PWHL RECAP: Boston Clinches Playoff Spot With Thrilling Win Over Montréal

Boston capped off the regular-season on a high note, clinching a playoff spot by downing Montréal, 4-3.

PWHL RECAP: Boston Clinches Playoff Spot With Thrilling Win Over Montréal
Boston players celebrate Kaleigh Fratkin's goal with her. Photo by Meghan Murphy/PWHL Boston.

Boston clinched a playoff berth with a massive win yesterday, downing Montréal 4-3 in front of a raucous sellout 5,964 crowd.

Heading into the matchup, Boston needed a regulation win combined with a Minnesota loss to clinch a playoff spot. Otherwise, they would have had to wait for tonight’s Ottawa-Toronto game and hoped Ottawa earned fewer points than them. So, the urgency for a regulation win was high. 

Boston didn’t start the game horribly, but it wasn’t their best either. Montréal got more early chances, and Boston didn’t help themselves when they took a too many players on the ice penalty over six minutes in. They killed it off, but Montréal still had more momentum.

Things got scary for Boston when Jamie Lee Rattray got rocked with a high hit by Sarah Lefort just over 14:30 in. She stayed down for a minute before getting up on her own, and then she stayed on the bench for the rest of the period, but she was not seen again. Boston head coach Courtney Kessel had no update after the game.

Instead of getting down after losing Rattray, Boston roared to life. Just 19 seconds later, Kelly Babstock, who moved to the Hannah Brandt-Hilary Knight line in Rattray’s absence, took the puck down the ice. She fed Knight out front, who snuck it past Desbiens to give her team a 1-0 lead. The primary assist marked Babstock’s first PWHL point, while Brandt notched the secondary assist.

Just a few minutes later, Susanna Tapani won a face-off and began what appeared to be a set play. She got it over to Theresa Schafzahl, who found a streaking Alina Müller, who roofed it over Desbiens to extend the Boston lead. 

Soon after, Boston headed to the locker room leading 2-0 while outshooting Montréal 12-11.

Not long into the second, a scrum broke out that ended with Emily Brown and Mélodie Daoust getting matching roughing minors. Aside from that, it was a relatively quiet start to the period.

However, Boston soon decided to change that. Megan Keller snuck a Knight feed just inside the post and past Desbiens to extend the lead to three at 6:23. Brandt notched another assist on the goal.

The rough stuff continued not quite a minute later, as Marie-Philip Poulin whacked Taylor Wenczkowski and headed off for cross-checking. Boston landed two shots on the power play, but couldn't bury another.

The rest of the period was relatively uneventful, with Boston controlling most of the play. They got another grade-A opportunity just over 17 minutes in, but Gigi Marvin couldn’t get enough on the rebound and Desbiens came up with a massive save. Boston returned to the locker room leading 3-0 and holding a 26-19 shot advantage. 

The third period was nearly disastrous for Boston. They headed to the PK at 3:23 as Babstock got called for roughing. Just 20 seconds later, Miklya Grant-Mentis potted her first PWHL goal to get Montréal on the board.

“It has been [a rollercoaster season],” said Grant-Mentis. “It felt really good. I mean, just Montréal taking me in from whenever they took me in, I don’t even know, but I’ve been so grateful and to get a goal in the last goal of the season was great and hopefully it just continues on into playoffs.”

Several minutes later, Kaleigh Fratkin rocked Laura Stacey in the corner and earned two for roughing. Montréal capitalized on the opportunity with a goal originally credited to Mariah Keopple, but was later changed to Grant-Mentis.

Montréal then continued to push hard, but Boston weathered the storm while managing some shots of their own. However, after an aggressive goalie pull by Montréal with 3:32 remaining, who else but Poulin tied the game, and the previously-rocking Tsongas Center fell quiet.

However, that was not the end of the fun. With just 1:20 remaining, a Fratkin shot hit a Montréal stick and redirected just enough to fool Desbiens and restore the Boston lead.

Montréal pulled Desbiens again, but this time, Boston hung on to clinch a playoff spot with a thrilling 4-3 win. The final shots were 35-31 Boston.

After the game, Kessel shared her still-forming thoughts on the game with the media.

“That was absolutely insane. I honestly don't know what my thoughts are yet because there's so many. I think heading into the third, we were hoping to close it out. Then you take two penalties, and you know Montreal's powerplay is hot right now and they're right back in the game. It was exciting to the fans. That's what they come here for and, at the end of the day, we won, we clinched and we're excited.”

An equally giddy Keller and Knight also shared their excitement and spoke about how proud they were of the group for sticking together.

“I felt like our team came out right away and we were ready to play,” said Keller. “Obviously, it was a rollercoaster. We're up three, we're down three, but the way that our group stuck together is the type of team that we are. When we came back from break, that was the sentiment there. I'm just really proud of this group and excited for the playoffs.”

“With the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows of the season, we couldn't be prouder of the group for how we've continued to respond, elevate and evolve,” said Knight. “This is a different team since the break and it's wonderful to be a part of. All that hard work that we've put in the bank and we're going to continue to go with it.”