In Focus After Six: Ottawa

The Ice Garden’s Simon Hopkins analyzes PWHL Ottawa’s opening six games.

In Focus After Six: Ottawa
PWHL Ottawa is in the middle of league standings through six games. | Photo by Simon Hopkins

Record (W-OTW-L-OTL): 2-0-1-3


· Tuesday, Jan. 2, vs Montréal – 3-2 OTL

· Saturday, Jan. 13, @ Toronto – 5-1 W

· Wednesday, Jan. 17, vs Minnesota – 3-2 OTL (recap)

· Tuesday, Jan. 23, vs Toronto – 3-1 W

· Wednesday, Jan. 24, vs Boston – 3-2 L (recap)

· Saturday, Jan. 27 @ Montréal – 2-1 OTL


Here’s what I’ve seen around the team and some of my thoughts and opinions.

Goaltending Worries

Goalies Maschmeyer and Abstreiter talk to each other at the bench during a game.
Sandra Abstreiter backed up Emerance Maschmeyer in the first four games. | Photo by Simon Hopkins

Emerance Maschmeyer has been good in the Ottawa net. She has performed as advertised, proving why Ottawa locked her down in the free agency period. Ottawa signed two goalies after Maschmeyer to back her up: Sandra Abstreiter and Rachel McQuigge. Abstreiter sat on the bench behind Maschmeyer for the season's first four games. On Wednesday, Abstreiter started against Boston for the second game in a back-to-back set. She allowed two goals and was injured all within 20 minutes.

Late in the first period, she stretched her right leg to try and make a save and jammed her foot to the post. She stood up while the Boston players celebrated the goal but went back down, and a trainer was brought to the crease. Abstreiter tried moving and stretching her leg, all while shaking her head. Maschmeyer came into the game and was solid for the remaining 40 minutes. Rachel McQuigge left the players’ box and suited up. She sat on the bench for the rest of the game.

The status of Abstreiter is unknown, but she wasn’t on the ice for practice on Friday.

Following Wednesday’s loss to Boston, coach Carla MacLeod told reporters she was proud of Abstreiter. “It was so unfortunate; she had such a great start,” MacLeod said. She said Maschmeyer did a great job stepping in, and the team was confident in all their goalies. “We’re really lucky we’ve got three goalies in our group that are tremendous,” MacLeod said. “We’re really comfortable with all of them.”

McQuigge is a good goalie with professional experience. She’ll be able to back up Maschmeyer, but the team could be one more injury away from a precarious situation. This worry was almost actualized Saturday afternoon when Maschmeyer took a hard hit and went down. She was ok but I'm sure everyone in Ottawa was holding their breath. Maschmeyer immediately saved a penalty shot... she's pretty good.

Ottawa doesn’t have any more back-to-back games this season. They have at least two days of rest between almost every pair of games for the remainder of the season. Maschmeyer’s health will be even more of a priority for the remaining months.

Who Can Score?

I don't think the team is performing yet at the level they’d like to be. They’re playing well but haven't won as much as they could.

The team and its management feel they've been competitive. If bounces had gone a better way, they might have had different results, general manager Mike Hirshfeld told the Ice Garden Tuesday.

I believe Ottawa doesn’t have a bona fide goal scorer and finisher. In my opinion, there are three key types of goals: lucky goals, garbage goals, and goal scorer’s goals. Successful teams can score all three. Lucky goals are the pucks that bounce off a foot and in from a long shot on net, garbage goals are the loose pucks that get banged in, and goal scorers’ goals are the snipes and dangles skill players put in the net.

Ottawa has the first two. Their defenders and forwards have been good at putting pucks on net, and Ottawa is strong in front of the net. But I haven’t seen a true clutch finisher score for Ottawa yet.

Mikyla Grant-Mentis’ non-goal in the first game was the best example. Her solo effort resulted in an electric goal that was later disallowed. I think she and a player like Daryl Watts could and should be this kind of elite goal scorer, but they haven’t grown into that role yet. I think a veteran goal scorer would make an excellent mentor to help Ottawa’s goal scorers bloom.

Grant-Mentis throws her hands in the air in a game against Montréal
Mikyla Grant-Mentis celebrates a goal that was later overturned. | Photo by Simon Hopkins

The puck has been going in for Ottawa, but not at the right time to come up with wins. All three of Ottawa's losses have been one-goal games. Their only wins have been multiple-goal wins against Toronto. Ottawa needs to find players to put more pucks in the net.

Too often, Ottawa is the better team but just can't score. In Saturday's 2-1 loss against Montréal, Ottawa dominated, outshooting the Quebec team 44-23. Ottawa needs finishers.

Data visualization by Giants in the Crease

Lexie Can Score!

Lexie Adzija has been Ottawa’s breakout player of the year. The rookie out of Quinnipiac has five points in five games. She’s scored in her last three games. Her first was a power-play goal against Minnesota, followed by an empty netter against Toronto and the game-tying goal against Boston. Adzija is a fabulous net-front presence and one of the best at the so-called “garbage goals.” She is bigger, stronger, and meaner than you (only on the ice). Adzija will get to the loose puck and jam it into the net.

Adzija kicks her leg in celebration.
Adzija celebrates her goal against Boston. | Photo by Simon Hopkins

Her play and personality have earned her praise from the team. She is quickly becoming the fan favourite with her big goals, happy personality, and fabulous game-day outfits. MacLeod praised Adzija to reporters after Wednesday’s game. “Lex [Adzija] is not only a great human; she’s a big body, she’s fierce, and she's a heck of a player,” MacLeod said. The Ottawa coach said she was talented in tight around the net. “She plays the game the right way, and she’s being rewarded for it,” she said.

Adzija could be this franchise’s most impactful player. Her presence in the community and notoriety around the rink will make her the face of the franchise.

Early hot take: I think Adzija will be the next captain of PWHL Ottawa.

Next Four Games

· Sunday, Feb. 4 vs New York – 1 p.m. (ET), TD Place

· Wednesday, Feb. 14 @ Minnesota – 8 p.m. (ET), Xcel Energy Center

· Saturday, Feb. 17 vs Minnesota – 2 p.m. (ET), TD Place

· Monday, Feb. 19 @ Boston – 4:30 p.m. (ET), Tsongas Center