After months of buildup and intense planning, the inaugural PWHL season has finally arrived! The season’s first two games lived up to the hype on and off the ice, featuring phenomenal hockey and passionate fans soaking up every second. Now, it’s Boston’s turn, as they face off against Minnesota in their home opener later tonight at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, MA.
The Basics: Wednesday, January 3- Minnesota vs Boston, 7 p.m. EST, Tsongas Center, Lowell, MA (NESN, TSN, PWHL YouTube channel)
What to Expect: On paper, Boston is the stronger team. They have perhaps the best goaltending tandem and top-end talent in the league, and their depth looks solid (albeit maybe not as strong as, say, Montréal). Last week, TIG staff member Emma Sullivan previewed Minnesota’s season and mentioned Minnesota’s depth and defense as areas of concern. They also had several players leave Utica pre-season games early due to injuries, so the health of their roster is unclear.
However, no teams should be taken lightly this season. Like Boston, Minnesota’s goaltending is rock solid. The trio of Nicole Hensley, Amanda Leveille, and Maddie Rooney could challenge Boston for best in the league, and they have the potential to cover up a lot of deficiencies in the rest of their roster. Despite this, Minnesota found themselves in multiple large deficits early on during the Utica pre-season games thanks to a relatively inexperience defense outside of Lee Stecklein. They were able to come back from them, but that’s not a good strategy to rely on. Hensley will likely get the nod tonight, and Boston would do well to pour the offense on early while Minnesota’s defense is still settling into the game. Which leads me to…
Boston’s Key to the Game
Good offensive puck movement. Alongside Boston’s Aerin Frankel, Hensley has been the second half of an outstanding tandem for the US national team these past couple of years. When she’s on, she can steal games. So, Boston’s offense will have to show up in full force if they want to break her. Good, efficient puck movement will be the most important part of that, as not only will it get Hensley moving and tired, but it should expose Minnesota’s defensive inexperience. If Boston can do that, they have a good chance to walk out of the Tsongas Center tonight with their first win in franchise history.