PWHL PREVIEW: Boston Visits Minnesota in Their Penultimate Regular Season Game

It's do-or-die (and maybe die anyway) in the playoff race for Boston today, while Minnesota hopes to clinch a spot.

PWHL PREVIEW: Boston Visits Minnesota in Their Penultimate Regular Season Game
Jessica DiGirolamo and Claire Butorac hunt for the puck. Photo by Kelly Hagenson/PWHL.

PWHL Boston will try to do what they can to keep their playoff hopes alive this afternoon while facing a Minnesota team hoping to clinch a playoff berth.

The Basics: Saturday, April 27- Boston at Minnesota- 2 p.m. EDT, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN (NESN+, Bally Sports North/Detroit/San Diego/Southern California/Sun/Wisconsin, Sportsnet Pittsburgh Plus, PWHL Youtube Channel, Women’s Sports Network)

What to Expect

Darkangelo follows through on her shot on goal as Jaques tries to defend. Jaques is turning to skate forward while Darkangelo is mid-stride. Darkangelo is in white, while Jaques is in purple.
Shiann Darkangelo takes a shot on goal as Sophie Jaques defends. Photo by Kelly Hagenson/PWHL.

This is the fifth and final meeting between Boston and Minnesota this season. Boston is 1-1-0-2. They opened the season against each other on January 3, with Minnesota securing a 3-2 win despite a huge surge from Boston in the third period. Then, Boston earned their first home win on January 27 when Hilary Knight scored the OT winner to power her team over Minnesota, 4-3. Frankel stole the February 25 meeting, stopping all 41 shots en route to a 2-0 victory. Finally, in their most recent meeting on March 13, Boston played flat most of the game and earned a 4-0 loss.

Boston enters tonight fresh off a 2-1 shootout loss to Ottawa, which was a big blow to their playoff hopes. They are now just three points from being eliminated, and with Ottawa’s game starting a half hour earlier today, they could be eliminated before this game ends. It’s not a situation anyone wanted to be in, but it’s what Boston’s facing now. Today, it is do or die (but maybe die regardless), so look for Boston to come out flying.

As for Minnesota, they enter today after a rough 4-0 loss to Ottawa last Saturday. They haven’t been playing their best hockey since coming back from the international break, and they’ll want to turn that around today before they fall behind in terms of playoff seeding. They’re three points back of Montréal for second place with a game in hand and three points ahead of Ottawa. They can clinch a berth today with just one point. However, they want not just a berth, but one of the top two seeds so they have home-ice advantage and, if they’re lucky enough to get #1, get to select their playoff opponent. So, look for them to also come out flying this afternoon in hopes of snapping their skid and keeping pace in the playoff race. 

Rooney squeeze her knees together from the butterfly position to make a save. She is in her purple/black Minnesota pads and a purple home uniform.
Maddie Rooney makes a save during a March 16 meeting with New York. Photo by Kelly Hagenson/PWHL.

In goal for Minnesota, if their goalie rotation holds, look for Maddie Rooney to get the nod. They’ve been alternating games for the past six and were also pretty consistently rotating before that. However, given Minnesota needs a regulation win to ensure they’re keeping pace with the race of the pack, there is a chance they break the rotation and put in their number one, Nicole Hensley. However, both goaltenders have been outstanding this season, so I’ll stick with penciling in Rooney because I’m not sure it makes much of a difference. She is 4-1-2-2 on the season, with a 1.97 GAA (tied for third overall with Hensley) and 0.920 SV% (eighth overall).

As for Boston, look for Aerin Frankel to get another start. Sure, their playoff odds are horrible and they could be eliminated before today’s game ends, but based on Wednesday’s postgame comments, it sounds like Boston plans on fighting until the end. So, it would be a surprise if they turned away from Frankel today. She has been incredible this season, sporting a 1.94 GAA (second overall) and 0.930 SV% (third overall) despite her 5-2-6-7 record. She’s done everything she can to keep Boston in the playoff race, and she’ll surely hold up her end of the bargain again this afternoon.

Boston’s Key to the Game

Alina Müller drops her shoulder and raises her stick as she follows through on a pass to a teammate. She is wearing a white away jersey, and there are several Minnesota players near her.
Alina Müller follows through on a pass. Photo by Kelly Hagenson/PWHL.

Don’t overthink things. Boston has no one to blame but themselves, but they’re not in a fun situation today. Their destiny is completely out of their control, and they have to play knowing they may be eliminated from the playoffs before the final buzzer. However, while it’s easier said than done, they can’t think about that. They just need to control what they can by playing their game. They’ve shown flashes of being a great team, and today is as good a time as any to show that again. They could either keep their dim playoff hopes alive, or, if they’re eliminated by an Ottawa regulation win, start accruing draft order points towards the first pick. So, just go out there, play the right way, and gain points towards something.