PWHL FINALS RECAP: Depth Propels Boston to Game 1 Win Over Minnesota

Boston now sits two wins away from raising the first Walter Cup.

PWHL FINALS RECAP: Depth Propels Boston to Game 1 Win Over Minnesota
Boston players celebrate a goal against Minnesota in the PWHL Finals. Photo by Michael Riley/PWHL Boston.

Boston kicked off the inaugural PWHL Finals on a high note last night, taking a surprisingly high-scoring Game 1 by a final of 4-3.

Ten seconds into the game, Megan Keller headed to the penalty box for interference. Minnesota landed two shots on goal, but Boston killed it off.

However, barely a minute after the kill ended, Taylor Heise made a slick behind-the-back feed to Michela Cava, who finished the chance with a wraparound to open the scoring from Minnesota.

Minnesota kept the pressure on for the next several minutes, but Boston weathered the storm. Finally, once they got a little zone time, Emily Brown landed their first shot on goal just over seven minutes in. Maddie Rooney let up a rebound, and Susanna Tapani shoveled home her third playoff goal to tie the game at one.


The teams then traded chances for the rest of the period, although Minnesota did a better job of getting quality ones and led 10-8 in shots. Meanwhile, Boston appeared more focused on physically wearing the less-rested Minnesota players down, leading 14-4 in hits. Overall, it was the closely matched start most expected.

The second period, on the other hand, did not go according to expectations. Most predicted this series would be a goaltending battle, yet a combined five goals were scored on 17 shots in the second. Taylor Heise kicked things off, sniping one top corner over Aerin Frankel’s glove just over eight minutes in.

However, like they did in the first, Boston tied it about four minutes later. Gigi Marvin outmuscled several Minnesota players before attempting to stuff it between Rooney and her post. She was unsuccessful, but it produced a big rebound that Taylor Wenczkowski grabbed and fired past Rooney for her second of the playoffs. 

“I think my favorite goal was Taylor Wenczkowski’s because that was with my stick,” said Hannah Brandt postgame. “So I’m getting an assist on that one, I don’t know if you guys noticed that…she dropped it [her stick] and Jack, our equipment management got one quick, but not quick enough, and I knew she was ready, so I threw mine out and I’m like this is going to be hilarious if she scores with this and she did. The next shift is I think when I scored so that’s a hot stick, I’m going to start the next game with that one.”

Wenczkowski’s goal kicked off a stretch of four goals in five minutes. Brandt got the next one, sneaking it through Rooney’s five-hole to give Boston their first lead of the night.

Heise then snuck one under Frankel’s blocker to tie the game again for Minnesota. There was some discussion by the referees after the goal for unannounced reasons, but luckily they settled it amongst themselves without needing a lengthy review.

A mere 15 seconds later, Jess Healey scored one of the luckier goals of the PWHL playoffs, with her seemingly harmless point shot tipping off a Minnesota stick and sailing over Rooney’s shoulder.

An eventful second period finally came to a close without much more excitement, with Boston holding a 4-3 lead despite getting outshot 20-15. 

After the game, Boston head coach Courtney Kessel was asked about her team’s offensive outburst in the second period.

“We’ve been saving it,” said Kessel. “I think it’s been a big focus since after Worlds, trying to put the puck in the net and score more than one or two goals, and we needed that tonight.”

Boston got into a little penalty trouble in the third period, taking a delay of game and tripping penalty. However, Minnesota’s power play struggled to get much through the Boston penalty killers.

Both teams also got some grade-A chances in the third, with Minnesota’s best ending in an exchange of pleasantries in front of Frankel and Boston’s best coming later when Brandt rang the crossbar with about 4:30 left.

Minnesota pulled Rooney with just over 90 seconds remaining, but they couldn’t sustain pressure long enough to crack Frankel again. So, Boston took Game 1 by a final of 4-3 despite getting outshot 33-22. 

Overall, this is not how most expected the series to start. It had all the makings of a goaltending battle, but both teams managed to find their offensive legs last night. After each only scoring seven goals in their previous series, they combined for that total tonight.

With goals from three different lines and a defender, Kessel was asked about what it was like seeing her team’s depth come through again in big moments.

“I think all year we’ve had contributions from every single line and it doesn’t matter where you sit in the d-core,” said Kessel. “I said that when I walked into the room too, but that’s what a championship team does, it doesn’t matter who’s out there on the ice. You see that in the Stanley Cup over and over, it’s not one line that’s going to win you the Cup, it’s a team effort.”

The PWHL Finals continue Tuesday at 7 p.m. EDT at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, MA.