PWHL

Four things to watch ahead of Game 2 of the PWHL Walter Cup final

Boston hosts Minnesota for Game 2 of the best-of-five championship series on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.

Minnesota and Boston play Game 2 of best-of-five series on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET

Three players, two wearing green Boston jerseys and one with a white Minnesota jersey, skate toward the puck on the ice.
Boston hosts Minnesota for Game 2 of the best-of-five Walter Cup championship series on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. Boston holds a 1-0 series lead. (Michael Riley/PWHL)

After a low-scoring first round dominated by stellar goaltending, Game 1 of the Walter Cup final featured plenty of goals.

Boston's 4-3 win over Minnesota came after a second period that saw both teams score a combined five goals, all at even strength.

"We got in the locker room and someone was like, 'What's the score even right now?'" Boston forward Hannah Brandt, who scored during the chaotic second period, said after the game.

Boston hung on to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series, thanks to strong play from starter Aerin Frankel, who stopped all 13 shots she faced in the third period.

WATCH | Hockey North: Will goaltending be the X-factor in PWHL championship series?

Will goaltending be the X factor in the PWHL final, and how can Minnesota bounce back?| Hockey North

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Rob Pizzo is joined by Saroya Tinker to discuss game 1 of the PWHL final and whether high-scoring games will be the theme for the rest of the series.

"Aerin coming up huge again, [she's] just a tremendous hockey player," Boston head coach Courtney Kessel said.

"We knew that when we picked her up in free agency. She's small but she's mighty, and we're going to continue to lean on her."

Game 2 is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET in Lowell, Mass.

Here are four storylines to watch heading into that game: 

Will Minnesota make a change in net? 

Many expected the championship series to be a goaltending duel after strong first-round performances, but both goalies had a difficult second period on Sunday.

While Frankel has been Boston's No. 1 goaltender all season without question, Minnesota's Maddie Rooney has shared the workload with Nicole Hensley. It's the kind of tandem many teams would love to have, with both having the ability to be a number-one goaltender in the PWHL.

Hockey goalie eyes the puck as a player shoots
Minnesota goaltender Maddie Rooney allowed 4 goals in Game 1 against Boston, after only allowing 2 goals over 4 games in the semifinal series against Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Hensley hasn't played in the playoffs since allowing four goals against Toronto in Game 1 of the semifinal series. Rooney took the net from that point on, and looked solid through the rest of the series, only allowing two goals over four games.

Will Minnesota stick with the goaltender who helped mount a comeback over Toronto? Or turn back to Hensley after Rooney allowed four goals against Boston? 

A confident Taylor Heise

Minnesota made Heise the league's first-ever draft pick in September, choosing a hometown player who has skill in spades.

"With the puck, obviously she's dynamic and most importantly, she's a heck of a teammate and does things on and off the ice the right way," Minnesota GM Natalie Darwitz said at a pre-season camp in December.

Not only was she the first to go first overall, Heise also wrote her name in the history books as Minnesota's first goal scorer in the team's opening game on Jan. 3 against Boston.

A week later, she had two highlight-reel-worthy goals in a win over Toronto.

An injury at a Rivalry Series game in February seemed to derail Heise's momentum a bit. She finished with 13 points in 19 games, including four goals.

But it feels like Heise has been at another level over the last week.

A hockey player looks out on to the ice.
Minnesota forward Taylor Heise leads the league in playoff goals (4) and points (5). (Kelly Hagenson/PWHL)

It was a rocket of a shot from Heise that landed in the top corner of Toronto's net and would end up being the series winner for Minnesota in Game 5. She also added an empty net goal in that game.

In Game 1 against Boston, Heise scored twice, both times off passes from Michela Cava, who rejoined Heise on the top line with reserve player Abby Boreen unavailable. Reserve players can be activated for one playoff series, and Boreen used that eligibility in the semifinal round.

"It's hard to not be confident when you have the players putting the puck on your stick in really prime scoring areas," Heise said, pointing to Cava's passing and linemate Kendall Coyne Schofield's relentlessness in winning puck battles.

Heise leads all players in goals (four) and points (five) going into Game 2.

Trade continuing to pay dividends for both teams

Both Boston and Minnesota continue to see benefits from the PWHL's first-ever trade back in February, when Minnesota sent forward Susanna Tapani and depth defender Abby Cook to Boston for rookie defender Sophie Jaques.

Tapani was acquired to give Boston more offense, and has lived up to that promise. She scored two overtime game winners against Montreal in the semifinal series, and scored again against Minnesota in Game 1 of the final.

Meanwhile, Jaques has come as advertised as a puck mover who can shoot the puck, and played a role in three key goals during the Toronto series. Signed for two more years, she looks to be a top-two defender in Minnesota for years to come.

WATCH | Boston takes Game 1 of Walter Cup championship series against Minnesota:

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Jess Healey lifts Boston to a 4-3 victory over Minnesota in Game 1 of the PWHL championship series.

"She brings that offensive element to our team that we were kind of missing," Minnesota head coach Ken Klee said before the playoffs began.

"She has a really good knack for when to get up in the rush, when to join the play. She obviously has a great shot from the point, but she also brings a really nice physical element to us."

Who has better depth?

Both Boston and Minnesota have had players from lower in the lineup come up big in crucial moments over the Walter Cup playoffs.

In Game 1, third-pairing defender Jess Healey scored the game winner for Boston. It was her first playoff point and the second time she's scored all season long.

A hockey player wearing a Boston jersey carries the puck on the ice, while an opposing player in a Minnesota jersey looks to get the puck away from her.
Defender Jess Healey (right) scored the game-winning goal for Boston in a 4-3 Game 1 win over Minnesota. (Michael Riley/PWHL)

"That's what a championship team does … it doesn't matter who's out there on the ice," Kessel said. "You've seen that in the Stanley Cup [playoffs] over and over. It's not one line that's going to win you the Cup. It's a team effort."

Thirteen different players have registered a point for Boston over the postseason, while 14 different players have scored in Minnesota.

If the stars on both teams cancel each other out, and both goaltenders perform well, it may come down to who has the better third and fourth lines.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. You can reach her at karissa.donkin@cbc.ca.

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