Sports

PWHL Toronto picks Minnesota as 1st-round playoff opponent

PWHL Toronto has chosen fourth-place Minnesota as its first-round playoff opponent, the staff introduced on Monday night.

Which means second-place Montreal will tackle third-seeded Boston within the different best-of-five semi-final sequence, with the winners of each going through off in one other best-of-five sequence in pursuit of the primary Walter Cup championship.

Toronto completed first total within the six-team league over the common season, incomes the ability to decide on between enjoying the third or fourth seed. It is one in all a number of distinctive guidelines the PWHL has adopted in its first season.

The staff introduced its resolution in a video posted to social media on Monday, which featured Natalie Spooner’s son, Rory, serving to announce the decide.

“It was undoubtedly not a simple resolution,” Toronto GM Gina Kingsbury stated. “There is not any simple opponent on this league. We checked out all completely different angles.”

That features analytics, the well being of the opposing groups, how they’ve performed just lately, and the influence of journey. Employees additionally consulted gamers.

Toronto GM Gina Kingsbury says workers consulted gamers when deciding who to play within the first spherical. (Gene J. Puskar/The Related Press)

“We all know that we have got our work reduce out for us towards Minnesota,” Toronto captain Blayre Turnbull stated, pointing to the efficiency of Minnesota’s goaltending tandem of Nicole Hensley and Maddie Rooney, and offensive threats like Kendall Coyne Schofield and Taylor Heise.

“They have some star gamers who I am positive are going to be actually excited to face us, and so they’ll convey their greatest video games within the playoffs,” Turnbull stated. “It is going to be a problem but it surely’s one which we’re up for and one which we’re excited to tackle.”

Toronto comes into the playoffs on a four-game profitable streak that has been powered by Spooner and Sarah Nurse, who’ve scored a mixed 15 factors within the final 4 video games. Spooner completed first within the league in each targets (20) and factors (27) over the common season.

After a rocky begin in January, Toronto emerged as a defensive powerhouse due to among the best blue-line pairings on the earth in Jocelyne Larocque and Renata Quick, hard-to-play-against forwards like Turnbull and Emma Maltais, and a turnaround in web from Kristen Campbell. The staff gained 11 video games in a row from the tip of January to the tip of March.

On the opposite facet is a Minnesota staff that hung across the high of the standings for a lot of the season, and carried a five-game profitable streak into the world championship break in April.

Women's hockey player greets fans before playing a hockey game.
Toronto ahead Natalie Spooner completed first within the league in targets (20) and factors (27) over the common season. (Mark Blinch/Getty Photos)

However Minnesota hasn’t appeared the identical since that break, struggling each to attain and to forestall different groups from scoring, notably on the penalty kill. The staff wanted just one level to clinch a playoff spot however could not achieve this over 5 alternatives, and solely secured a playoff spot due to a number of losses by Ottawa.

Video games one and two of the best-of-five semi-final sequence can be on Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m. ET at Toronto’s Coca-Cola Coliseum.

The sequence will shift to Minnesota’s Xcel Power Heart for sport three on Might 13. Sport 4, if obligatory, can be Might 15 in Minnesota, and if a sport 5 is required, it’s going to be in Toronto on Might 17.

2nd-place Montreal attracts Boston

Montreal and Boston will look to choose again up the place they left off on Saturday, when Boston saved its season alive with a 4-3 win in a back-and-forth, bodily sport.

Boston went into the third interval of Saturday’s sport with a 3-0 lead, solely to see Montreal storm again and even the rating. Kaleigh Fratkin saved the day for Boston by scoring with 1:20 left, giving the house staff the regulation win wanted to clinch a playoff spot.

“The best way that our group caught collectively is the kind of staff that we’re,” Boston defender Megan Keller stated after the win.

Boston reset and got here again from the world championship break wanting reinvigorated, incomes 13 of a attainable 15 standings factors.

Hockey players from opposing teams battle for the puck.
Montreal and Boston will start their playoff sequence on Thursday. (PWHL)

They will face a Montreal staff that has additionally been red-hot because the break, notably with a participant benefit. Montreal’s Mikyla Grant-Mentis scored twice on the ability play towards Boston on Saturday. Then, captain Marie-Philip Poulin tied the sport at six-on-five with the goaltender pulled.

Montreal’s high trio of Poulin, Laura Stacey and Kristin O’Neill have registered a mixed 17 factors over the past 5 video games.

Video games one and two are set for Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at Place Bell in Laval, Que. The sequence strikes to Boston’s residence rink on the Tsongas Heart for sport three on Might 14 and 4, if wanted, on Might 16.

If a deciding sport 5 is required, it’s going to be on Might 19 in Laval.

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