Let’s catch up on the standings in the PWHPA now that we are into the New Year and have more hockey to look forward to on the horizon.
Team Harvey’s has dominated the 2022-23 PWHPA season so far. After losing their opening game to Adidas, the team has won eight straight. They are a production machine averaging 3.9 goals per game to 2.2 goals against; they lead the PWHPA in both statistical categories.
Harvey’s players lead the PWHPA in goals and assists, and the team has the best penalty kill.
“We play for each other,” and “we have a great coaching staff,” said Marie-Philip Poulin in an interview during the Ottawa All-Star weekend. The Canadian star has been the standout PWHPA player this year, with eight goals and six assists in nine games.
“You’ve just got to get open for her, and she’ll find you,” said defender Lauriane Rougeau relishing about playing on with Poulin. “She’s always looking for that pass, and she’ll always put it on the tape,” she said.
Both Poulin and Rougeau noted playing full 60-minute games heading into 2023. If Team Harvey’s hasn’t been playing a full game thus far, and they have another gear to kick things into, the other teams should be worried.
Only back five points, Team Adidas is nipping at the heels of Harvey’s. The team needed a long stretch of runway to get airborne, but the team looked hot at the end of 2022. “We’ve been chasing games a lot,” said Sarah Nurse after the Ottawa weekend. She and her team were satisfied after prevailing in two games and sweeping the weekend. Nurse said that with time, the team was meshing and improving. She noted a growing connection with American Star Kendall Coyne-Schofield.
Another Adidas player making leaps of improvement is rookie goaltender Aerin Frankel. Frankel is a touted star who graduated from NCAA hockey as a generational talent. She started her PWHPA career with a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Scotiabank but has won both of her games since, improving to a .933 save percentage. She had her first pro shutout in Ottawa over Sonnet.
Frankel said the amount of travel was a challenge she had to overcome at the pro level. “I’m still getting used to the pace,” she said, “but the more games I play, the more comfortable I’ll feel.”
If Frankel continues her trajectory toward star status, she could help launch Adidas to the top of the PWHPA standings.
Scotiabank has lost five of their last six games, weighing them down in their fight for position in the PWHPA. Two of their wins have been tight matchups with Sonnet, who have struggled in most of their games.
Scotiabank has relied largely on Blayre Turnbull and Rebecca Johnston for scoring, and Scotiabank’s goaltending has not been at the level of the other teams. Emerance Maschmeyer and Kristen Campbell have each seen action in five games for Scotiabank and have .908 and .904 save percentages, respectively. These are the worst save percentages of any goalie having played in more than two games this year in the PWHPA. The performance is uncharacteristic of the Canadian Olympians and needs substantial improvement.
The team has struggled at both ends of the ice, but offensive special teams have seen some success. The Scotiabank powerplay leads the PWHPA at 19 percent.
Substantial improvements are needed in the defensive aspects of Scotiabank’s game, and big names like Victoria Bach need to step up big.
Sonnet really struggled in the first half of the 2022-23 season. They won their opening game and beat Adidas 4-1 early in November, but the team has floundered in their other games. They are the bottom PWHPA team in offensive categories with just 20 goals in nine games and a jaw-dropping powerplay conversion rate of 5 percent.
“Ultimately, we’re just that little bit off,” said forward Brianne Jenner following a second loss in the Ottawa showcase weekend. Some of Sonnet’s games have been close, but they’ve been unable to push it over the finish line.
The team still is holding out hope that with improvements, they can still make a push in 2023. “We’re confident we can be there at the end of the year when it matters,” said Jenner.
“We have a really fun room,” said Hilary Knight, looking for positives. “I don’t think you’ve seen the best of our team yet,” she said.
Knight was critical of her own performance of the team’s stars. “I think our top players, we need to perform,” she said, implying the team relied on them in the big moments. They are a long way off, but they cannot be counted out with lots of games to go and big stars in the lineup.