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PWHPA teams’ takeaways from the Tim Hortons Showcase

The ups and downs from the Truro showcase as four teams played their first games of the 2021-22 PWHPA Dream Gap Tour.

Kelsey Roberts makes a save on Ann-Sophie Bettez in the showcase final
Heather Pollock/PWHPA

The first PWHPA Secret Dream Gap Tour showcase gave fans a good look at what to expect for four of the teams this season. Let’s take a look at an upside and downside from each team based on their weekend play.

Team Scotiabank from Calgary

Consistent Play All Weekend

The victors of the Tim Hortons Showcase in Truro can be commended for their steady performance through both games. With just one goal against and the tournaments fewest penalties, Scotiabank played the boring style of hockey coaches love. Their four goals came from four different players and seven skaters recorded points. Scoring spread out among players is always a good indicator of a strong team.

Over both games, the team allowed 75 shots which is more than both teams they beat, but Scotiabank was backed up by consistent goaltending. Marlène Boissonnault stonewalled a hungry Boston team in the first game and Kelsey Roberts made desperation saves all night against Harvey’s in the final. Each period they played, Scotiabank could be relied upon to bring strong offensive pressure and locked in goaltending.

Defensive Errors

Team Scotiabank played often with a zone defense, clogging up the centre of the ice and keeping shots to the outside. This meant opposing teams were able to take many low danger shots from the outside. I think this, as opposed to a player–on–player system, was preferable for Scotiabank’s slower defenders. The zone system keeps the Scotiabank player farther back from the attacking player allowing them to guard against shots or passes.

However, when this system breaks down it can allow dangerous chances from quick players. This was evident in the Montreal goal. Once Sarah Lefort got around her defending player, she was able to quickly find open ice and score. Multiple times Scotiabank defenders allowed an attacking player to get by them and were forced to take a penalty. Brigette Lacquette was caught doing this late in the final taking a risky penalty with only a few minutes to play. Slower defence cores can be effective with smart play, but they need to position themselves attentively within strong defensive systems.

Team Harvey’s from Montreal

Clutch Goaltending

Team Harvey’s struggled more often than you might expect based on their second-place finish. It was in these poor moments that Harveys’ goaltender came up big. “Not gonna lie,” said forward Ann-Sophie Bettez, “our goalie kind of saved our bums a lot of the time.”

After multiple seasons as a backup to some of Canada’s best, goaltender Marie-Soleil Deschênes finally has her time in the spotlight. Deschênes allowed just two goals in as many games good enough for a .970 save percentage. Her performance in game one kept Harvey’s in it when Sonnet dominated early chances. She was able to lock it down for her team until the game was out of reach for the opposition. In the final, it was stellar play from Deschênes that kept Harvey’s in it. A back-and-forth tie needed a shootout for decision where Deschenes allowed just one of the penalty shots. Despite the loss, her performance was superb.

Slow Starts

Both of Harveys’ games began with a fleury of chances for the other team. In their first game, Sonnet dominated chances reputedly challenging the Harvey’s net. “We had a tough start beginning the game,” Bettez admitted, a sentiment that was echoed by Karel Émard. “Toronto were in our end in the beginning and the start, we started very slow.” Thankfully for Harvey’s, two lucky goals gave them the momentum they needed in the second and third periods.

The final against Scotiabank saw much of the same. Harvey’s took three penalties in the first period, allowing Scotiabank to have the majority of early chances, and inevitably conceded a goal. Harvey’s pulled it together and played two strong periods after that trading chances with their opponent. They scored one to tie the game and force overtime and a shootout before losing there. Quicker starts and early momentum will be critical in Harvey’s future games.

Team Sonnet from Toronto

Defensive play

Sonnet’s skaters did all they could over the course of the two games. They boasted the fewest shots against and the best shot differential: +28. Their dominance on the ice was not made clear by the score line of the first game, but that can, for the most part, be ascribed to bad luck. Sonnet conceded the most goals of the tournament, but that is not representative of the way they played. The puck just didn’t bounce their way. Sonnet should continue to control puck possession and limit opposing teams’ shots in the way that they have. Continued play like that combined with luckier goaltending should see them more success at the next showcase.

Goaltending Struggles

Team Sonnet’s week point over the weekend was their goaltending. The first game is one Kassidy Sauvé will want to forget. She allowed four goals all of which were flukes including a short-handed goal scored from 135 feet. Momentum and confidence for Sonnet was clearly impacted by the quick and unlucky goals by Harvey’s. Sauvé’s .800 save percentage was an unfortunate continuation of her struggles in the PWHPA after a good NCAA career. Hopefully for both her and Sonnet, she has the opportunity to impress in the next showcase.

In game two, Amanda Makela had a better night saving just enough for Sonnet to come away with the win. The two goals against in the first were not ideal, especially considering the strong defensive performance from the team. The two netminders combined for the lowest save percentage of the weekend, a 0.875. Erica Howe, Sonnet’s other goaltender was unable to attend the Tim Hortons showcase. Her presence at future showcases may have a positive impact on the team’s performance.

Team Bauer from Boston

Goaltending

Bauer split the games evenly between two goaltenders, Brittany Ott and Terra Lanteigne. Lanteigne had two rough nights allowing five of the six goals scored against team Bauer. The goals were in part excusable given Bauer allowed more shots against than any other team averaging 41 shots against per night.

Ott, stood on her head as she kept a struggling Bauer offence in both games they played. “The goaltending was incredible. That’s what kept us in it,” forward Meghan Grieves said about the weekend. “Ott in particular was making saves that were absolutely out of her mind.” Ott allowed just one goal against Scotiabank in her 30 minutes of the first game and stopped all of Sonnet’s chances in her half of the second game. Team Bauer becomes a challenge to score against anytime Brittany Ott takes up the crease.

Lacking Offensive Production

Team Bauer lost both of their games. The greatest struggle came in an inability to score, especially when it mattered. Bauer was shutout by Scotiabank despite putting up 39 shots. Undoubtedly, they were met with a hot goaltender but failing to score in a near 40 shot performance is a worrying sign. Things were slightly better on the second night when Bauer started the game with two goals against Sonnet before conceding three in the back half of the game. Bauer had great chances when the game was tied but failed to capitalise.

They led the weekend for the most penalties drawn getting nine power plays in the two games but scored on none of them. To make things worse only one of their two goals was scored by a team Bauer player. Annie Pankowski, scorer of the second goal, was a temporary loan to Boston from Minnesota because Bauer was missing a few players. Hopefully the return of those missing players brings goals because this team was unable to provide that.