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Compher’s late-game heroics help Toronto push Minnesota to edge of elimination


PWHL Toronto defeated Minnesota 2-0 on Friday night at Coca-Cola Coliseum, taking a 2-0 series lead. They will now go to Minnesota with the chance to sweep the series. 

A tight-checking game came down to a late goal from Toronto, with forward Jesse Compher serving as the hero. 


Kristen Campbell would earn her second straight shutout in as many games, out-duelling Minnesota netminder Maddie Rooney in a dramatic game. 

Toronto head coach Troy Ryan said Campbell, or "Soupy", was "unbelievable."

“That gave us a chance to win and buy that time so you can get that late goal," he said.

The low-scoring and tight result was evident almost from the opening puck drop. The first five minutes were even, with shots 3-3 but play had a physical tone set early with battles in the neutral zone. 


Ryan said while playing a more physical game leads to more penalties, his team isn’t afraid to push back.


“We're not scared to play on that line,” said Ryan after the game.


Momentum began to shift in Toronto’s favour when the home team killed off an Allie Munroe tripping penalty halfway through the opening frame. 


The kill was highlighted by strong shifts from captain Blayre Turnbull and Emma Maltais holding the puck in Minnesota’s zone, killing valuable time. Pressure from Sarah Nurse then drew a tripping penalty from Minnesota defender Sophie Jaques, turning the penalty kill into a brief four-on-four followed by a Toronto powerplay.


Minnesota’s penalty kill has stayed perfect through five kills this series, a huge turnaround from their struggles at the end of the regular season.


“There’s nothing structurally that we're doing way different,” said Minnesota head coach Ken Klee. 

He praised the performance of Rooney and his players for giving their all in those opportunities.


“I just think in our commitment to blocking shots you know the girls are there laying it out there,” said Klee.


Despite the first period ending scoreless, Toronto had momentum, finishing the period ahead 9-5 in shots. The home squad then controlled play to start the second, preventing Minnesota from registering a shot for the first seven minutes of the period. 


The defining moment of the second frame came when Toronto goaltender Kristen Campbell stopped Grace Zumwinkle on a breakaway, resulting in “SOUPPP” chants showering the Brandon, Manitoba product for her most important save of the game. Campbell would also stop Liz Schepers on a point-blank shot towards the end of the period.


The 10:04 mark of the second saw Toronto star Sarah Nurse and Minnesota defender Sophie Jaques come together in an awkward collision. After taking a skate during the following TV timeout, Nurse was right back out on the ice, not deterred by the physicality.


“I think the strength of our team is that I think we can lead in the physicality factor,” said Nurse. “If other teams bring it to us, we're gonna give it right back.”


A story for Minnesota was the decision to start Rooney for game two over Nicole Hensley, Team USA’s number-one goalie at recent international events. In the end, Rooney provided what her team needed, but the result did not change from game one.


“She’s been excellent for us all year,” said Klee. 

 “All year we've kind of rotated the two and obviously Maddie played fantastic tonight and gave us a chance to win”


Both Campbell and Rooney remained perfect heading into the third.  


The early highlight of the final frame was a two-on-one rush for Nurse and Maltais where Rooney just managed to get a piece of the puck with her right pad. In that moment, it was clear the Toronto crowd was ready to burst out cheering for a goal. Endless “Let’s go TO” chants and waves gave the arena an atmosphere normally lacking in Toronto hockey. 


The anticipation grew when Nurse had a shorthanded breakaway later in the period but just missed the net on the chance. Toronto was creating chances, but nobody could find the back of the net.


After Toronto killed a second tripping penalty to Munroe, it felt as though overtime was all but certain. However, Compher would change that.


The 8,581 fans packed into Coca-Cola Coliseum erupted when the Northbrook, IL, product deflected a point shot from defender Renata Fast past Rooney for the game-winner with 1:25 remaining in the third period. 

As fans cheered outside the media room, still elated by the win that came off her stick, Compher said it was “definitely an exciting feeling,” to get the goal. 


“To play in front of a sold-out crowd in these big playoff moments is something that we’ve all dreamed of since we were little girls,” she said.

Forward Hannah Miller would add an empty netter as insurance with 10 seconds left in the game.


While the first-place PWHL Toronto look to pull off a sweep in game three, Minnesota still have the confidence to come back.


“It was a great hockey game. Just didn’t fall our way, but now we get to go home,” said Klee.


“We'll have our home fans. We'll have our energy,” he added. “We've been great at home all year, so I’d love to continue that.”


Game three is set for Monday, May 13, at 8 p.m. EST at Xcel Energy Center, where Minnesota looks to stave off elimination. 


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