PWHL FINALS RECAP: Boston on Brink of Elimination After Game 3 Loss to Minnesota

Boston must fight to keep their season alive on Sunday after losing 4-1 in Game 3.

PWHL FINALS RECAP: Boston on Brink of Elimination After Game 3 Loss to Minnesota
The scene moments before Michela Cava scored in the third period. Photo courtesy of the PWHL.

Boston couldn’t contain Minnesota’s top line last night, dropping Game 3 by a final of 4-1 and falling to the brink of elimination for the first time.

Things were rocky from the start for Boston. Just 59 seconds into the game, Taylor Heise stayed red-hot by firing a beautiful shot past Aerin Frankel to give her team the early lead.

Several minutes later, Boston got the game's first power play, but they remained ice-cold with the advantage. Instead of getting a good scoring chance, they allowed one after Denisa Křížová got sprung on a breakaway. However, Frankel made a huge poke-check save to keep the deficit at one.

In the final minutes, Brittyn Fleming made a strong play to take the puck around the net and throw it out front. Sydney Brodt was waiting, and she stuffed her first PWHL goal past Frankel and doubled her team’s lead.

Through 20 minutes, Boston trailed 2-0 while getting outshot 9-7. They got some good looks but struggled to get bodies out in front of Nicole Hensley. Meanwhile, Minnesota continued to capitalize on Boston’s defensive breakdowns.

After the game, Boston head coach Courtney Kessel spoke about her team’s struggles to generate offense in this series.

“I think Minnesota’s done a great job of setting up a trap after they score,” said Kessel. “They’ve done it in all three games. We gotta find a way to beat it, to get pucks in with possession and not chase the game.”

The second period was largely uneventful. Minnesota controlled most of the play and held Boston without a shot until 11:56 while they fired six on Frankel. Boston picked it up a little more over the back half of the period, but they still only managed five shots, two of which came in the final minute.

In the dying seconds, Susanna Tapani made a ridiculous behind-the-back pass to Alina Müller, who wired it past Nicole Hensley to bring her team back within one with 1.4 seconds remaining. The teams then returned to their rooms, with Boston still trailing 2-1 while getting outshot 20-12.

Not long into the third, Michela Cava made Emily Brown and Tapani look silly, deking around them before shoveling a backhander over Frankel to restore Minnesota's two-goal lead.

Both teams took a penalty in the third, with Boston’s Kaleigh Fratkin heading to the box first for body-checking Liz Schepers. Boston then got a nearly must-score power play at 15:37 when Claire Butorac hauled down Megan Keller. Kessel also aggressively pulled Frankel to give her team a 6-on-4.

However, instead of scoring, Boston gave up a goal. Just 33 seconds later, Grace Zumwinkle outraced Hilary Knight and Megan Keller to pot the empty-net jailbreak goal and seal the win for her team. The final shots were 25-19 Minnesota.

As the score suggests, this was not Boston's strongest game. They continued to struggle in containimg Minnesota’s top line - which accounted for two goals tonight - while also being unable to generate consistent offense. That’s not typically a winning strategy.

While they now sit on the brink of elimination, all is not lost for PWHL Boston. It’s only a one-game deficit and despite never trailing a playoff series until now, they are no stranger to fighting for their lives. That said, they must find a way to generate more offense and come out flying in Game 4. If they let Minnesota score first again, regaining momentum will be difficult, especially as the road team. 

After the game, Kessel answered a question about the emotions of trying to stay alive for one more game with a simple “two more games,” which Keller soon expanded upon.

“I think, all year long, it’s been a journey for this team,” said Keller. “We’re used to having to fight for everything, for every inch, and playoffs, this Finals, it’s a series. So, we have to find a way to turn the page here, learn from this game, and we’ve got two more games coming up.”

Kessel later shared more about why she believes her team can rally and force a Game 5.

“I feel like our backs have been up against the wall for quite some time,” said Kessel. “We were down five points heading into that Worlds break, and I think the run we went on to get us where we’re at it is…an accomplishment for sure. So, I think we know what it’s like to fight back and we’re going to continue to fight.”

The PWHL Finals continue Sunday at 6 p.m. EDT at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.