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PWHL Toronto trio lead Canada to 3-0 win over Swiss in women’s world hockey

A PWHL Toronto connection was a key contributor to Canada’s 3-0 win over Switzerland on Friday at the women’s world hockey championship.

Emma Maltais and Sarah Nurse scored Canada’s first two goals and Natalie Spooner assisted on both in the first period. The trio are Toronto teammates, and occasional linemates, in the new Professional Women’s Hockey League in its inaugural season.

“It’s smart to use those connections that we have with our club teams, for sure,” Maltais said.

Sarah Fillier added an empty-net goal for Canada (2-0) which won its second game less than 24 hours after a 4-1 decision over Finland the previous evening.

Emerance Maschmeyer, PWHL Ottawa’s No. 1 goalie, posted a 17-save shutout in her first start of the tournament for Canada.

Switzerland (0-2) was still looking for its first goal of the tournament after two games. Ohio State alum Andrea Braendli stopped 43 of 45 shots after her 51 saves in a 4-0 loss to the United States.

“Andrea’s been a workhorse for us for years,” said Swiss head coach Colin Muller, who is from Toronto. “She’s great to have there. It gives us a little extra security. I just told our team I thought we played quite well. We kind of grew into the game.

“Started off slow and gave up two goals early on and then I thought we handled our situation pretty good.”

Canada caps Group A play with another set of back-to-back games starting Sunday afternoon against Czechia. Canada will play the defending champion United States on Monday.

Canadian head coach Troy Ryan continued to ease captain Marie-Philip-Poulin into the tournament by limiting her minutes. Poulin played just over 14 minutes on Friday, about two minutes more than the opener.

Poulin missed PWHL Montreal’s last three games before the international break with an undisclosed injury.

Ryan wasn’t pleased with Canada’s execution against the Finns, but was happier Friday with the effort in a tight turnaround.

“I thought we had not your typical pre-game meeting before we got to the rink today,” Ryan said. “It was more just going over the stuff that we didn’t do very well. Early in an event like this, I think you can get away with doing that. I don’t think later on the event, you can do it too much.

“We cleaned up some things and I thought even from the start, you could just see a different group focus.”

Maschmeyer repelled a late flurry of shots with Braendli pulled for an extra attacker Friday. Canada had a single power-play and held the Swiss scoreless on four chances, including 90 seconds of five-on-three play to start the second period.

The tournament’s top five seeds in Group A and top three teams in Group B advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are April 13 and medal games April 14.


Toronto trio


Spooner and Nurse are regular linemates in Toronto.

Ryan, who also coaches their PWHL team, likes to employ Maltais’ defensive skills alongside Canadian teammate Blayre Turnbull against the opposition club’s top line and on the penalty kill.

Maltais joins Spooner and Nurse when Toronto needs scoring punch.

“I felt like we didn’t have the depth when we had them together,” Ryan explained. “I put Maltais with Turnbull because they’re relentless together, but any time we need some offence we generally put Maltais up there because she’s doing such a good job on breakouts and protecting the puck.”

The three applied offensive pressure Friday. With Spooner buzzing through the offensive zone, Nurse capitalized on a giveaway at the boards to roof the puck on Braendli.

When Spooner drove out from the corner to get a shot on net, Maltais was there to pot it 70 seconds after the opening faceoff for her second goal in as many games.

“If I’m taking the net, she’s got to go to the net and if she’s taking the net, I’ve got to go to the net,” said Spooner, who leads the PWHL in goals (15) and points (20) in 19 games.

“Nurse is normally that (third forward) high, so if one of us is at the net, if one of us is in the corner, the other person’s got to be at the net front, whether if it’s for a screen if it’s going to go high, or just being able to create that chaos in front.”

Added Nurse: “I think there’s that natural chemistry there. And I think we all play to our strengths. Spooner is the best in the world in front of the net.

“And then I think Emma has great vision. She’s always the first one in on the puck. I’m a little bit of a middleman. I kind of mediate. I kind of dish pucks. I’m a good second support.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2024. 

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