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PWHL: Montreal loses third straight vs. Toronto as their winning streak hits nine

Photo Credit: PWHL

Montreal and Toronto are battling for first place in the PWHL and Friday night’s game had the intensity of a playoff game. The checking was tight, and the officiating was loose. Despite Montreal’s 3-0 loss to Toronto being the most physical game of the PWHL season, only four power plays were given out. Each of them were for stick violations like hooking and tripping (there were six coincidental minors given out for roughing following a scrum in the second period, however).

You could say that the tight officiating could be a preview of what playoff hockey will look like, but the PWHL is a league still trying to set the standard for officiating and it remains to be seen whether this one game was an anomaly or not.

“If the reffing is going to be like it was tonight, then yeah, this game will help [prepare the team for the playoffs] and if the reffing isn’t going to be like it was tonight, then no, this game doesn’t help at all,” said Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie. She added afterwards that she expects there will be some clips looked at by the league.

One incident specifically is a hit in the second period by Toronto forward Brittany Howard. She hit Montreal defender Catherine Daoust and drove her to the ice. Daoust was shaken up but did return in the third period. There was no penalty called on the play.

All three of Montreal’s regulation losses this season have been 3-0 scores. The common denominator in each one was that the team struggled to fight through the defence. Toronto didn’t give much time and space, and did a lot of things well defensively but also pushed the envelope in terms of what is legal by the definition of the rulebook.

Hannah Miller opened the scoring for Toronto only 1:20 into the game when she converted a rebound off of a Natalie Spooner shot. Elaine Chuli made her first start of the season against Toronto, and made 31 saves in the loss, her first in six starts this season.

Montreal did generate some opportunities, with some scrambles in front, and their best chance coming in the dying seconds of the second period when Mélodie Daoust had a breakaway, but her backhand was stopped by Kristen Campbell, who made 23 saves. It was her third shutout of the season and second straight against Montreal.

The score remained 1-0 entering the third, but Rebecca Leslie made a nice tip on a Olivia Knowles shot that went off the post and in behind Chuli to make it 2-0. The goal came 3:47 into the period. Emma Maltais scored an empty-net goal to clinch the win.

Toronto’s win moves them into a tie with Montreal for first place in the PWHL. Both teams have 30 points in 16 games, but Toronto has one regulation win more than Montreal. With eight games remaining, the fight between Montreal, Toronto, and Minnesota (three points behind) will be fierce for the two home-ice advantage spots. The team that finishes first also gets to choose their round one opponent.

Montreal has two more opportunities to try and beat Toronto for the first time this season: March 17 in Pittsburgh and April 21 at home. The April 21 game has been rumoured as being held at the Bell Centre but there has been no confirmation as of yet. The game is currently slated for Verdun Auditorium.

In the final moments of the game, Marie-Philip Poulin seemed to be favouring her lower body and showing some discomfort. She finished the game, but Cheverie did not have an update on her captain. Montreal’s next game is Sunday afternoon against Ottawa at Place Bell.

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