PWHL FINALS RECAP: Boston's Season Ends in Disappointment, Minnesota Claims Walter Cup

Boston ran out of gas as Minnesota put on a nearly perfect performance to capture the first Walter Cup.

PWHL FINALS RECAP: Boston's Season Ends in Disappointment, Minnesota Claims Walter Cup
Sophia Kunin battles with Jess Healey behind the net. Photo by Kelly Hagenson/PWHL.

Boston’s season ended in disappointment last night, losing 3-0 while getting outshot 44-17 as Minnesota became the inaugural Walter Cup champions.

The first period unfolded at a breakneck pace. Both teams came ready to play physical, fast hockey. The temperature slowly rose as the period went on until it reached a boiling point when Taylor Wenczkowski and Maggie Flaherty got matching minors for roughing following a shoving match. Other than that, the teams traded chances, with Minnesota holding a slight 9-7 shot advantage, but Boston also had several grade-A chances that narrowly missed the net.

Minnesota came out flying to start the second period, while the wheels started falling off the Boston bus. A few minutes in, there was a lengthy review as the refs tried to determine if Kaleigh Fratkin’s hit on Liz Schepers warranted a major penalty. Finally, they determined there was no penalty on the play.

Minnesota continued to get more and better quality chances until finally, Schepers managed to tap one home from inside the crease to open the scoring just over six minutes in. 

Not long after, Wenczkowski went down hard following a knee-on-knee collision and then headed down the tunnel after being helped up by the trainer. Luckily for Boston, she returned to the bench during the next commercial break.

Minnesota kept pouring the shots on Aerin Frankel, but she stood on her head to keep Boston within one. Boston managed just seven shots in the period to Minnesota’s 16, and by the end of it, they were down 1-0 while being outshot 25-14.

The third period kicked off similarly to the second. Minnesota was flying again, forcing Frankel to make several big saves. Eventually, Minnesota had an outstanding offensive shift where they pinned Boston into the zone for an extended stretch, and Michela Cava finished off a wraparound to make it 2-0.

Barely 30 seconds later, Fratkin got called for tripping at 8:42, sending Minnesota to the game’s first power play. At that point, they were outshooting Boston 9-0 in the period.

Boston finally managed their first shot on goal 13:31 into the period, but the floodgates never opened. They pulled Frankel with under five minutes remaining but mustered just one shot on goal during that time. Meanwhile, Kendall Coyne Schofield, who was instrumental in the formation of the PWHL, poetically put a bow on the season with an empty net goal at 17:54. Minnesota became the inaugural Walter Cup champions after a nearly perfect performance.

Overall, outside of the first period, this was a flat performance from Boston. After playing seemingly only do-or-die games since returning from the Worlds break on April 18, they appeared to have finally run out of gas, and unfortunately for them, it came at the worst moment. Frankel was brilliant again, but you have to score to win, and only mustering 17 shots on goal is not a good way to do that.

Head coach Courtney Kessel echoed these sentiments in the postgame press conference.

“I thought we came out and actually had a good start,” said Kessel. “We had some opportunities to put the puck in the back of the net and we didn’t, and then to be honest I think we just ran out of steam.”

After the game, captain Hilary Knight took a moment to praise her goaltender for keeping them in games all year.

“That game in a second could’ve opened up a lot greater than a 3-0 deficit without Aerin tonight in between the pipes,” said Knight. “She stood on her head all year, she showed up every single day, and so we couldn’t be more grateful and proud of her performance throughout the year. Hopefully, we can help her a little bit more next year up front, relieve some of that pressure, but man, she’s the best goalie in the league, no doubt about it.”

She later reflected on what her team could take from this season despite the disappointing loss.

“Obviously, it’s tough when you lose, especially Game 5 at home in front of amazing fans,” said Knight. “We just came from the room and that’s kind of all we were doing, is reflecting on how proud of our group we are, how we continued to persevere regardless of any odds that were thrown in our direction, how we fought. This year was a historic year.”