RECAP: Ottawa's Woes Continue, Lose 2-1 to Minnesota

PWHL Ottawa can't snap the skid as they fall to Minnesota.

RECAP: Ottawa's Woes Continue, Lose 2-1 to Minnesota
PHOTO: Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography/PWHL

PWHL Ottawa looked sharper on Saturday but ultimately could not put the puck away enough times to snap their skid, dropping another 2-1 game in regulation against Minnesota.

This will be Ottawa’s fifth-straight loss, and second straight loss coming out of the international break. They narrowly outshot Minnesota 29 to 24, but only took five shots in the final frame. Ottawa goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer was sharp and made some excellent–and at times, flashy–saves, but until Ottawa finds their scoring touch, it likely won’t be enough.

Taylor Heise was still out for Minnesota, who dressed former Buffalo Beauts captain and defender Dominique Kremer as their fourth line right wing. Claire Butorac took the first line right wing spot, as Abby Boreen’s ten-day SPA has now expired. Nicole Hensley was between the pipes for what would become her fifth win of the season. 

Ottawa had some notable lineup changes as head coach Carla McLeod seeks the chemistry that will solve their scoring struggles. Hayley Scamurra remained on the top line but was joined by Emily Clark and Gabbie Hughes. Brianne Jenner rounded out a second line that included Daryl Watts and the newly-promoted Katerina Mrázová. Natalie Snodgrass centered a third line between Lexie Adzija and Akane Shiga, while the fourth line and defense pairs remained the same as the prior game. 

Ottawa came out strong to begin the game, generating a flurry of chances, but Minnesota was up to the task. Ottawa’s momentum was briefly stalled by a boarding penalty on Mrázová, but the new-look Ottawa penalty kill was sharp, blocking shots and pressuring Minnesota physically. The Mrázová penalty was for a hit on Kendall Coyne-Schofield that saw her linger on the ice for some time before she was able to skate off on her own. Minnesota’s power play was unable to convert, which is part of a pattern, as they have only scored one power play goal all season. Unfortunately, after a pretty strong period, Ashton Bell and Savannah Harmon collided, resulting in a breakaway for Sophia Kunin. She converted that chance by going five-hole on Maschmeyer, who didn’t have much time to react due to Kunin’s speed and the confusion on the play.

In the second period, Minnesota struggled to generate offense, and Ottawa took advantage. Early on in the period, Maggie Flaherty took an interference penalty, placing Ottawa on the woman advantage. They were unable to convert, but about midway through the period Emily Clark took several shots back-to-back and finally was able to finish a gorgeous passing play between Gabbie Hughes and Amanda Boulier to tie the game. This was Amanda Boulier’s fifth point of the season, tying her for second on the team with Clark and Harmon.

Ottawa continued to pile on the shots as the second period wound down, but Grace Zumwinkle did Grace Zumwinkle things at the end of the period and put Minnesota ahead by jumping on the puck during another chaotic play in Ottawa’s own zone. This was Zumwinkle’s seventh goal of the second, putting her in sole possession of second place (as of Saturday, February 17th) behind Toronto’s Natalie Spooner, who has scored 10 goals. Zumwinkle is now third in overall scoring with nine points, behind Spooner with 11 and New York’s Alex Carpenter, with 12.

In the third period, Minnesota executed their defensive game well. Ottawa only took shots from the right side of the ice, as you can see below (the blue pins). Especially against a goaltender like Hensley, shots from the top of the circle or even closer to the blue line are not going to qualify as high-danger chances. As you can see, although Minnesota only took a few more shots than Ottawa in the final period (eight rather than five), they were shooting fro closer to the net and both sides of the crease. 

A screenshot of the shot location data on the PWHL website from the third period

This was another close game that Ottawa clearly feels they should have won. Every single one of their seven losses has been a loss by one single goal, and they’re well aware that this means they simply need to be putting the puck away if they want to close out these games.

“We have to produce more,” McLeod said after the game. “We know that.”

Emily Clark added that although they feel they’re doing many things right, they know they need to make improvements. “I think probably burying some of those rebound chances,” she said post-game, “getting more people and pucks to the net front.”

Minnesota coach Ken Klee was pleased with his team’s performance, and had every right to be after their second-straight win. He applauded his team for a “full team effort” when he spoke after the game, and specifically called out Butorac’s effort in her top-line debut and Kremer stepping in capably as a winger on the fourth line.

Ottawa will look to snap their losing streak against Boston on Monday. Boston will also be coming off of a tough loss, after dropping a 2-1 game to New York in overtime later Saturday afternoon. Minnesota will play Montréal Sunday February 18th with a very quick turnaround and will have to stay sharp against a team who is likely to come out firing after a shutout loss against Toronto on Friday night.