Around the Rink in the PHF: Week 4 - Sweep Dreams

This week we hear from Whale defender Allie Munroe and Whitecaps defender Amanda Boulier as we recap a wild week 4!

Another action-packed week is in the books, it’s time to go around the rink!

And here, we, go!

Point Shots

1* It’s early in the season, but I think we’ve learned a few things about the PHF’s seventh and newest franchise. The Montreal Force certainly know how to win the first game of a two-game series - they’re 3-0 in those games, they have a goalie that can stand on her head in shootouts - they’re 2-0 in those games, a lot of their goals have come soon after their opponent scores, so they are pretty unflappable, and they are a team that is going to battle for every inch of ice, for 60 minutes.

In Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over the Connecticut Whale, Montreal never had the lead until the game ended. Three times the Whale took a one-goal lead, and three times the Force evened the game - the last time with 2:27 left in regulation thanks to Catherine Daoust’s first PHF goal.

While Tricia Deguire only had to face 19 shots in regulation and overtime on Saturday, her time to shine was in the shootout where she denied all three of Connecticut’s shooters to clinch the impressive win over last season’s semifinalists. Montreal’s captain Ann-Sophie Bettez, playing in her hometown of Sept-Iles, was also a hero of the day, netting the lone goal in the shootout to send the healthy-sized crowd home happy.

1.1* For the first time all season Deguire played in both games of Montreal’s series, perhaps in an attempt to turn around their luck in the second game (now 0-3). While she was busier and made nearly two times more saves (30), the Force never had a lead on Sunday. Despite tying the game twice, it was Season 7 MVP Kennedy Marchment and a fluttering puck shot that found the back of Deguire’s net with 5:41 left in regulation, crushing Montreal’s dreams of a sweep. Connecticut picked up their first win of the season ahead of their upcoming home opener.

2* “I know some of those girls or played against them at least, and I knew they had some talent for sure. I didn’t know what to expect (overall),” Connecticut defender Allie Munroe told ATR via phone on Monday night, “but figured they’d be a hard-working team, and that’s what they were. They have skill, the environment was awesome to play in and they had a great crowd, which was pretty cool. They’re a hard team to play against and I think they’re going to do well in our league.”

For Munroe and the Pod, this past weekend’s games were a long time coming. The Whale played opening night in Boston (Nov. 5) and had to wait almost a month to play games no. 2 & 3 when the Buffalo Beauts' trip to Connecticut was postponed due to a snowstorm. So what the hell did the Whale do during the long layoff? Practice, practice, and more practice.

“It was kind of a tough break (having so much time off in between games). Our first game didn’t go how we wanted, so we were pretty excited for this weekend to get things going again,” Munroe said.

“A little bit (of a reboot of our training camp), we had a bunch of skates and harder practices with more 5v5 kind of stuff to stay game ready for the unusual break we had. When our games vs. Buffalo got postponed we still had those ice slots at the rink (in Danbury) so we had a couple of intra-squad scrimmages. It was a little intense, but fun I thought. Everyone was a little disappointed those games were canceled.”

3* One of the best players for the Whale this weekend was Taylor Girard, shocking, I know. The reigning Newcomer of the Year had a three-point weekend (1g-2a), highlighted by a shorthanded tally where she just did what she wanted, when she wanted - and with a smile on her face (as she steals the souls of defenders) as per usual.

I asked Munroe what it is like defending Girard in practices since she sees it more than any of us. “Taylor is a great player obviously, and she’s super fast. I’m always aware of her when I go against her in practice. She’s super fun, just an awesome teammate, and always smiling - but I have to keep my head on a swivel, I have to be on my toes when she’s on the ice,” she said. “Taylor is really laid back, positive attitude, and has a lot of fun in practices and games. I think all of that contributes to her success.”

“With the amount of skill we have on our team up front - it’s kind of ridiculous - especially me being a defender, it helps a lot to practice against them. Our goalies too, it’s a challenge everywhere on the ice and I think that makes our roster really special.”

4* After an 0-2-2 start to the season no one needed a win more than the Minnesota Whitecaps. Well, they got the win they so desperately needed, and it felt so nice that they did it twice. In fact, Minnesota never trailed for the entire weekend and completed their first-weekend sweep since back in January.

The Whitecaps scored eight times in the sweep (four goals each day) and had seven different goal scorers - something that they really needed so that opponents won’t be able to focus solely on their top players. Their defense was a lot better than it had been as well, and as a result of that Amanda Leveille looked like, for the first time in a long time, that she didn’t need a flare in the crease for help. The Whitecaps controlled the pace of both games aside from maybe the final 22 minutes in Saturday’s contest.

4.1* Lev finished the weekend with 57 saves and added two more wins to her all-time PHF total, which is now up to 54 over seven seasons. “I’m glad to be back on her side again, that’s for sure,” Amanda Boulier told us Tuesday via phone. “Lev has been awesome. She has faced a ton of shots and turned away some really high-quality chances in all three of our series this season. Those are two well-deserved wins for her.”

If the Whitecaps had lost after leading 4-0 on Saturday, it could have been a season wrecker. But they ended up not even trailing for a second and that will be a big boost to a team that is fairly new to one another.

“I think just a big sigh of relief,” Boulier replied when we asked what the team’s mood was a day removed from the sweep. “We’ve always believed (in ourselves), and been in some really tight games that we absolutely could have come out on top in. To not only win, but to win two; a sigh of relief and optimism as we look forward into the rest of the season.”

5* What got into Patti Marshall this weekend? Whatever she had to eat for her pregame meals definitely worked and should be duplicated going forward!

Not only did she net the first two goals of her PHF career over the weekend (0 goals in 24 games entering Saturday), but she also added two assists as well for a four-point weekend. Entering the weekend she had just eight assists during her time with the Whitecaps. Marshall is one of a handful of returning players on Minnesota’s blueline and it’s been Marshall and Sidney Morin carrying the load offensively in the early going amongst their defense corps.

6* On the other side of things, the Riveters maybe deserved a point, but at the end of the weekend, they didn’t do enough to earn at least a point. Too many penalties (again) and not enough contributions offensively. Except for Minttu Tuominen. She was awesome in both games, especially on the power play. She was firing from every angle, trying to help her team creep back into the game on Saturday night, and again the next day.

Too often this team has relied on its top forwards to produce points, so it has been nice to see the contributions from Tuominen and her Finnish friend/D-partner Anna Kilponen (3 assists this weekend). They are the Rivs' best D-pair and can play in all situations, which is something the franchise hasn’t had since Season 3 (see: Jenny Ryan-Courtney Burke).

6.1* I thought goaltender Evelina Mäkinen played well enough to win both games, particularly on Sunday when the Riveters scored only one goal. She kept her team in Saturday’s game, and that score could have been worse than it was if not for her efforts and the team finally waking up for the final period.

7* Mäkinen took a rare goalie penalty for delay of game (maybe a warning should have been issued first?) in a weekend filled to the brim with penalties. There were a total of 35 penalties called in the four games this weekend. Were some legit? No doubt. Were they all worthy of being called? Most definitely not. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to be a player and not knowing what is going to be called consistently on a week-to-week basis. All we want is consistency, and to have a good flow to the games.

8* Did you know that you could be playing PHFantasy Hockey with your favorite PHF players on your smartphone? Well, now you do! Check the deets below and start building your team!

9* With only two weeks left before the holiday break, six of the seven PHF teams will be in action next week (enjoy the off week Montreal!) with games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Whale will finally have their home opener on Friday and also host the Whitecaps on Saturday. The Riveters and Toronto Six will be the first teams to finish their season series when they meet in Ontario Saturday and Sunday, and the Buffalo Beauts (remember them?) will host the Boston Pride for two games, also on Saturday and Sunday.

9.1* I spoke briefly with Beauts netminder Kassidy Sauvé and she is expecting to be ready to make her PHF debut this upcoming weekend against Boston after missing opening weekend with an injury.

10* If you listened to the last episode of PHFuture Considerations you’ll recall I mentioned that I had reached out to the PHF for some clarity on PTOs and the Boston Pride. If they didn’t change the rule for the Pride, they have burned eight of their ten allotted PTOs for the entire season - and Boston will likely need to bring in at least one player for their games in two weeks (Dec. 18 at Connecticut) with Kali Flanagan (USA), Élizabeth Giguère (Canada), and Aneta Tejralová (Czechia) expected to all be away from the team for National Team duty.

As of press time, the PHF has yet to respond.

Let me be clear - I could care less how many PTOs they use, but I’m curious if the league will change the rules for them or not. In the immortal words of Marvin from Pulp Fiction - man, I don’t even have an opinion. I mean, the Pride didn’t schedule their games on the same weekends as those Rivalry Series games, right? The PHF did. So I understand what Boston’s point of view would be.

It PHFeels Like the PHFirst Time

Welcome to the Federation! I know this is my former editor’s favorite part! Hopefully, everyone was able to get some kind of puck or plaque for their achievements, stick taps to you all - hopefully they are the first of many.

PHFirst goals: Catherine Daoust (MTL), Patti Marshall (MIN), Minttu Tuominen (MET), Kaity Howarth (MTL)

PHFirst points: Brigitte Laganiére (MTL), Brittyn Fleming (MIN), Laura Jardin (MTL)

Cobra Kai Award of the Week

Awarded to a team or player who shows no mercy

The Riveters never had a lead in either of their two games in Minnesota over the weekend, but it wasn’t for lack of trying on Minttu Tuominen’s part. The Finnish blueliner was letting shots rip from every possible conceivable angle, at least it seemed that way, and they were accurate as hell.

She scored two (or three) of her team’s four goals during the weekend - all on the power play - and she fired nine shots on goal, equaling her total from the previous five games combined. The four-time Olympian is beginning to look a lot more comfortable as she transitions to the PHF game, and the Rivs would be wise to encourage her to shoot more when they head to Toronto next weekend.

Notable Quotable

“I think we’re still just trying to figure some things out and we’re getting better with each game. I'm hoping that just getting that first win will give us some confidence going forward which will lead to more wins and better play, and help us get back to the level we were at last season. Getting balanced scoring, getting everyone involved - I think we have the potential to do that; and when we start getting everyone involved, we’re going to be a hard team to beat.” — Connecticut defender Allie Munroe on her team finding their way this season.

“I was close this summer…was really considering retiring and hanging them up and it was a tough call. But I’ve always said to myself I’ll stop playing when whichever of these comes first - I stop having fun or I stop being an impact player. I always have so much fun, I don’t think I’ll ever lose that. I love the sport, the speed of it, the creativity. After some reflection, I thought, you know what I can still be an impact player that makes a team better.” — Minnesota defender Amanda Boulier on why she returned for a fifth pro season.

My 3-Stars of the Week

* Amanda Leveille (MIN): 2 wins, 57 saves, 2.00 GAA, 93.4 save %

Lev was, well Lev this weekend. The Lev we have all come to know and love looks to be reclaiming her place among the game’s elite again. She was locked in all weekend and three of the four goals she surrendered were all long bombs that somehow made it through a maze of bodies before eluding her. The Whitecaps will go as far as Leveille can take them, and if the defense in front of her tightens up, they can be a contender this season.

** Kennedy Marchment (CTW): 3 points (2g-1a), GWG, 8 SoG, 1 blocked shot, 19-25 on face-offs

Marchment was back to her MVP ways this weekend in Montreal and despite being held off the scoresheet in Connecticut’s opening game of the season, she now has three points in three games. Both of her goals gave the Whale a third-period lead in each game and her shorthanded assist that set up Girard’s goal was brilliantly threaded. Memo to the rest of the PHF: she’s back.

*** Patti Marshall (MIN): 4 points (2g-2a), 2 PPG, GWG, 6 SoG, 1 blocked shot

Marshall’s two power-play goals on Saturday doubled Minnesota’s lead from 2-0 to 4-0 and really put the Riveters in a hole that they were unable to dig out of. The next day she added two assists, including another power-play point to help her team complete the sweep. The former Golden Gopher may not do this every weekend, but with two goals in her back pocket now maybe the confidence in her own shot grows a bit.

Did You Know?

Montreal is 3-0 in the first game of their three series this season, and 0-3 in the second game of each series. Their next chance to change that will come on Dec. 17-18 when they visit Minnesota for their final games prior to the holiday break.

Newcomers (to Connecticut) Emma Keenan (1g-1a), Tori Sullivan (1a), and Mallory Souliotis (1a) all recorded their first points with the Whale this past weekend.

Through a month of play Montreal’s Jade Downie-Landry leads the PHF in points (9), Toronto’s Brittany Howard leads the league in goals (7), Riveters defender Anna Kilponen leads the league in assists (6), and Boston’s Corinne Schroeder leads the league in wins (5).