeated New York, 5-2, April 25 at home, and Boston knocked off Minnesota, 2-1, on the road April 27 in the other two PWHL matchups last week. 

Five different players scored for Montréal in the win over New York, and Ann-Reneé Desbiens made 31 saves to earn the game’s first star. Kristin O’Neill had a goal and an assist, good for second-star recognition, and Maureen Murphy was named the third star with a single helper. Erin Ambrose contributed a pair of assists for the winners.

Alina Müller and Hannah Brandt scored third-period goals for Boston in the 2-1 victory. Brandt potted the game-winner with just three seconds left in the third period, while Emma Söderberg stopped 31 shots to earn the win in goal and take second-star honors. Brandt was named the game’s first star and Kelly Pannek, who scored Minnesota’s only goal, was the third star.

  

Three Stars of the Week

  1. Sarah Nurse – Toronto F
  2. Ann Renée Desbiens – Montréal G
  3. Hannah Brandt – Boston F

Nurse received top-star accolades for the second time this season thanks to her hat trick in Toronto’s only game of the week. She has five goals in her last two outings and is second in the league with 10 for the year.

Desbiens earned her first shutout of the year and stopped 31 shots in her other start to lead Montréal to a pair of wins. She recorded a .969 save percentage and a 1.00 goals-against average for the week and is third in the league with seven wins.

Brandt had a game-winning goal, an assist and a shootout marker as her team recorded a regulation win and a shootout loss last week. Her game-winner at Minnesota came with just 2.7 seconds left in the third period and helped Boston stay alive in the race for the final playoff berth with a regulation victory.

 

Standings Through April 30

The PWHL standings are based on a three-point system in which teams are awarded three points for a win, two points for an overtime or shootout win, one point for an overtime or shootout loss and no points for a regulation loss.

  1. Toronto 11W 4OTW 7L – 41 pts
  2. Montréal 10W 3OTW 5OTL 5L – 41 pts
  3. Minnesota 8W 4OTW 3OTL 7L – 35 pts
  4. Ottawa 8W 1 OTW 6OTL 7L – 32 pts
  5. Boston 7W 4 OTW 3OTL 9L – 32 pts
  6. New York 3W 4OTW 3OTL 102L – 20 pts

 

Goals Leaders

Natalie Spooner TOR – 16

Grace Zumwinkle MIN – 10

Laura Stacey MON – 10

Sarah Nurse TOR – 10

Marie-Philip Poulin MON – 9

 

Assist Leaders

Marie-Philip Poulin MON – 13

Alex Carpenter NY – 13

Emma Maltais TOR – 12

Katerina Mrázová OTT – 13

Erin Ambrose MON – 13

Alina Müller BOS – 11

Katerina Mrázová OTT – 11

 

Points Leaders

Natalie Spooner TOR – 23

Marie-Philip Poulin MON – 22

Alex Carpenter NY – 21

Sarah Nurse TOR – 20

Brianne Jenner OTT – 19

 

Save Percentage Leaders

Elaine Chuli MTL – .949

Corinne Schroeder NY – .931

Aerin Frankel BOS – .930

Nicole Hensley MIN – .926

Ann-Renée Desbiens – .926

 

This Week’s PWHL Viewing Guide

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

7:00 p.m. ET – Ottawa at New York (Prudential Center)
Linear TV: MSGSNHD/MSGSNZ1/Z2, TSN5
Streaming: YouTube

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

7:00 p.m. ET – Minnesota at Toronto
TV: TSN4/5, Bally Sports North/SoCal/Southeast
Streaming: Women’s Sports Network, YouTube

 

Saturday, May 4, 2024

1:00 p.m. ET – Minnesota at New York
TV: MSG/MSGHD, Bally Sports North/San Diego/SoCal/Sun
Streaming: YouTube

3:30 p.m. ET – Montreal at Boston
TV: CBC, NESN+, Sportsnet Pittsburgh Plus
Streaming: CBC Gem, YouTube
French: RDS2

 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

7:00 p.m. ET – Ottawa at Toronto
TV: TSN3/5
Streaming: YouTube

Visit thepwhl.com to purchase tickets and merchandise, and subscribe to the PWHL e-newsletter to receive the latest league updates. Follow the league on all social media platforms @thepwhlofficial plus all six team accounts @pwhl_boston, @pwhl_minnesota, @pwhl_montreal, @pwhl_newyork, @pwhl_ottawa, and @pwhl_toronto.

 

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