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Two PWHL Toronto teammates hug each other as two other skate towards them in celebration of a goal
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Campbell stays rolling for PWHL Toronto, shutouts Montreal for ninth straight win

By Dexter LeRuez

Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) Toronto celebrated International Women’s Day at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) on Friday with a 3-0 victory over Montreal.

Friday’s win was Toronto’s ninth in a row, putting the squad at the top of the PWHL alongside Montreal.

“In that first stretch of five or six games, we were close. We just couldn’t find a way to score,” said Toronto assistant coach Rachel Flanagan. “I don’t think we were necessarily playing bad hockey [in] the beginning. We’ve figured out how to consistently play with fewer dips in our game.”

So far during the streak, Toronto has never conceded the first goal—a habit that would continue in Friday’s win over Montreal.

“It’s pretty special to do it on International Women’s Day here in our home rink”

Less than a minute and a half into the game, Toronto forward Natalie Spooner made her way behind Montreal’s net to attempt a wrap-around goal.

Although Montreal goaltender Elaine Chuli blocked Spooner’s shot, the ensuing rebound would be secured by Toronto forward Hannah Miller, who buried the puck to give Toronto the lead. 

The historic Toronto-Montreal sports rivalry seemingly influenced a second period filled with a gritty and physical play reminiscent of a years-long rivalry fitting for franchises based in Canada’s two most populated cities.

On several occasions during the period, Toronto and Montreal players exchanged blows in heated physical altercations, one of which resulted in six roughing penalties—three per team. 

“The Toronto-Montreal rivalry, even in the [Canadian Women’s Hockey League], dates back quite a while,” said Spooner. “I mean, new league, new season, and I think they are probably our biggest rivals so far.”

However, the highlight of the second period would come from Toronto netminder Kristen Campbell. Late in the frame, Montreal forward Mélodie Daoust skated in alone towards the Toronto net.

Despite the poor odds, Campbell denied Daoust’s shot and maintained Toronto’s lead.

“I want the breakaways, I want the two-on-ones, I want those rushes,” said Campbell. “I know that they are going to come and that you have to be ready when you’re called upon.”

At the end of the period, all of Campbell’s teammates took to the ice to acknowledge the goalie’s effort while the MAC crowd erupted in ‘soup’ chants—a reference to the canned soup brand that shares its name with the Manitoba product. 

Toronto helped out their goalie by bolstering their lead in the third period.

Just under four minutes into the final period, Toronto defender Olivia Knowles fired a shot towards the net that deflected off Rebecca Leslie’s stick and into the net to give the forward her first goal of the season. 

Forward Emma Maltais would add an empty net goal late in the game to secure the victory for Toronto.

  • PWHL Toronto and Montreal players race for the puck as fans in the stand watch on
  • PWHL Toronto fans scream and cheer on the team
  • PWHL Toronto player and Montreal player prepare for a faceoff as the ref prepares to drop the puck
  • PWHL Toronto players celebrate a goal on the ice as Montreal players skate away and watch on
  • PWHL Toronto fans cheer on the team

However, the win wasn’t the only thing that mattered to the fans and players in the MAC for Friday’s game.

With Friday serving as the team and league’s first International Women’s Day game, Toronto and the PWHL enacted several initiatives to celebrate the occasion. 

The PWHL debuted a new jersey design, which moves players’ last names from above to below the numbers to stop players with long hair from accidentally blocking their names.

Additionally, Toronto gave away foam hockey puck hats to fans and highlighted female staff members within the organization.

But above all else, Friday’s game was memorable for the women who can now make a living playing the sport they love in front of sold-out crowds.

“I think it still hasn’t sunk in that this is happening,” said Campbell. “Every single game day, it’s just such a treat. You wake up so excited to come to the rink. Our crowd has been amazing here, and it’s pretty special to do it on International Women’s Day here in our home rink.”

The launch of the PWHL has pushed women’s hockey forward with leaps and bounds. For players like Spooner, International Women’s Day is a time to acknowledge the progress made in women’s hockey this year.

“It was amazing to be out there, to be able to play on International Women’s Day, when this is such a pivotal year in women’s hockey,” said Spooner. “To see all the ladies and girls in the crowd…I think it was pretty cool.”

For other players, the day is one to recognize the importance of the league for future generations of women’s hockey players.

“When I was [a young fan], I never had anything like this to look up to,” said Campbell. “It was always the Olympic stage, and now that we have this league, it is just going to change women’s hockey forever.”

UP NEXT: Toronto faces Montreal with a chance to take sole possession of the PWHL standings lead on March 17 in a neutral site game at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA.

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