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PWHL Minnesota’s missed opportunities lead to loss in Game 1 – The Hockey Writers –
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PWHL Minnesota’s missed opportunities lead to loss in Game 1 – The Hockey Writers –

The Professional Women’s Hockey League reached another milestone in their inaugural season when the first-ever postseason game took place on Wednesday, May 8 at the Coca-Cola Coliseum in Toronto. It was between top seed PWHL Toronto and the team they faced, fourth seed PWHL Minnesota, who came in thanks to losing to PWHL Ottawa in the final game of the regular season.

It was exciting from the start, with both teams having strong chances and plenty of end-to-end action. However, as many expected, PWHL Toronto took the lead in the first period on a goal from none other than their captain, Natalie Spooner. PWHL Minnesota had plenty of opportunities throughout the period and kept the score at 1-0. In the second period it was the same story: both teams had many chances, but PWHL Toronto had the upper hand.

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They added two goals in the second to take a three-goal lead, but again PWHL Minnesota continued to push to score at least one goal. PWHL Toronto took the three-goal lead in the third, where they added another to take the win 4-0. PWHL Minnesota had plenty of chances to get into the game but couldn’t make it happen, and that’s where we’ll start.

PWHL Minnesota couldn’t convert

Despite having virtually unlimited opportunities to score, PWHL Minnesota couldn’t find a way past PWHL Toronto’s goaltender Kristin Campbell. She made some big saves for her team, but PWHL Minnesota also missed several shots that went wide or just over the crease. They ended up beating PWHL Toronto 26-20 and were unable to score a single goal.

Even on the power play, they struggled to get shots off, which was partially their fault. They took too much time to pass and not enough time to shoot, and with a team as strong at blocking shots as PWHL Toronto, they couldn’t get anything through when they finally did shoot. They must immediately start their power play and not waste opportunities.

If they keep shooting, they’ll find a way past Campbell. She can’t keep everything out. She made a number of saves that helped her team, but they also did a great job blocking shots for her. It was a team effort on all sides, but PWHL Minnesota came close. Hopefully they can build on that effort and improve in Game 2.

PWHL Minnesota should cover Spooner

Spooner may have scored the first PWHL postseason goal, but after that goal, PWHL Minnesota found a way to largely sideline her. She had her chances and did assist on another goal, but PWHL Minnesota’s Mellissa Channell covered her for most of the game and did her best to shut her down. Channell kept her out and didn’t let her get many shots.

Natalie Spooner PWHL Toronto
Natalie Spooner, PWHL Toronto (Photo Credit: PWHL)

Although Channell did what she could, they had to find a way to do more, from the start of the match and not after Spooner had already scored. From the start, they have to make it impossible for her to move the puck, but they also have to make sure they don’t forget about her linemates. If they cover her too much, she will find a way to get the puck to her open teammates. If they can do that, they have a chance to win.

PWHL Minnesota had bright spots

Many might see a 4-0 scoreline and think it was one-sided. That was the case in terms of goals, but not in terms of the overall game. As mentioned in this article, PWHL Minnesota had plenty of opportunities to get on the board, but failed to put the puck in the net. Aside from that issue, they also had some bright spots, and they should keep going.

The first was their defense, which may sound strange in a game where they conceded four goals, but between the goals they did well. They had strong stick work intercepting passes or knocking the puck away from PWHL Toronto so they couldn’t get a game going. They tried to keep them out and tried to block as many shots as PWHL Toronto.

Related: 3 items PWHL Minnesota can improve for the postseason

Their penalty kill was strong and wasn’t tested much since they tried to stay out of the box. The most important thing was that they kept trying and pushing, regardless of the score. Even trailing three to zero, they continued to block shots and force mistakes from PWHL Toronto. They’ll have to keep up that effort in Game 2, and they have a strong chance.

PWHL Minnesota can win

After watching their efforts, I believe PWHL Minnesota can beat PWHL Toronto. It won’t be easy, but they have shown times where they were the better team. They were in the offensive zone a lot and did the right things. They have to score a goal, prove they can score and see if the floodgates can open.

Hopefully PWHL Minnesota will look at its mistakes and work to fix them, but they will also see the good things and work to strengthen them. This was their best performance in the last six games they played, and it would be great to see more of that in Game 2 on Friday evening, May 10.