RECAP: PWHL Boston Loses a Stinger to PWHL Toronto, 2-1

Third period penalties cost PWHL Boston in loss to Toronto.

RECAP: PWHL Boston Loses a Stinger to PWHL Toronto, 2-1
Sophia Shirley watches the puck while in front of Toronto's net. Photo courtesy of the PWHL.

Penalties cost Boston dearly last night, as they dropped a stinger to Toronto, 2-1, and fell to fifth place in the standings. Meanwhile, Toronto took sole possession of first place as the win streak hit 11, while goaltender Erica Howe notched her first PWHL win.

There were a few lineup changes for Boston tonight. Lexie Adzija debuted for Boston after being acquired at the trade deadline on Monday. Also, Nicole Kosta drew back into the lineup for the first time since January 27. She was demoted to the reserves on February 14 after the February 11 acquisition of Susanna Tapani and Abby Cook put Boston over the roster size limit. Kosta signed a 10-day SPA Wednesday afternoon after Loren Gabel was placed on short-term IR.

Moving on to the game, Boston had an excellent first period. They didn’t land many shots on goal for the first several minutes, but they came out with urgency and controlled the play.

Boston got the game’s first power play at 9:27, as Jocelyne Larocque went off for tripping. 39 seconds later, they’d make it a 5v3, with Sarah Nurse also going off for tripping.

The 5v3 was enough for Boston’s power play to end the barren stretch at 28 opportunities across 12 games. Sidney Morin lasered home her first of the season with six seconds remaining in the two-player advantage to give Boston the 1-0 lead. Jamie Lee Rattray and Jessica DiGirolamo assisted on the goal.

Boston still had 45 seconds left of a regular power play, but they couldn’t bury another. However, the goal gave Boston even more jump, and they started landing a couple more shots on goal while remaining in control of the play. They got another power play opportunity at 16:26, as Emma Maltais went off for slashing, but they didn’t get much going.

Through 20 minutes, Boston led 1-0 and outshot Toronto 10-3. It was the start they were hoping for, as they came out with urgency and took the early lead. They also got a fair amount of quality chances, with six of their ten shots coming from at least a dangerous area.

Boston kicked off the second period in a similar fashion. They kept their foot on the gas and limited Toronto’s quality opportunities while pouring several of their own on Erica Howe.

However, things started to unravel a bit for Boston towards the end of the period. They had to kill their first penalty of the night at 17:39, as Taylor Girard went off for high-sticking. Then, they had to kill a 5v3 of their own, as Kaleigh Fratkin went for interference just 25 seconds later. 

Luckily for Boston, they had a strong kill, so they headed back to the locker room still leading 1-0 while outshooting Toronto 21-9. It was another strong overall period, and they had numerous chances to extend their lead, but Howe was excellent for Toronto. It was just Howe’s second start of the season and her first game action in nearly two months, as she last played on January 23.

The good vibes evaporated quickly for Boston in the third period. They kicked it off with four seconds remaining on the penalty kill before heading back to the box at 1:28. Sophie Shirley got called for tripping, and this time, Toronto converted. Renata Fast sniped one home to tie the game for Toronto just 2:14 into the period. Hannah Miller and Sarah Nurse assisted on the goal.

The goal allowed Toronto to seize control of the game. It didn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse for Boston, as Shirley took another penalty at 6:33, this time for a hit to the head. Not even 30 seconds later, Boston failed to clear the puck out of the zone and turned it over to Sarah Nurse, who passed it to Natalie Spooner. The league’s leading goal scorer did not waste the opportunity to score a filthy goal for her 13th of the season and give Toronto the 2-1 lead.

Toronto then continued their surge, and Boston managed just one shot through the first half of the period. They then picked it up a bit, but few of their chances were high quality, unlike the first two periods. Meanwhile, they allowed Toronto several high-quality chances, and Emma Söderberg had to make some big saves to keep the deficit at one. 

With about 3:20 remaining, Shirley sprung out on a breakaway in what looked like a chance for Boston to tie the game, but she missed the net. Howe then had to make a big save on Hilary Knight a little over a minute later to keep her team in the lead.

Boston pulled Söderberg with 1:58 remaining, and they got a couple of looks, but for the most part, Toronto did a good job of boxing them out of the zone. 

Boston dropped this one by a final of 2-1 despite outshooting Toronto 29-21. They entered tonight a perfect 6-0 when scoring the first goal, and through 40 minutes, it looked like they might continue that trend tonight. They had much more jump than Toronto and controlled most of the game, although Howe was excellent and held them to just one goal. However, they got into penalty trouble in the first half of the third period and they paid for it. To make matters worse, Ottawa won their most recent game over New York 3-0, propelling them into fourth place, two points ahead of Boston, and now in control of their playoff destiny.

Overall, head coach Courtney Kessel liked her team’s game, but again lamented their lack of scoring.

"I thought we had a great game, probably one of our best this season and it just didn't fall our way,” said Kessel in the postgame press conference. “We've dealt with a lack of scoring all year, not just here in Toronto. The chances are there, they just aren't going past the goal line. We've got six more games left, so we have to bear down."