PWHL RECAP: Minnesota Advances to Walter Cup Finals After Completing Reverse Sweep of Toronto

Power play goals were the difference maker in Minnesota's 4-1 win over Toronto.

PWHL RECAP: Minnesota Advances to Walter Cup Finals After Completing Reverse Sweep of Toronto
Photo courtesy of PWHL

Toronto hosted Minnesota for Game 5 of the series in a winner-take-all showdown on Friday night. After battling for four games, it was Minnesota who came out victorious with a 4-1 win to advance to the Walter Cup Finals where they will face Boston.

With 8,501 people in the stands at Coca-Cola Coliseum, Toronto fans were hoping to close out the series that started with back-to-back shutout wins over a struggling Minnesota team. After an injury sidelined the league's top scorer, Natalie Spooner, in game three, the momentum shifted and Toronto knew they may face some turbulence.

In Game 5, Minnesota's Denisa Křížová got on the game sheet first with a tripping penalty at 5:14 however they were able to kill off that penalty and did not take another for the remainder of the game. Things got chippy pretty quickly, as one would expect from an elimination game where both teams have met four times in the past week.

After a scoreless first period where Toronto outshot Minnesota 13-7, the next key play came at 6:42 when Sarah Nurse took a tripping penalty that led to the game's first goal by Křížová at 7:29. Kelly Pannek and Sophie Jaques claimed both assists on that goal. This was the first power play goal of the series and the first power play goal for Minnesota since April 18, ending a 0-for-25 drought.

Toronto answered back quickly with a goal at 8:07 by Rebecca Leslie, who had just two goals in the regular season. Victoria Bach and Kali Flanagan had the assists in that even-strength goal.

While the game remained tied into the third period, the momentum clearly shifted to Minnesota who began outshooting Toronto and held possession in a lot longer. It was clear who was controlling the pace of play and despite being the away team, it was Minnesota. At 11:41 of the second frame, Jocelyne Larocque took a tripping penalty but Toronto was able to kill off the penalty before getting a few final shots on goal in the period.

At 6:58 in the third period, it was Larocque again sitting for hooking. This gave Minnesota their third power play of the game and it was Taylor Heise who capitalized with her first goal of the playoffs, giving Minnesota a 2-1 lead at 8:30, with the help of Lee Stecklein and Kendall Coyne-Schofield. This marked the first time ever that Minnesota has scored two power play goals in a game.

Minnesota continued to dominate possession through the third period, pouring on shots on net. Toronto tried to hold on and force turnovers but came up short, with just four shots on goal in the entire third frame.

At 18:17, Toronto pulled Kristen Campbell from goal in favor of the extra skater but it did not work as Sophia Kunin scored on the empty net at 18:48. Campbell returned to the crease for about ten seconds before retreating to the bench again, when Heise would score another empty net goal to cement the 4-1 win for Minnesota at 19:45.

Heise spoke to media after the game about her two-goal game and moving on to the Walter Cup Finals, “It's cool and all but, at the end of the day, it's fun to win as a team. Getting in the locker room and having our win song – coach [Klee] got a little emotional, I can't lie - I think it's fun to see that we had the belief in ourselves and I don't think anyone else did, especially considering the way we ended [our season] and then getting the reverse sweep. I'm just really proud of our group and I'm excited to go to Boston.”

The first ever Walter Cup Finals will begin on Sunday, March 19 at 5:00 p.m. EST, where Boston will host Minnesota in that best-of-five series for the championship.