May 17th, 2024

Ottawa heads into final weekend of PWHL season looking to clinch playoff spot

By Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press on May 3, 2024.

The goal is simple for Ottawa’s Professional Women’s Hockey League team when they close out their regular-season Sunday night in Toronto -- Win, and they’re in. Ottawa's Brianne Jenner (19) scores on Minnesota goaltender Nicole Hensley (29) as Daryl Watts (9) looks on during third period PWHL hockey action in Ottawa, on Saturday, April 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA – The goal is simple for Ottawa’s Professional Women’s Hockey League team when they close out their regular-season Sunday night in Toronto.

Win and they’re in.

Ottawa (8-1-6-8) and Boston (7-4-3-9) enter the weekend tied at 32 points, but Ottawa holds fourth place in the standings and the final playoff spot with more regulation wins.

The outcome of Boston’s game Saturday afternoon against visiting Montreal will have huge implications for Ottawa. A Boston regulation loss means Ottawa is in. But any result with Boston getting a point means Ottawa will have to at least match that outcome on Sunday.

“You don’t sit here and ever wish anything,” said coach Carla MacLeod. “The reality is you want to be able to control your own fate. We have that opportunity and that’s a good thing.”

Ottawa will be practising when the Boston game starts, but there are some players who say they will definitely be tuning in afterwards.

Ottawa had the opportunity to punch its ticket to the post-season Tuesday night against New York but failed to take advantage. Ottawa jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead and then gave up four goals in the second period to lose 4-3.

It marked the second consecutive game where Ottawa lost its focus in the second period and was unable to recover, which set the stage for a dramatic finale.

“I think we just didn’t execute our game plan,” said captain Brianne Jenner. “I think we went in there with the right mindset, we wanted to clinch that day, and things just started to unravel and I think momentum shifts in hockey games and we weren’t quick enough to end that shift.”

High pressure games are nothing new for most of these players.

Jenner, Emily Clark, Ashton Bell and goalie Emerance Maschmeyer were all part of Canada’s team at the recent world women’s hockey championship that beat the United States in overtime in the gold medal game.

“I think experience is not a bad thing to think back on how you dealt with kind of high-pressure situations, but I think all of our players are prepared for that,” Jenner said. “I mean, everyone’s a high-performance athlete here that looks forward to those opportunities.”

Ottawa has a 3-0-0-1 record against Toronto, which sit first overall in the league, and know the challenge ahead of them.

“For us it’s doing everything we can to be in the moment,” said Maschmeyer. “We’re going out there to take care of business and get the win.”

Maschmeyer has been instrumental to Ottawa’s success. The 29-year-old has a 2.26 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. She’ll need to be at her best to deal with Toronto’s offensive stars in Natalie Spooner, who leads the league with 25 points, and Sarah Nurse, who is fourth with 21.

MacLeod said if the players remains committed to the process that got them to the cusp of the playoffs, they should have no regrets.

“We’ve faced adversity and dug out of adversity and we’ve had leads and held on to leads so it’s really just going back to the well that you know and recognizing that we have found ways to win a hockey game multiple different ways,” said MacLeod. “Obviously, we’re driving to get the result, but you can’t lose sight of the process.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

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