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PWHL Toronto's Sarah Nurse celebrates a goal with her stick in the air. Fans react with glee in the background
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PWHL Toronto finishes season strong with 5-2 victory over Ottawa

By Daniel Carrero

Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) Toronto came out triumphant in the last game of the regular season in a 5-2 victory over Ottawa at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), Sunday night. 

With a roaring ambience characterized by fans waving rally towels given out for ‘Fan Appreciation Night,’ the MAC saw its highest attendance of the PWHL season with 2,620 fans. 

Toronto dealt with a tight game all the way to the last minutes of the third period.

Usual scorers Natalie Spooner and Sarah Nurse commanded a solid victory with the help of Victoria Bach and Samantha Cogan hitting the empty net to solidify the victory. 

“We wanted to send a message to the rest of the league: we are not taking the foot off the gas,” said Nurse. 

After securing the first spot in the standings on Wednesday, Toronto had less on the line than Ottawa, who needed a regulation win to get into the playoff—any other result meant they would miss. 

Nevertheless, Toronto came into the game hungry. Spooner opened the score just over a minute into the first period with Ottawa caught awkwardly positioned. After hitting the side of the net on a first chance, Toronto forward Hannah Miller went around the net and placed a pass for Spooner to push the puck over the line and make it 1-0. 

“Coming into this season, I had no clue how it was going to go,” said Spooner. “Luckily my game has really been effective in this league.”

With a playoff berth on their mind, Ottawa brought a heavy and organized attack, using their speed on the outside as a main threat.

Around the 10 minute mark, forward Hayley Scamurra took advantage of a counter-attacking opportunity and hit Gabbie Hughes on the tape with a pass in front of the goal. The forward placed a shot past the blocker of Toronto goalie, Kristen Campbell, to balance the scoreboard. 

Just over a minute later, Toronto got a response—and another lead—from forward Nurse. The two-time Olympian showcased her skating as she evaded the stick and check of Ottawa defender Natalie Snodgrass and flicked a shot into the top right corner of the net.

  • PWHL Toronto players group hug after a goal
  • PWHL Ottawa's Hayley Scamurra prepares to shoot the puck up the ice at the boards near the benches, where Toronto players look on. A referee with a purple armband is in front of Scamurra
  • PWHL Ottawa players in white jerseys skate back to their bench with their head up after a goal
  • A player in a white PWHL Ottawa uniform stops and sprays snow near the boards and two PWHL Toronto players

After Toronto forward Jesse Compher was ejected with a game misconduct for a check from behind, Ottawa gained a five minute power play.

Though a chance for Ottawa to showcase the best power play in the league at 25.8 per cent, Toronto gained momentum from a stifling kill. They held Ottawa to just three shots, showcasing an equally powerful penalty kill, which finished at the top of the league at 91.8 per cent. 

“They’ve [Ottawa] given us tough games before and I don’t think we have ever brought our best to them,” said Spooner, adding Toronto still has things to work on but was happy with the result. 

Ottawa came out in the second period with a different mentality, still full of hope but with a lot more speed from the players commanding the attack. It didn’t take long for the road team to dominate the second period. 

About six minutes in, Ottawa forward Brianne Jenner kicked off a rush and dropped a pass for Daryl Watts to dangle with the puck. Coming from the right hand side of Campbell, the Toronto, Ont., product quickly dragged the puck in the crease and tucked a backhand past Campbell. The game was now 2-2 and open for everyone. 

“There was a spell during the end of the second period that got us away from what makes us successful,” said Toronto head coach Troy Ryan.  

Toronto had to rely on first line defenders Jocelyne Larocque and Renata Fast and goaltender Campbell to contain Ottawa’s constant pressure.

Ottawa finished the period with 26 shots,  gaining plenty of momentum heading into the third period. 

“[Campbell] is always huge for us, so solid back there,” said Spooner. “She should have all the confidence going into the playoffs.”

  • A black and white photo of Toronto goaltender Kristen Campbell adjusting her helmet and looking upward
  • Fans in blue PWHL Toronto jerseys swing rally towels in the air in the stands at a game
  • A black and white photo shows a player in a PWHL Toronto uniform and a player in a PWHL Ottawa uniform speaking at centre ice
  • The back of a player in a blue jersey with the name Howe on it

In a very quiet and steady third period, the key to opening the door for goals was Spooner.

With just five minutes left on the clock, the three-time Canadian Olympian found a rebound from Nurse land on her stick and as she has done all season, finished the job. Spooner’s 20th goal of the season gave Toronto a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish. 

From that goal, Ottawa had nothing to lose and took goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer out of the net with over four minutes left on the clock.

Toronto took advantage and scored two empty net goals—Bach and Cogan added their names to the scoresheet to seal the 5-2 victory. 

Toronto now looks forward to the first playoff game, part of a best-of-five series against the team of their choosing between Boston and Minnesota. Toronto will decide which team to face in the next 24 hours. 

“When all teams are selected, it’s a whole new season,” said Ryan. “We faced a lot of adversity at the start of the year, so we played some play-off hockey to get out of that.”

UP NEXT: Toronto will play their first game of the playoffs against a not yet determined team for the semi finals of the PWHL’s inaugural season on May 8, at the Coca-Cola Coliseum. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

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