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An All-American Matchup Takes the PWHL Finals Stage to Determine First Walter Cup Champions

Updated: May 31

Courtesy of PWHL (@thepwhlofficial on X)

After two thrilling semi-finals series, the inaugural PWHL finals were set. PWHL Minnesota and PWHL Boston became the final two teams fighting for the Walter Cup. In what was sure to be an exciting final series, both teams were looking to make history like never before.

How We Got Here

Minnesota lost five straight games to end the regular season and their playoff hopes rested in the hands of Ottawa losing their last game of the season, which miraculously happened. Minnesota clinched the last playoff berth and first-seed Toronto chose Minnesota as their opponent to face off against in the semi-finals. Toronto won the first two games of the best-of-five series and looked poised to sweep Minnesota, but to almost everyone’s surprise, Minnesota won the next three games of the series to complete the reverse sweep and advance to the finals while eliminating the best team in the league.

Boston’s run to qualify for the postseason came down to the wire too, although they had control over their own fate more than Minnesota did. With Toronto choosing Minnesota as their opponent, that left Boston and Montreal for the other semi-final matchup. While many might’ve expected Montreal to be the better team in this series considering the high end talent on the roster, Boston showed everyone what they are capable of. All three games in this series went to overtime (game two required triple OT!) with Boston winning each of them in dazzling fashion to sweep Montreal in order to advance to the finals.

And just like that, the inaugural PWHL finals were set. 

Game One

Because Boston finished the season as the third seed, they got home ice advantage for the finals. All eyes shifted back to Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell for what was going to be an exciting series between two teams competing for the PWHL’s first ever championship.

Game one was a high scoring affair for both teams. The opening frame ended in a 1-1 tie with Minnesota’s Michela Cava getting on the board first just for Boston’s Susanna Tiapani to tie it up a few minutes later. The second period was full of goals and couldn’t have been more exciting for fans watching in person or at home. 

Taylor Heise put her team up 2-1 almost halfway through the second, just for Boston to respond by scoring two goals back-to-back courtesy of Taylor Wenczkowski and Hannah Brandt to give their team the 3-2 lead. Heise notched her second tally of the game and fourth of the postseason to tie the game, but Jess Healey’s goal at 17:25 in the middle frame sealed the win for Boston as no other scoring happened in the third period.

Courtesy of PWHL Boston (@pwhl_boston on IG)

Game Two

With a 1-0 series lead, Boston was hoping to win another game to push Minnesota to the brink of elimination. Except Boston didn’t stand a chance in this contest as it was all Minnesota. Cava opened the scoring once again late in the first period to get Minnesota on the board first and Sophie Jacques found the back of the net for her first of the postseason to make the lead 2-0.

The second period passed without any scoring despite Boston making a push in hopes of at least breaking the shutout. That time never came, even in the third, but Jacques got her second tally of the game thanks to scoring the empty netter at 17:31 in the final frame.

The finals now went to Minnesota for game three with the best-of-five series tied 1-1.

Game Three

Minnesota took full advantage of having home ice advantage for game three. Just 59 seconds in, Heise recorded her fifth goal of the postseason to put her team up 1-0 early into the contest. Sydney Brodt, former captain of the PHF’s Minnesota Whitecaps, scored her first PWHL goal near the end of the opening frame to put Boston in a 2-0 deficit. The second period almost passed by scoreless on both sides until Alina Müller broke the shutout and collected her first postseason goal with two seconds remaining in the middle frame.

But even with that momentum, Boston couldn’t find a way to even the game. Instead, Minnesota took full control again scoring two more goals (one from Cava and one from Grace Zumwinkle) in the third to make the final score 4-1. Minnesota put themselves up 2-1 in the series with the chance to close it out at home and become the first Walter Cup Champions in PWHL history.

Game Four

With the championship on the line, Game 4 was scoreless for over 60 minutes of play, but it was easily the most exciting and thrilling game of the entire series because of what occurred late in the double overtime. Both goaltenders stood tall in their nets and stopped everything they saw to keep the game scoreless for so long. It wasn’t until Jacques seemingly scored the game-winning and series clinching goal for Minnesota that all chaos broke out. Minnesota immediately started celebrating, and understandably so, as it seemed like they just won the Walter Cup. But officials put the goal under review and eventually overturned it as there was goaltender interference on the play.

In an almost unbelievable turn of events, Boston’s season stayed alive for a little bit longer. It didn’t take long after the reversed call for Boston to strike as Müller found the back of the net to end the long double overtime and force a game five for a winner takes all contest to determine who would be the inaugural Walter Cup Champions.

Game Five

It all came down to this. Minnesota and Boston were ready to battle it out for 60 minutes and whoever came out on top would get to lift the Walter Cup.

The first period passed by scoreless despite Minnesota pouring on the pressure early. But it didn’t take long for Minnesota to get on the board as that momentum carried over into the middle frame and Liz Schepers got a puck past Boston’s goaltender Aerin Frankel to put her team up 1-0. That score held for the rest of the period, but the third saw even more goals from Minnesota as Boston just couldn’t get anything going.

Cava scored her fourth of the postseason to make the score 2-0 about halfway through the final 20 minutes and after Boston pulled Frankel in hopes of getting a tally themselves, none other than Kendall Coyne Schofield sealed the win with an empty netter. 

When the final buzzer sounded, it was official. PWHL Minnesota had won the inaugural Walter Cup!

Courtesy of PWHL (@thepwhlofficial on IG)

Heise, the first overall pick in the inaugural PWHL draft, was named the Ilana Kloss Playoff MVP Award winner as she finished the postseason with eight points in ten games. In the playoffs, she led the team with five goals and was tied with Cava for the team lead in points. 

And it couldn’t have been more perfect that Minnesota’s captain got to lift the Walter Cup for the first time in league history. Coyne Schofield was detrimental to the creation of the PWHL and was a major component of how the league came to be so it was incredible to see her be the first player to ever hoist the Walter Cup. 

“She won’t say this, but the only reason (the PWHL) happened from the players’ side is Kendall. Like legit, the only reason and she hates it. But like, could not have been a more fitting end for her to be lifting the trophy.” said Minnesota’s Kelly Pannek.

Courtesy of PWHL (@thepwhlofficial on IG)

With more than 50,000 people watching the YouTube stream of game five, it’s safe to say the last game of the PWHL finals was enjoyed by many and is proof that women’s sports are here to stay. 

The inaugural season of the PWHL was a huge success and while it’s bittersweet that it’s over now, there is nothing but hope and excitement about the future. Records were broken, hockey was enjoyed and history was made. As we look forward to next season, we will certainly remember the inaugural season of the PWHL as one for the history books.

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