A new beginning for women’s hockey began to start the new year. The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) kicked off on January 1, 2024, with an exciting matchup between New York and Toronto.
Here’s how the rest of the opening games went for the new league.
Ottawa vs Montreal: 3-2 Montreal
An electric crowd of 8,318 showed up to cheer on Ottawa in their home opener. The match set a new North American women’s hockey attendance record, a beautiful sight for the PWHL.
Ann-Renée Desbien for Ottawa was battered with shots, making 26 saves, but it wasn’t enough as a last-minute overtime goal sealed the deal for Montreal with their first win.
Both teams heavily relied on the boards to gain possession of the puck, with struggles coming in the middle of the ice.
The first period of play showcased a very dominant Ottawa team, who were able to get off ten shots on goal. With Montreal having three penalties called against them, Ottawa was given power play opportunities but ultimately they struggled to convert.
Ottawa succeeded at the build-up to the net but their final shots were lost or just wide. Montreal had a few opportunities to react and capitalize on rebounds but ultimately were unable to.
Loud boos greeted Marie-Philip Poulin as she took the first-ever penalty shot in the PWHL. However, Emma Maschmeyer easily collected it to keep the score even at zero as well as the power play advantage for Ottawa.
As the second period continued, the game got chippy with Montreal firing off more shots and Ottawa returning with their own. The much-anticipated goal came minutes later for Ottawa, or so they thought.
Mikyla Grant-Mentis, the former leading goal scorer in the PHF, put the home team on the board with a beautiful slip-in from the right. The crowd was full of energy as the puck hit the back of the net. However, after review the puck slid under the net instead of around the post, keeping the game scoreless in Ottawa.
It took five more minutes until the first official goal came for Ottawa. An absolute screamer from Hayley Scamurra at 16:24 gave the home team the advantage, as well as the first power-play goal in the league.
But, their lead did not last long as Montreal got one back less than a minute later at 17:44 with Claire Dalton slipping the puck behind Maschmeyer, assisted by none other than Jillian Dempsey.
Both teams headed into the locker room with a goal to their name, but Ottawa looked like the better team going into the third. They dominated on the ice leading 12-9 in shots on goal. Even with that stat, Montreal was able to battle back, showing that it just takes that one good chance to score.
“I still don’t think we’ve played our best hockey yet,” said Montreal’s Erin Ambrose. “I think as a group we want to come out with a little bit more in the third period.”
Montreals’ power play group was put to work as another penalty was called against the away side to start the third. On their sixth power play, Ottawa tried to attack but the opposition shut them down from scoring.
Ottawa regained the lead from a beauty of a goal by Kateřina Mrázová at 5:18 of the third, with Ashton Bell getting an assist on that for her second of the night. Things got chippy as the game continued, with a minor fight breaking out for a moment as Montreal tried to get their second.
With five minutes left in regulation, Laura Stacey knocked in the puck for an equalizer assisted by Tereza Vanišová at 14:23 to even the game at 2-2. That score held until the buzzer, sending the game into the first-ever PWHL overtime.
The overtime rules for the PWHL are set up in a 3-on-3 format for five minutes with whoever scores first winning it all. In this case, Montreal scored just over a minute into overtime off a goal by Ann-Sophie Bettez to wrap it up 3-2 in Ottawa.
An exciting conclusion to an amazing home opener in Ottawa shows just how much this league has to offer. The game was tense from start to finish with both teams wanting to skate away with the win. Do we smell a rivalry forming between the two Canadian teams?
Boston vs Minnesota: 3-2 Minnesota
With two stacked teams featuring names like Hilary Knight for Boston and Kendall Coyne Schofield for Minnesota, it was bound to be a good game.
Less than four minutes into the game Taylor Heise, the first overall pick in the PWHL draft, sent the puck right over the glove of Aerin Frankel to send Minnesota up 1-0.
In efforts to quickly equalize, Boston battled back getting a few shots off with the closest coming from Knight but it went just wide of Nicole Hensley. A diving shot from Hannah Brandt almost put Boston on the board, luckily for Minnesota, Hensley was there to collect.
However, their efforts were stunted when Minnesota scored a second one to double their lead. Sophia Kunin sent the puck into the top left corner of the net in a seamless fashion.
Unlike the match between Ottawa and Montreal, the first power play in this game did not come until the final four minutes of the first period. Boston was sent on the power play, getting a good look from Alina Müller but ultimately were unable to register a shot.
Hensley was solid in between the posts for Minnesota as Boston got off three quick shots. Although down by two, Boston seemed to wake up after the power play, surpassing Minnesota in shots on goal at the end of the first.
To start the second period of play, Minnesota went onto a power play of their own. However, Boston held it down, successfully stopping the away side from recording a shot on goal.
It only took eight minutes into the second for Boston to get on the scoresheet. Theresa Schafzahl quick released the puck straight into the center of the net. The chaos around Hensley helped Boston score their first.
Less than a minute later, Minnesota responded. Grace Zumwinkle quickly transitioned, scoring with ease right into the top netting to make the score 3-1. That score held going into the second intermission but not for lack of effort on the part of Boston who had many good chances.
Thirty seconds into the third period, Müller got one back for Boston. With chaos in front of the net to block to view and a Minnesota player taking down Hensley, the puck slipped in. However, after review the goal was called no goal for not crossing the line, and the announcement was met with boos.
As the third period dwindled, Boston was met with another power play where they had close chances but nothing sustainable. With 2:40 left in the game, on their third power play, Megan Keller scored a goal to bring the game 3-2. Boston chose to go 6-4 to increase their scoring chances on the power play, and it worked in their favor.
With two seconds on the clock, Boston ripped off a big shot but it went right into the glove of Hensley as the buzzer rang out.
A major 3-2 win for Minnesota who looked dominant in the opening minutes but it waned at times. Boston looked equally strong but lacked the vision to finish around Hensley who was a brick wall in the goal.
With the opening round of games complete, no home team has been able to come away with a win. Will New York break that streak when they host a rematch against Toronto on Friday, January 5, at 7 p.m. EST? Minnesota retakes the ice at home against Montreal on Saturday, January 6, at 3:30 p.m. EST.