It's been an exciting time for women's hockey fans, and for anyone just getting into women's hockey because of the PWHL. The inaugural PWHL season kicked off on January 1st, and Ottawa played their first game the next day.
As we explained in our open thread for Ottawa's home opener, at Silver Seven we don't have the capacity to cover every single PWHL Ottawa game in depth, but we do plan on putting out weekly recaps, which can also serve as open threads. For this first recap, we're using the Wednesday Longform slot so that we can also talk about what's happening around the league, but moving forward the PWHL update will have its own time slot.
Last Week: Ottawa vs Montreal (3-2 OT Loss)
The final result wasn’t what we wanted, but you hardly could have asked for a better first game for Ottawa. They completely dominated play in the first period, and an otherworldly performance by goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens was the only reason the game remained scoreless after 20.
Desbiens may have won the goaltending duel, but Ottawa goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer put on a hell of a show as well. One of her best moments was a huge stop on a Marie-Philip Poulin penalty shot - a moment made even more entertaining by the fact that the crowd was booing Poulin. National team loyalties are being put away, and we are committed to being haters. Have I mentioned that I would die for Hayley Scamurra?
There was a moment in the second period where it looked like Mikyla Grant-Mentis might have scored the first goal in franchise history. However, the goal was called back because it had actually gone under the net. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen before. Devastating that the moment was taken away from her, but it was a fun moment nevertheless.
The actual first goal in franchise history went to American forward Hayley Scamurra, off a beautiful feed from defender Ashton Bell, who was one of the best players on the ice in that game.
Bell also assisted on Kateřina Mrázová’s third period goal. Mrázová was the first Czech player to ever pick up a point in the NWHL, and now gets the same record for the PWHL. She was also the first European player to ever win the CWHL's Clarkson Cup. Symmetry!
In the end, though, Montreal took home the extra point, off an overtime goal by Ann-Sophie Bettez. Bettez is a true great of Montreal women’s hockey, having played for McGill, the Stars/Canadiennes of the CWHL, PWHPA Montreal, and La Force de Montréal in the PHF. I must admit it was fitting for her to get the overtime winner in the franchise’s first game.
Two things really stuck out to me about Ottawa’s play in that first game: their transition game, and their depth at forward. This team is built from the back end, with defenders who are able to move the puck from one zone into the other, and that really showed in the first game, as the team was able to move cleanly out of the zone and put pressure on Montreal. Again, Ashton Bell was a huge standout on the back end in that regard.
We knew that would be a strength of Ottawa’s, but the forward depth has been a real revelation. I felt like there was at least one major standout on each line. The first line of Scamurra, Jenner and Gilmore was electric all night. Mikyla Grant-Mentis, who played on the second line, was all over the ice. Daryl Watts and Akane Shiga showed tons of offensive talent from the third line. And on the fourth line, I felt like I kept noticing Lexie Adzija, who fit right into a fourth line power forward role. This team might not have the star power of Montreal or Boston, but they have talent spread all throughout their lineup, and that could make a big difference for them.
Of course, if everything had gone perfectly, Ottawa wouldn’t have lost. There were a lot of miscues and a few instances of players fumbling the puck. That’s to be expected from a group of players who only just started playing together; with its extremely international roster, Ottawa is likely to struggle more in that regard than other teams. Still, if you play that game 10 more times, you probably win it 9 times. Ottawa was good.
We were supposed to get another game just under a week after the first, against Boston on Monday. As if that wait wasn’t painful enough, bad weather made it even worse, as the game was postponed.
Around the League
Toronto and New York kicked off the inaugural season on January 1st, and then played a rematch later that same week. Hilariously, Toronto got shut out in their season opener, but redeemed themselves with a win in the second game. Each team thus sits at 3 points.
Toronto will play one more game, against Minnesota, before they host Ottawa this Saturday. The team has looked very slow in their first two games, but they’ve also been playing New York, which is considered one of the stronger rosters, so the next two games should give us a better idea of where Toronto stands.
Meanwhile, Minnesota has been the big story of the first week. They obliterated Ottawa’s attendance record with a crowd of over 13,000 people for their home opener, and are currently the only undefeated team in the league, despite the fact that they were expected to be one of the weaker teams. Minnesota forward Grace Zumwinkle currently leads the league in points and goals, after a hat trick in Minnesota’s home opener.
Boston lost their one game, and Montreal still only has the one overtime win over Ottawa, looking quite weak against Minnesota.
Remember that four out of the six teams will make the playoffs, so when we’re scoreboard watching, we just need two teams to be worse than Ottawa.
The Week Ahead
Since the Boston game still hasn’t been rescheduled, we’re going to assume that Ottawa’s next game will be on Saturday, against Toronto.
As discussed in the earlier section, Toronto split their first two meetings against New York. They play Minnesota tonight.
Based on the first few PWHL games, Saturday is shaping up to be a matchup between the slowest team in the league and the fastest. Whereas Ottawa was flying all over the ice in their home opener, Toronto has looked a step behind, although they did play a lot better in their second game than their first.
Ottawa and Toronto are destined to be rivals, but it’s more than just the location that makes Toronto an interesting team to play against. They have Team Canada’s general manager and coach, and the roster is full of members of Team Canada. It creates an interesting narrative for players like Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Daryl Watts, who were controversial omissions from the national team roster.
The first Battle of Ontario in PWHL history will take place this Saturday at 1pm, in Toronto. It will be broadcast on TSN, and streamed live on the PWHL YouTube channel.