Four Boston players got their first PWHL points Saturday afternoon as Boston got their first home win of the season, taking down Minnesota 4-3 in overtime.
Boston continued the trend of on-time starts that we saw begin in Ottawa on Wednesday. They dominated the first period, to the point where it took Minnesota nearly nine minutes to register a shot on goal.
Just 3:49 into the game, Kaleigh Fratkin ripped home her first of the season from the point to give Boston the 1-0 lead. Jamie Lee Rattray and Jessica DiGirolamo got the assists. The assist was DiGirolamo’s first PWHL point.
Just over a minute later, Taylor Girard joined the party, as she buried a Shiann Darkangelo pass to give Boston the 2-0 lead 5:05 into the game. Nicole Kosta also got an assist on the goal. Both assists marked the first PWHL points for each player.
Things didn’t get any better for Minnesota after. At 9:26 into the first Abby Boreen was called for hooking, sending Boston to the power play. Luckily for Minnesota, Boston was unable to convert.
After Boston continued to dominate for a few more minutes, Minnesota finally got their first grade-A chance of the night, and they did not waste the opportunity. At 16:07 of the first, Brittany Fleming was left alone in front of Söderberg, and she buried her first goal of the season to pull Minnesota back within one. Liz Schepers and Claire Butorac were credited with the assists. The assist marked Butorac’s first PWHL point.
But, Boston was not about to be without some insurance going into the intermission after the way they played. Not even two minutes later, Alina Müller got her second of the season off a Loren Gabel feed to restore Boston’s two-goal lead. Hilary Knight got the secondary assist on the goal, marking her first PWHL point.
The first period ended with Boston up two goals for the second game in a row. They led Minnesota 3-1, and shots were tied at just four a piece.
After the game, Boston head coach Courtney Kessel was asked about her team starting periods on time after she emphasized the need to following their loss against New York last weekend.
“A tremendous first period,” said Kessel. “We talked about coming out with energy and that’s exactly our hope. You can’t always hope you’ll get three goals in the first period, but it was great to see against a great team.”
Boston was ready to go to start the second period too. But then, just 2:10 in, they gave Minnesota their first power play of the game, as Fratkin was called for hooking. While Minnesota did not convert, it allowed them to take some of the momentum away from Boston, and Söderberg had to make a couple of great saves, including this one.
A few minutes later, Boston was given their second power play of the night, as Emma Greco got called for hooking. But, they were still unable to convert, as the power play remains a work in progress, as it is for many teams in this young season.
After killing the penalty, Minnesota picked up their play significantly. But Söderberg was up to the task until finally, a bad bounce landed right on Grace Zumwinkle’s stick, and she took the chance to pull Minnesota back within one with just 38.7 seconds left in the period. Lee Stecklein and Taylor Heise got the assists on the goal.
The second period ended with Boston leading 3-2 but getting outshot 13-11.
The third period started with even play. However, 3:04 in, Boston was caught with too many players on the ice, so they were sent back to the kill as Loren Gabel served the penalty. Minnesota got a few great looks on the power play, but Söderberg was up to the challenge, and the score remained 3-2 Boston.
Several minutes later, Boston had to kill another penalty, as Fratkin was sent to the box for interference. This time, they made Söderberg’s life a little easier and did not give up as many good looks to Minnesota.
With about two minutes remaining in the third period, Minnesota pulled Maddie Rooney for the extra attacker. With 53.9 seconds remaining in the period, a bounce off the end boards landed right on Kendal Coyne Schofield’s stick while she was largely alone in front of the net. You can probably guess what happened next. Lee Stecklein and Grace Zumwinkle picked up the assists on Schofield’s second goal of the season.
The third period ended with the score tied 3-3, and Minnesota outshooting Boston 19-14. For the first time this season, there would be overtime at the Tsongas Center.
Overtime did not last long. Hilary Knight picked the perfect time to score her first goal of the season, as her shot trickled through Rooney just 52 seconds into the extra period. Megan Keller and Müller got the assists, as Boston picked up the 4-3 overtime win despite being outshot 19-15.
After the game, Knight spoke to the media about how the last few games for her had been “uncomfortable” and what a relief it was to finally get that first goal.
“I think when what you’re known for is not going the right way for you, it’s unfamiliar,” said Knight. “So, there’s a lot of new things, we’re all learning how to be pros and to get the monkey off my back was super important. Obviously, my linemates were trying to set me up, but things just weren’t working for me, so it’s fortunate.”
Overall, this was Boston’s most complete game of the season. They built off what they started last game and got another two points in the standings. It wasn’t perfect, but games against teams as good as Minnesota rarely, if ever, will be. What’s important is being able to weather the storm even when you’re not dominating, and that’s exactly what Boston did tonight.
Courtney Kessel echoed those sentiments postgame.
“I truly thought that was probably our best team game that we’ve played thus far this year,” said Kessel. “Little lapses here and there, but I think overall Minnesota’s a great fast team and we knew they transitioned the puck well and so we had to transition faster and get pucks deeper and in the end we pulled it off.”