Minnesota Remains Undefeated in Regulation as Ottawa Loses in Overtime at Home… Again

Minnesota is the hottest team in the PWHL. They maintained their unbroken regulation record Wednesday night in Ottawa with a comeback win.

Minnesota Remains Undefeated in Regulation as Ottawa Loses in Overtime at Home… Again
Susanna Tapani and Denisa Křížová celebrate Minnesota's overtime win | Simon Hopkins

Ottawa put the pressure to Minnesota early in the game with shots and goals. Ottawa defender Savannah Harmon scored less than three minutes into the game for an early lead. She sniped a shot over the shoulder of Nicole Hensley and over 5,600 fans exploded out of their seats. They struck again minutes later when Lexie Adzija’s screen prevented Hensley from making a clean save on a point shot, giving up a big rebound. Adzija collected the garbage and slammed it into the Minnesota net.

Ottawa had a 2-0 lead and Minnesota were back on their heels. The shots were tied at seven after twenty minutes even though Ottawa was dominating offensive play.

“It was good hockey,” said Minnesota coach Ken Klee after the game to reporters about the first period. His Minnesota team came out with fire in their eyes in the second period.

Ottawa’s Emily Clark playing physically took a boarding penalty sending Minnesota to the advantage. Susanna Tapani converted on the powerplay shrinking the lead to one. Tapani was penalized minutes later for kneeing penalty that was called for tripping. But she didn’t stay in the box for long. Grace Zumwinkle set Tapani free with a short-handed goal on a strong individual effort. Zumwinkle skated hard while pushing the puck with one hand on her stick up the left side. She burned Ottawa defender Amanda Boulier and lifted the puck in on the short side as she crashed the net.

Five PWHL Minnesota players celebrate in front of the penalty box
PWHL Minnesota's penalty killers celebrate their shorthanded goal with Tapani freed from the box | Simon Hopkins

Ottawa coach Carla MacLeod told reporters after the game that she didn’t think the shorthanded goal was the result of an Ottawa breakdown. “That’s just a really nice goal,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s a massive breakdown or just a really good play by them.”

Klee said the team was excited to score the shorthanded goal. “It’s kind of like dodgeball – the switcheroo,” he said. “It’s a moment ion changer for the game,” he said, talking about the jailbreak to the media scrum.

Tapani said following the game at the press conference that she is a fan of the jailbreak rule. She said that their focus is killing the penalty, but there’s always part of you thinking about scoring a goal to end the penalty. As the player in the box, Tapani told reporters that she was hoping extra for a Minnesota goal to set her free.

Ottawa regained some momentum later in the second period with chances that built a lead in shots. Ottawa forward Daryl Watts had the best chance for Ottawa when she hit the post on a breakaway. Watts faked a stick move, and Hensley slid left while Watts went right. She had an empty net but hit the post as she slid the puck around the goaltender.

The third period was 20 minutes of missed and almost chances. The teams engaged in pushing and shoving after every whistle, and both sides had close calls that put the crowd on the edges of their seats. Akane Shiga had a few shots at the midway point that put some fans on their feet, and Zoe Boyd made a sliding save, which brought a large cheer from the crowd.

Minnesota’s offensive star Taylor Heise nearly had a few of her own as she almost scored with a shot that crossed through the crease of the Ottawa net.

The whole arena held its breath two minutes later when Gabbie Hughes nearly retook the lead while in alone on the Ottawa net. She had a second chance moments later when Hensley made a huge error, leaving her net and coughing up the puck. Hughes stretched to put the puck in the empty net, but a diving Hensley made the goal-line save.

Sixty minutes of hockey ended tied. Minnesota had pulled themselves even, and the game would be decided in sudden death overtime. Shockingly (and shamefully), some fans headed for the exits to beat the rush for parking.

The overtime period was nail-biting. Defensive plays at both ends of the ice kept chances at bay. A fast break towards the Ottawa end ultimately ended the game. Tapani took a shot that deflected off an Ottawa stick and behind Emerance Maschmeyer.

Gabbie Hughes, who nearly scored twice, spoke to reporters after the game. She said that the crowd has been fantastic and supportive through the two home overtime losses. “They cheer for us even when we lose, so I’m really excited [for when we win],” she said.

Editor's note: This piece has been updated to state Minnesota's undefeated record in regulation.