After a couple of games on the road, PWHL Boston returns home this afternoon as they face off against New York. Here’s everything you need to know before the puck drops.
The Basics: Saturday, January 20, 2024- Boston vs New York, 12:30 p.m. EST, Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA (NESN, MSG, Sportsnet, PWHL Youtube Channel, SN+)
What to Expect:
Boston’s last game was not their best. Sure, they managed to win in regulation. But, they got significantly outplayed for a large portion of the game. However, thanks to Emma Söderberg and a 5-for-5 penalty kill, they could hang around long enough to wake up and win.
Some of Boston’s numerous offensive weapons finally showed their stuff against Toronto, with Alina Müller recording three assists and Loren Gabel putting up two goals and an assist. However, while captain Hilary Knight has played well, she remains in search of her first point, and the team could use some production out of her. Overall, Boston is a team still searching for their identity, and it’s far from time to panic, as they’ve still only played three games. But, they will need to play a lot better today than they did against Toronto if they walk out of Tsongas with their first home win.
Meanwhile, New York is coming off a loss to Montréal. They were down 2-0 at one point before mounting a comeback to tie the game at 2. However, Marie-Philip Poulin later did Marie-Philip Poulin things and scored the eventual game-winner to send New York home pointless. Montréal is an excellent team, and New York played admirably despite the loss. But, they remain on a rollercoaster of a season, that has them beat Toronto and hand Minnesota their first loss (albeit in overtime), but also lose to Toronto (which remains their lone win) and now twice to Montréal.
Overall, New York has been a mostly fun team to watch, but very inconsistent. Fun isn’t going to get them far in this league, and they know they need to start banking more points before it’s too late. They’re in a three-way tie for third place with Boston and Ottawa, but New York has played two more games. Sure, it’s still early in the season, but in a league this good, points are at a premium. So, expect a bit of desperation in their game today, because a loss to Boston would be particularly damaging.
Look for Corinne Schroeder to get the start for New York today. She has been outstanding in the net for New York, with a 2-0-1-0 record but an eye-popping 1.96 GAA and 0.942 SV%. She stole the game against Minnesota, recording a league-record 39 saves, and she is certainly capable of doing that again against Boston.
As for Boston, Aerin Frankel is expected to be back in the net. After a rocky first game versus Minnesota that saw her let up three nearly identical goals, Frankel had a much better game against Montréal. That’s not to say she necessarily played poorly against Minnesota, but she wasn’t her usual self and was exploitable. Her overall numbers are not great so far this year, 0-1-1-0 record to go along with a 2.46 GAA and 0.898 SV%. However, in her last game against Montréal, she sported a 1.93 GAA and 0.939 SV%. That’s the Frankel everyone expects to see, and for Boston’s sake, hopefully, it’s the Frankel they get this afternoon.
Boston’s Key to the Game: Offense.
That can mean a lot of things, and if recent history is any indication, Boston will need to perform in pretty much every definition of it to break Schroeder. This is a game Boston needs their vaunted offense to show up. We finally saw flashes of what we expected pre-season against Toronto, but they need a full 60-minute effort from all of their top guns to break Schroeder. Depth scoring is great, and if that shows up too then wonderful. But the big guns are that for a reason, and when facing a goalie as rock-solid as Schroeder has been, your top guns need to lead the way.
The volume of shots will not be as important as solid puck movement and high-danger scoring opportunities, as Schroeder has shown she can handle getting shelled. That said, Montréal, led by a hat trick from Poulin, found a way to put four past her on January 10 (they also added an empty net goal), and Boston managed to beat Montréal last Saturday. So, Schroeder is solvable, but it takes both talent and hard work. If Boston pours the offense on like we expect they’re able to, they will give themselves a good chance to walk out of this one with a win.