Monday, April 15, 2024

Another Toronto win and yet another league attendance record in banner season for PWHL

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The faces of Marie-Philip Poulin and fellow National team member Erin Ambrose told the story.

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The disappointment in the result, a 3-0 loss to a deserving Toronto side was obvious.

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But the moment the questioning turned from the actual result to yet another record setting crowd, this one 19,285 at Scotiabank Arena to break the mark for most attended women’s hockey game for the third time this year in just over six weeks, not even the loss of three potential points could dampen the smiles.

“It was surreal,” Poulin, the Montreal captain and consensus best player in the women’s game today said. “I think at that moment you want to be in the best environment and that’s where we were at. You want to play against the best and Toronto is one of the best teams in the league and we all know that. It wasn’t the result we wanted but it was so special.

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“To see the amount of signs in the stands, to see the little girls and little boys and families coming in,” Poulin continued. “It’s unbelievable. What is happening in women’s hockey right now is surreal.”

And ‘surreal’ really was the word of the night.

From the deafening cheers, none bigger than the one’s that greeted Toronto’s Jesse Compher after she chipped one over the shoulder of Montreal goalkeeper Ann-Renee Desbiens for the first goal of the night five minutes into the third period, to the chants of “Soupy, Soupy” for Toronto’s netminder, who logged her second shutout of the season, this was one giant celebration of women’s hockey.

“What was this, Game 10 maybe of the season?” Ambrose said. “To think that it didn’t just sell out, it sold out in minutes. I can’t tell you how many people were like ‘Hey, can you get us tickets?’ … But it was a regular-season game, it’s February and people want to watch. We’re putting the product out there and people want to watch.”

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Toronto’s Blayre Turnbull swats at a rebound after being stopped by Montreal goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens in the first period. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Toronto’s Blayre Turnbull swats at a rebound after being stopped by Montreal goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens in the first period. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

And if the women in the Montreal room were thrilled with the evening you can only imagine Toronto’s collective reaction to not just hosting the most watched game in the history of woman’s hockey, but winning it also in convincing fashion, was another level all together.

“Looking back this is definitely the coolest birthday I’ve had in ever probably,” Toronto forward Hannah Miller said.

Miller celebrated her birthday with a goal of her own and an assist on Compher’s first of the season.

And then there was Campbell, the Toronto starting goalkeeper, who was on the receiving end of some pretty harsh criticism earlier in the season when the team was struggling as a whole and who has been a veritable rock in the past five starts for her team, all of them wins.

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“I’m feeling really confident with my game,” Campbell said. “I think I have always had that confidence deep down. I know what I’m capable of. I’ve gone through a lot in my career. Been through a lot of lows and a lot of highs and always find a way to come out on top through the adversity.

“I think the start of the season was obviously not the start we wanted but it got us to where we are right now and we kind of needed to go through that and come out on top as a group and we’re rolling now.”

Particularly rolling is the Toronto penalty kill, which added five more kills, including a 5-on-3 to its impressive track record to date. The team has allowed just two goals in 36 short-handed situations for a 94.5% success rate.

Head coach Troy Ryan was asked if he was concerned about the number of penalties his team is taking.

The answer of course was ‘No’ not with the way his penalty kill unit is performing.

Campbell turned aside all 30 shots Montreal threw at her for her second shutout of the young season and earned the first star of the game for her efforts.

Toronto isn’t back in action again until Friday when it plays host to New Yor
X — @Mike_Ganter

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