PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S HOCKEY LEAGUE (PWHL) PREGAME PRIMER: MONTRÉAL AT MINNESOTA

Minnesota shoots for a fifth straight win, Montréal looks to snap its three-game losing streak

 

SAINT PAUL, MN (March 24, 2024) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) schedule continues this weekend with a Sunday afternoon game between Minnesota and Montréal at 4:00 p.m. ET at Xcel Energy Center.

 

WHERE TO WATCH

 

Fans in the United States can watch the game live on Bally Sports North, the Bally Sports app on mobile and tablet devices (including iOS and Android), ballysports.com when authenticated using pay-TV credentials, and on Bally Sports+, the standalone streaming subscription service available from Bally Sports. The game will also be available on Bally Sports Southeast, Bally Sports Florida, NESN+ and streamed on the league’s YouTube channel. In Canada, the game is available on Sportsnet ONE and streaming on Sportsnet+. Clay Matvick has the play-by-play call with analyst Alexis Pearson. French language coverage is available on ICI TOU.TV with studio host Alexandre Coupal, Jean St-Onge calling play-by-play, and analyst Isabelle Leclaire.

 

CELEBRATING SPECIAL OLYMPICS

 

Today’s game at Xcel Energy Center will celebrate Special Olympics Minnesota and its members. The organization offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round sports training and competitions. Some of the athletes in attendance will be part of the youth hockey introductions and stand with PWHL Minnesota players during the national anthems. Special Olympics Minnesota representatives will also lead fans in the ceremonial ‘Let’s Play Hockey’ cheer in addition to recognitions throughout the game.

 

SETTING THE STAGE

 

Today’s game features a battle between two of the league’s top three teams with two different season-high streaks on the line. Minnesota (8-3-3-4) is in second place in the standings with 33 points, three behind Toronto, and have won four straight games in March. Montréal (7-3-3-5) is in third place with 30 points, three ahead of Ottawa, and have lost three in a row. This is Minnesota’s fourth straight game at Xcel Energy Center where they’ve enjoyed three wins in their current streak. After beating New York at UBS Arena 2-0 on Mar. 3, they returned home and earned a 4-3 shootout win over Ottawa on Mar. 5, a 4-0 shutout against Boston on Mar. 13, and a 5-1 victory over New York last Saturday. Montréal has had almost as much time off, playing their last game at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena as part of PWHL Takeover Weekend last Sunday where they dropped a 2-1 decision to Toronto. Their current losing streak also includes a 4-2 loss against Ottawa on Mar. 10, and a 3-0 loss to Toronto on Mar. 8. During their respective winning and losing streaks, Minnesota has outscored its opponents 15-4, while Montréal has been outscored 9-3. Minnesota is the league’s second-best team at home, winning six times and earning 19 points in 10 games. Excluding the neutral site game, Montréal has won five times in nine road games and earned 14 points as the visiting team. This is the fourth matchup of a five-game regular-season series between the teams who will meet once more in Montréal in April following the league’s International Break.

 

THE SEASON SERIES SO FAR

 

Montréal leads the season series 6-3 in points over Minnesota through three games. Minnesota won the first meeting 3-0 during their home opener on Jan. 6, and Montréal won the next two by 2-1 scores including Jan. 24 at Xcel Energy Center and Feb. 18 at Place Bell. In that contest, Sarah Lefort’s first goal of the season scored late in the second period held as the winner. The teams traded first period goals off the sticks of Claire Dalton on the powerplay, and Kendall Coyne Schofield. Elaine Chuli stopped 21 shots in the win. Two of her five wins this season have come against Minnesota, also making a league-high 45 saves in the second meeting of the season. Her overall save percentage in two games head-to-head is .971. Nicole Hensley stopped 24 of 26 in the second meeting and will make the start again today. Grace Zumwinkle’s three goals in the first game still count as the most in head-to-head competition, followed by two assists from teammates Kelly Pannek and Liz Schepers.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

 

Minnesota’s Grace Zumwinkle is fifth in league scoring with 16 points, including nine goals and seven assists in 18 games. She’s currently riding a five-game point streak that includes goals in two straight games and seven points in total. Minnesota’s top line has also been firing on all cylinders of late, with Kendall Coyne Schofield (6G 7A) earning PWHL First Star honors with two goals and two assists in her last two games. The captain is second on the team with 13 points and has an active three-game point streak. Michela Cava (4G 1A) was also recognized by the league as its Third Star of the Week with three goals in two games. Taylor Heise (4G 7A) has returned to center the top unit and has five points during her active three-game point streak to bring her season total to 11. Kelly Pannek (2G 10A) is third on the team with 12 points including 10 assists which is tied for second in the league. Defender Natalie Buchbinder has a three-game point streak, and forward Sydney Brodt produced an assist in her first game of the season. Montréal will be without its captain Marie-Philip Poulin for a third straight game while sidelined with injury. The team will look towards its top line for offense led by Laura Stacey (7G 4A) who is tied for second in team scoring with 11 points. She plays on the right wing with center Kristin O’Neill (1G 4A) who scored her first PWHL goal last Sunday in Pittsburgh. On the left side is first-year pro Claire Dalton (5G 2A) who is fifth in team scoring with seven points and has a hat trick to her credit. Maureen Murphy (3G 8A) is tied for second in team scoring with 11 points and will look to find chemistry with Mikyla Grant-Mentis who suits up in her second game with Montréal as part of a 10-Day contract. Erin Ambrose (3G 7A) leads the blue line in scoring and will start the game paired with Kati Tabin (5A).

 

MONTREAL DEBUT FOR BOULIER

 

Defender Amanda Boulier will play her first game with Montréal since being acquired in a trade deadline deal with Ottawa for forward Tereza Vanišová. The 30-year-old from Watertown, CT, will be in familiar surroundings today having played four seasons with the PHF’s Minnesota Whitecaps from 2018-21 and the 2022-23 campaign. She won an Isobel Cup in Minnesota in 2019 and won in 2022 as a member of the Boston Pride alongside Jillian Dempsey. Boulier also reunites with former St. Lawrence University teammate Kennedy Marchment. The blue liner brings six points to Montréal’s back-end offense and scored her first and only PWHL goal in Minnesota back on Feb. 14. She will line up on the second pairing with Mariah Keopple.

 

FOLLOWING THE FROZEN FOUR AND PATTY KAZMAIER

 

The 2024 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four Championship Final is today at 4:00 p.m. ET at Whittemore Center Arena in Durham, NH. The game will feature No. 1-ranked Ohio State against No. 2 Wisconsin. A number of alumnae representing the two competing programs are on PWHL Minnesota and Montréal rosters. Former Buckeyes include Madison Bizal (MTL), Clair DeGeorge (MIN), Sophie Jaques (MIN), and Liz Schepers (MIN), and former Badgers include Natalie Buchbinder (MIN), Mellissa Channell (MIN), Ann-Renée Desbiens (MTL), and Sophia Kunin (MIN). The winner of the 2024 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which goes to the top player in NCAA Division I Women’s Ice Hockey, is forward Izzy Daniel, a Minnesota native and member of the Cornell University Big Red. The last 10 award recipients are currently competing in the PWHL including Minnesota’s Jaques (Wisconsin, 2023), Taylor Heise (Minnesota, 2022), Kendall Coyne Schofield (2016, Northeastern), and Montréal’s Desbiens (2017, Wisconsin).

 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

 

“I think this game is really important for a few reasons. Obviously, points are great no matter where you’re at, but especially leading into a break. We also know this is important to finish strong after the success of this last month. And we’ll have some time off here to recover so it’s a good chance to have a big game.” – Lee Stecklein, Minnesota

 

“We’ve said all season long that getting three points every time we hit the ice is the goal. With Montréal in town and right there with us in the standings it makes those three points even more important today. We also want to finish strong ahead of the break, and keep doing the good things we’ve been doing over the last month. Ultimately, we want to establish ourselves as one of the best teams in the league, and in order to do that you have to beat the best teams in the league, and Montréal is one of them.” – Ken Klee, Minnesota

“We need to put our best game together and stick to our structured game plan. We need to concentrate on all the small details we have been focusing on in the practices the past few weeks and got get the win.” – Sarah Bujold, Montréal

 

We had a real good week of practice. We are excited for Amanda Boulier to get her start. We are looking to try and get three points before this upcoming international break.” – Kori Cheverie, Montréal

 

QUICK HITS

 

Minnesota (+11) is first in goal differential and Montréal (even) is tied for third…Minnesota (2.44) is third in goals-per-game average and Montréal (2.33) ranks fourth…Minnesota (1.83) allows the fewest goals-per-game and Montréal (2.33) allows the third fewest on average…Both teams have scored first in 10 of their 18 games played with Minnesota winning nine and Montréal winning eight of those games…Minnesota’s best offensive period is the first where they’ve scored 16 times, Montréal’s best is the third period where they’ve scored 16 goals…Both teams lead the league with 11 one-goal games with Montréal winning seven of their 11 and Minnesota winning six of their 11…Minnesota (+83) is first in shot differential and Montréal (-49) ranks fifth…Minnesota (30.39) is first in shots-per-game average and Montréal (27.28) ranks fifth…Minnesota (25.78) allows the fewest shots-per-game and Montréal (30.11) allows the second most on average…Minnesota has outshot its opponents in 11 games, Montréal has outshot its opponents nine times…Montréal (7.22) is second in average penalty minutes per game and Minnesota (5.44) averages the least…Minnesota (4/44) is fourth in powerplay efficiency at 9.1%…Montréal (5/60) ranks fifth on the PP at 8.3%…Montréal (49/60) is fifth in penalty kill efficiency at 81.7%…Minnesota (34/45) ranks sixth on the PK at 75.6%…Grace Zumwinkle (MIN) is second in the league with nine goals…Kelly Pannek (MIN) is in a five-way tie for second in the league with 10 assists…Marie-Philip Poulin (MTL) is tied for third with 17 points…Erin Ambrose (MTL) is tied for third in scoring among defenders with 10 points…Zumwinkle leads the league with four game winning goals…Claire Dalton (MTL) leads the league with a 29.4% shooting percentage…Zumwinkle and Laura Stacey (MTL) are tied for second in the league with 72 shots on goal…Pannek (183/329) leads Minnesota in face-offs and with a win-rate of 55.6%…Poulin (212/370) leads Montréal in face-offs and with a win-rate of 57.3%…Nicole Hensley (MIN) has won six of her 10 starts with one shutout and a goals-against-average of 1.79 that ranks third and a save percentage of .935 that is tied for second…Elaine Chuli (MTL) has won five of her six starts and leads the league with a 1.34 GAA and a .958 SV%…Michela Cava (MIN) will celebrate her 30th birthday on Tuesday…Dalton celebrated her 24th birthday on Wednesday…Poulin will celebrate her 32nd birthday on Thursday…Both Amanda Boulier (31) and Kristin O’Neill (26) will celebrate birthdays on Mar. 30.

 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

 

MINNESOTA:

 

Coyne Schofield | Heise | Cava
Křížová | Pannek | Zumwinkle
Brodt | Schepers | Kunin
DeGeorge | Fleming | Butorac
Bryant

 

Stecklein | Jaques
Flaherty | Buchbinder
Greco | Channell

 

Hensley | Rooney

 

Scratches: Kremer, Leveille

 

MONTRÉAL:

Dalton | O’Neill | Stacey
Grant-Mentis | David | Murphy
Lum | Bujold | Lefort
Dubois | Dempsey | Poznikoff

 

Tabin | Ambrose
Keopple | Boulier
Bizal | Daoust
Laganière

 

Chuli | Desbiens

 

Scratches: Bettez, Boissonnault, Lásková, Marchment, Poulin

 

OFFICIALS:

 

Referees: Jenn Berezowski (Quinte West, ON) and Cianna Lieffers (Saskatoon, SK).
Linespersons: Ali Beres (Brant, ON) and Dustin McCrank (Guelph, ON).

Follow the league on all social media platforms @thepwhlofficial plus team accounts @pwhl_minnesota and @pwhl_montreal.

 

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