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PWHL Takeaways: Toronto extends win streak to 11 with win over Boston

A blue graphic with the text "Toronto extends win streak to 11" and featuring images of Sarah Nurse, Erica Howe and Natalie Spooner
Graphic by Eli Silverstone


PWHL Toronto defeated PWHL Boston 2-1 on Wednesday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, extending their winning streak to 11 games. The victory kept Toronto in first place, while Boston came into the match 11 points behind Toronto and dropped to fifth place with the loss. 

An underdog Boston squad came out and put the pressure on Toronto, scoring first and holding Toronto to only three shots in the first period. They looked to move to a perfect 7-0 record when scoring first. It was all Boston in the second as well, but Toronto’s goaltender Erica Howe kept it at a one-goal deficit. 

Toronto woke up once the third started, as Renata Fast fired a wrister from the high slot to tie the game up. Five minutes later, PWHL’s leading goalscorer, Natalie Spooner, brought the crowd to their feet as she dangled through the defence before burying the game-winning goal. Howe would close the door after that, in just her third start of the season.

Here are some takeaways from Toronto’s comeback victory

Toronto’s resilience continues to shine

There’s an old sports saying along the lines of “good teams win games they aren’t supposed to win.”

Toronto leads the season series with Boston 3-1 but has won two of those matches despite being terribly outshot – Toronto was outshot 35-18 on Feb.14 and still pulled out a 5-3 win. Wednesday’s shot total wasn’t extremely lopsided at 29-21 in favour of Boston, but the first period ended 10-3 Boston and it reached 21-6 at a point in the second. 

“Coming into the locker room after 40 minutes, we had some tough 

conversations. We really had to gut check and figure out how to go back to competing and playing our way,” said Sarah Nurse, who posted two assists in the game. 

PWHL Toronto celebrates their win over Boston on March 20, 2024. (Eli Silverstone/INTERMISSION SPORTS)

Wednesday’s match was just another example of Toronto’s resilience. Having not made any moves at the trade deadline this week, this is the same squad that sat in last place with a 2-5 record in early February. Now they look like an unbeatable team, with their last loss coming back on Jan. 23.  

“We had belief the whole time in our group and that’s been something that's been super consistent through the season,” said Natalie Spooner. “We believe we can be the best. We are going to play the way we know we can.”

Howe proves Toronto’s goalie depth

In just her third start, and first since Jan. 23, Erica Howe had the best game of her PWHL career. She was the first star of the game and saved 28 of 29 shots. 

Toronto leaned on Howe through the first two periods while they got their legs under them. 

“If she was nervous, she wasn’t showing it all,” said Nurse on Howe’s demeanour. 

Howe wasn’t so sure, but said it was good to be a bit nervous. 

“Oh ya, I was really nervous. But I was confident,” the netminder said. “Nerves are good. You want to win, you want to keep the streak alive.” 

Athletes have pregame rituals and superstitions of all kinds. For Howe, a new sport before the game helped calm her down and get her in the zone.

“I played Spikeball in warmup. Once I started playing Spikeball across from [Jocelyne] Larocque, I was deflecting her balls and I knew I was in a good space today”.

Howe is a firefighter in Mississauga but signed a one-year contract with Toronto to back up Kristen Campbell. She took a six-month absence from her job.

“Every day I want to do the best I can, so [I am] making sure when I do get my opportunities, I make the best of them,” said Howe.

Natalie Spooner = MVP?

Spooner’s go-ahead goal in the third period tied her for the league lead in points with New York’s Alex Carpenter at 13, with the next player behind being Minnesota’s Grace Zumwinkle at nine. From scoring twice in the same shootout to clutch goal after goal, the two-time Olympic gold medalist should be the MVP favourite at the end of the season.

“When I saw the puck turnover, I saw a lane and then the one defender… first thought was probably take it to the net but when I realized I couldn’t do that, I just thought to create some space and get a shot off,” said Spooner of the goal. 

PWHL continues to be a massive success

The PWHL was recently nominated for a 2024 Sports Business Award in the Sports Breakthrough of the Year category. It’s another success in a long line of great moments for their inaugural season. 

“This has exceeded all of our expectations,” Toronto defender Renata Fast said after the game. “A nomination like that is worthy for the people behind the scenes who put in the work to be able to put together something so professional.”

PWHL Toronto has routinely sold out Mattamy Athletic Centre and even recorded a record 19,285 attendance at the Battle on Bay Street in February. Yesterday, the Duel At The Top game to be played between Montreal and Toronto at Bell Centre sold out in about an hour.

Spooner said it has been “amazing” to see the support the team and league have gotten in Toronto. 

“I think it’s only going to help the women's game grow and we are going to see so many more little girls getting into the game and eventually wanting to play in this league," said Spooner. 

Toronto and Boston will meet once more at the Tsongas Center at the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Apr. 18.

PWHL Toronto hits the ice next Saturday, Mar. 23 vs Ottawa at TD Place. Stay tuned for more from Intermission Sports.


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