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Takeaways: PWHL Toronto win goalie duel with New York in shootout


Fans fists are in the air in the foreground in front of a hockey rink with Natalie Spooner lifting her stick in the air to celebrate a goal.
The crowd cheers as Natalie Spooner wins the game for PWHL Toronto on Feb. 23, 2024. (Eli Silverstone/INTERMISSION SPORTS)

BY: ELI SILVERSTONE


PWHL Toronto defeated PWHL New York 2-1 on Friday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. It was Toronto’s fifth straight win, moving them to third in the standings, a wild revolution after starting the season 1-4. With the loss, New York lands in fourth place.


Both squads came in on four- and three-game win streaks, backed by fantastic goaltending. Both netminders – Kristen Campbell for Toronto and Corinne Schroeder for New York – were perfect for the first 52 minutes of the game. However, with eight minutes left to play in the 3rd period, Emma Maltais buried the go-ahead goal, putting Toronto in control. Not to be outdone, with eight SECONDS left, Ella Shelton found herself alone in front and placed the tying goal into the top corner. 


3-on-3 overtime couldn’t decide a winner, so we headed to a shootout. The PWHL’s leading goalscorer, Natalie Spooner scored in round 2, and again in round 5, while Campbell stopped each shooter she faced.


Here are some takeaways from Toronto’s 5th straight win.


Toronto’s defence leads the way

Defence wins championships may be a cliche, but it’s especially true for hockey. Both New York and Toronto played a playoff-calibre game today, tight-checking, stout defence, and capitalized on offence in clutch scenarios. 


On top of that, both goalies have shown this year they are championship-level talents. Add in the league leader in points, Alex Carpenter (NY) and league leader in goals, Natalie Spooner (TOR), and both teams have a recipe for making it to the finals. 


Nevertheless, if Toronto find themselves there, it will be because of their strong defence. New York has four players in the top 11 of league scoring but Toronto has held them to one goal in their past two meetings.


“The biggest thing we talked about as a D-core was taking away their time and space, being hard to play against [and] when they get the puck being right on them, stick on puck, body on body,” Toronto defender Jocelyne Larocque said after the game. 


Something special was needed to beat Campbell, Schroeder

Toronto’s season got off to a rough start at 1-4. And to some degree, so did Kristen Campbell’s in goal. However, both goalie and team have clicked in the past month. 


In her past five games during the win streak, Campbell has allowed five goals on 137 shots, good for a striking .964 save percentage. She has been key to Toronto's success.


New York knows a thing or two about trusting their goaltender as well. Schroeder has been one of the best goalies in the league all year, leading all goalies (with 5 or more starts) with a .949 save percentage. 


Chance after chance, they stymied the opposition. They built an aura around them that either a fluky bounce or a special shot was the only way to beat them. It turned out that meant some late-game heroics and a shootout. 


Late heroics keep fans on the edge 

Toronto fans were preparing to celebrate the win when Shelton scored the tying goal in the dying seconds. The win looked certain, but suddenly the game was headed to 3-on-3 overtime. 


“It’s one of those where you go ‘Ugh’ but now it’s time to go for that two points, and our mentality flipped right to that,” said Larocque. 


In overtime, Toronto fans disagreed with the refereeing, already mad about a non-call from the last minute of regulation. A tripping call that sent New York to the power play with 1:42 left in overtime set the crowd off even more. 


“I think the crowd was really engaged tonight. The refs probably thought that as well,” Toronto captain Blayre Turnbull said jokingly after the game. 


Overtime saw chances for both sides and some dramatic action but the two goalies were too strong, leading to the eventual shootout. In the five-round shootout, Toronto's second shooter, Spooner was able to beat Schroeder. She then had the opportunity to go again in the fifth round – a fun rule in the PWHL – and waited out Schroeder and scored again. Spooner was the only person to score in the nine shootout opportunities. 


PWHL Toronto fans have their team’s back

Although the Mattamy Athletic Center doesn’t hold as many people as last week’s record-breaking Battle on Bay Street at Scotiabank Arena, Toronto fans brought the same lively energy. It was another sell-out crowd and the fans were pumped for every scoring chance and shootout attempt. Blue PWHL Toronto jerseys and purple PWHL toques were the attire of most fans. 


Toronto’s five-game winning streak has brought a great spirit to the rink after the rough beginning, which included a 4-0 loss to New York on opening night. Toronto defender Renata Fast said that first game came with a lot of pressure, so players were gripping their sticks tight. Now, the players have battled back together.


“The cool thing about our slow start was that there was never any waiver in the belief in this group,” Fast said. “We were always confident that we were going to get the results. No one went off on their own path. Everyone was so positive, even after a loss.”


Fast, one of Toronto’s leaders, also received an ovation during a media timeout for reaching 100 games with the Canadian Women's Olympic team.


The fandom and support for the PWHL have been one of the main storylines of the young league so far. Attendance records are being shattered every week as the teams prove they can sell out large venues when given the chance.


These teams will meet one more time, on Apr. 24 at Bridgeport, CT’s Total Mortgage Arena. 


PWHL Toronto takes the ice next on Tuesday, Feb. 27 against PWHL Minnesota at 3M Arena at Mariucci. Stay tuned for more from Intermission Sports.


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