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Toronto tops Minnesota 2-0, one win away from PWHL final

It’s an exciting time for Toronto sitting on the doorstep of advancing into the Professional Women’s Hockey League championship final.

Jesse Compher scored the winning goal with 1:25 left in the third period to give Toronto a 2-0 victory over Minnesota on Friday. Toronto is up 2-0 in the best-of-five semifinal series, with Game 3 on Monday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., and a shot at playing for the Walter Cup in the balance.

“It’s exciting,” Toronto forward Sarah Nurse said. “We’ve worked all season for this. … We’ve done a good job of managing the emotions and balancing and not getting too high or too low.

“I think going into this next game, we wanna win every single game we play in. And from here on out to win a championship, we have to win every single game. We haven’t been looking ahead saying, ‘We wanna beat Minnesota in three.’ It’s, ‘We wanna keep winning hockey games.’”

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Compher was knocked down behind the net moments before scoring, finding her way in front to tip in Renata Fast’s point shot seconds after getting back on her feet.

“I honestly didn’t see much, just tried to go to the net as hard as possible,” Compher said. “We’ve talked about it all year, getting in front of goalies, taking their eyes away creates chaos and hopefully good things come from that.

Toronto’s Jesse Compher (18) scores against Minnesota during third period PWHL playoff hockey action in Toronto, on Friday, May 10, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

“And that’s what we experienced there.”

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Hannah Miller added an empty-netter with 9.4 seconds remaining for top-seeded Toronto in front of 8,581 fans at Coca-Cola Coliseum.

Kristen Campbell earned her second straight shutout with 21 saves. She had a 26-save shutout in a 4-0 Game 1 win Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of our game that I liked tonight,” Toronto head coach Troy Ryan said. “It wasn’t wide open or pretty but … I love that our players were working hard, getting above pucks, putting sticks on pucks and forcing teams to give up possession when they don’t want to give up possession.

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“We’re just gonna continue to build on the small things that have already made us successful.”

Maddie Rooney stopped 28 shots for fourth-seeded Minnesota.

“It’s tough, right?” Minnesota head coach Ken Klee said. “Obviously we wanted to get the (1-1) split, it just didn’t happen.

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“We had as many chances as they did, it was a great hockey game, just didn’t fall our way. But now we get to go home, we’ll have our home fans, we’ll have our energy. We’ve been great at home all year so we look to continue that.”

Until Compher scored, it was a defensive chess match with a mix of some prime scoring opportunities gone to the wayside.

With just under nine minutes remaining in the first period, Nurse had her shot stopped after making a rush toward the net on a 2-on-1. However, she was tripped from behind by Minnesota defender Sophie Jaques, who was sent to the penalty box with 34 seconds left in the visitors’ power play.

On the ensuing power play Toronto got from that sequence, Miller let a shot fly from the left faceoff circle. Rooney didn’t appear to see the puck with almost half of the net open, but the puck hit Minnesota defender Lee Stecklein’s skate by the right post and stayed out.

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Grace Zumwinkle almost put Minnesota on the board 8:12 into the second period. She stripped Fast of the puck at the blue line and was off to the races on a breakaway but was stopped.

Kali Flanagan missed a great chance of her own to break the deadlock for Toronto with 4:52 left in the middle frame.

Kaitlin Willoughby came down the right side and fired a wrist shot that was stopped. The rebound, however, came out to Flanagan going full speed but she couldn’t get her stick on it with a gaping net staring at her.

Abby Boreen came down the left side and fired a wrister with no traffic in front but Campbell made a pad save with 14 seconds remaining to one of many “Soup” chants from the home crowd.

Emma Maltais missed another prime opportunity for Toronto at 4:28 of the third period. Brittany Howard put a shot on net from the slot with the rebound coming out to Maltais at the side of the net but the puck just went by her.

Claire Butorac almost had her wrist shot trickle out from Campbell’s grasp but the Toronto netminder stopped it with 5:23 left.

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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