PREVIEW: Boston Returns to Action Versus Toronto

After 10 days off due to the international break, Boston returns to action tonight against Toronto.

PREVIEW: Boston Returns to Action Versus Toronto
Hilary Knight and Jocelyne Larocque battle for positioning. Photo by Heather Pollock.

After 10 days off due to the international break, Boston returns to action tonight as they face off against Toronto. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Basics: Wednesday, February 14, 2024- Boston vs Toronto- 7 p.m. EST, Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA (NESN, TSN, PWHL Youtube Channel)

What to Expect:

Loren Gabel, wearing a white away uniform, celebrates her goal against Toronto in front of Kristen Campbell, wearing her blue home pads and uniform.
Loren Gabel celebrates her goal against Toronto. Photo by Heather Pollock.

This is the second time these two teams have faced each other this season, but it’s been nearly a month. Last time out, Boston won 3-2 despite getting outplayed for large stretches of the game, thanks to an excellent showing from Emma Söderberg and the penalty kill.

Boston’s team will look a little different tonight after they completed the first trade in PWHL history on Sunday. Defender Sophie Jaques is gone to Minnesota, and newly acquired forward Susanna Tapani and defender Abby Cook practiced with the team yesterday and could draw in.

After finally showing us what their offense is capable of for a few games, Boston found themselves held to just one goal against Montréal last game. They will look to get back on track tonight– hopefully with the help of Tapani, who provided good depth scoring for Minnesota– as they face the team that has let up the most goals in the league. Boston’s goaltending and defense have done their part so far, with only one game decided by more than one goal. If their offense can just figure it out consistently, they will be scary.

Meanwhile, Toronto is coming into the game on a hot streak after a rough start to the season. They’ve won two straight and three of their past four, and two of those wins have come against the league’s top teams in Minnesota and Montréal. This is the first win streak of the season for Toronto, and they will be hungry to continue it as they keep trying to dig themselves out of their early hole. There are still a lot of questions with them, namely their offense, but Kristen Campbell appears to be getting back on track after a rocky start, so there’s hope.

Emma Söderberg, wearing her UMD mask, white away uniform, and green Boston pads, makes a save against Toronto.
Emma Söderberg makes a save against Toronto. Photo by Alex D'Addesse/PWHL.

As for goaltending, expect to see Kristen Campbell for Toronto. She’s started all but one of their games so far, and given the long break, there is no reason to expect they’ll go with Erica Howe, who has been backing Campbell up. Campbell is currently 3-1-0-4 with a 2.58 GAA (ninth in the league) and 0.899 SV% (eighth in the league).

Meanwhile, Boston’s a bit harder to predict. Aerin Frankel and Söderberg have been rotating the past several games, and if that holds, it will be Söderberg’s turn today. It’s been three weeks since Söderberg last played thanks to the All-Star and international breaks, while Frankel played during both breaks and in Boston’s last game. So, theoretically, she should get the start. Statistically, she has a 1-1-0-1 record, but the worst numbers in the league so far, with a 3.36 GAA and 0.879 SV%. However, she’s also facing the lowest shots per game and had the misfortune of starting Boston’s sole multi-goal loss of the season, which was messy all around. So, her numbers do not tell the whole story, and the eye test says she is playing well and making big saves when needed.

However, it is notable that Frankel’s only back-to-back starts of the season came after Boston had a 10-day break when a game was postponed due to weather. So, even though she played during this break unlike the weather one, there is a chance Boston decides to go back to her today to make sure she stays sharp. Frankel currently has a 1-1-1-1 record to go with a 1.91 GAA (second in the league) and 0.927 SV% (fifth in the league).

Boston’s Key to the Game:

Natalie Spooner, wearing a blue home uniform, throws her arms up in celebration of her goal against Minnesota.
Natalie Spooner celebrates a goal against Minnesota. Photo courtesy of the PWHL.

Shut down Natalie Spooner. Toronto has been HEAVILY reliant on Natalie Spooner for offense this season, as her seven goals both lead the league and account for a whopping 41% of Toronto’s total goals. The only other player with more than one is Hannah Miller, who has two. Boston getting their offense going will also be extremely important, but if they can just find a way to shut Spooner down, they’ll give themselves a decent chance in this one.