In the US leg of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association Dream Gap Tour, Minnesota’s Team Adidas beat New Hampshire’s Team Women’s Sports Foundation 13-2 based on the tournament’s scoring system.
The third and final showcase of the US Tour took place on Sunday and Monday at Enterprise Center, the home of the St. Louis Blues.
World Champion Kendall Coyne Schofield scored a key goal for Team Adidas on Monday night, putting her team back in the lead, and Sydney Brodt’s second goal of the game secured their win over Team Women’s Sports Foundation.
Team Adidas proved to be the better squad of the Tour, winning five of the total six games. Although WSF’s performance kept Minnesota on their toes, Maddie Rolfes knew her team could win the final game.
“We just did not give up and fall into that D-zone dismay,” said Rolfes. “We really believe that we are the better team, and we really believe in each other, so we just kept pushing consistently and it turned out in our favour.”
Team Adidas held an 11-2 lead over Team WSF going into the second game of the showcase, but a nine-point deficit did not hold the underdog team back in the final.
After tying it at one in the first period, continued effort was evident from New Hampshire and they took the lead in the second. Team WSF was unable to secure the win though, as Team Adidas put three more away in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Moving forward, Team WSF defenceman Jincy Dunne believes that having more practice time together is what New Hampshire needs to win in the future.
“I think honestly just getting together and practicing all year round is the first and biggest step, and, once you do that, really establishing lines and systems,” said Dunne. “In a COVID year, some people can come, some people can’t, there’s so much unknown. So, I think having a little bit more stability is probably the number one thing.”
The weekend saw outstanding performances, sportsmanship, and clean hockey from both teams, but what really stood out was the goaltending hustle from each side.
Alex Cavallini saved an incredible 33 shots in Sunday’s afternoon game, as Team Adidas consistently fired pucks at her. At the other end of the ice, Nicole Hensley put up a 0.96 save percentage, leading her team to a 3-1 win.
Both Cavallini and Hensley were rested on Monday night, with Katie Burt and Maddie Rooney taking their places respectively.
Burt defended the WSF net with grit and perseverance, holding the lead for her team for almost a third of the game but Rooney would become the victor, winning the game 4-2.
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
The St. Louis showcase took place following a recent partnership that the St. Louis Blues made with the PWHPA in March.
While St. Louis is a new location for the PWHPA, it is familiar to four players from Team Adidas and Team WSF. Hensley, Rolfes, Cavallini, and Dunne all have ties to Missouri.
St. Louis resident, Cavallini, skates out of Enterprise Center a few times a week. However, familiarity with the ice did not guarantee a win — In fact, Hensley, a Lindenwood University alum, had never skated at the home of the Blues before the tournament and brought Team Adidas to their first win of the showcase on Sunday.
Being in St. Louis meant a lot to Hensley, who was upset regarding the original cancellation of the showcase due to COVID-19 protocols.
“St. Louis truly is the heart life of hockey,” said Hensley. “The game has grown so much here since my freshman year in 2012, and just to have had maybe a small part in that and to get to see all these young girls here today was super exciting.”
IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE, IT’S … FANS?
While the location of the showcase was new, some sense of familiarity came from the limited number of fans allowed in the arena. For the first time in 2021, spectators were able to cheer on the Association in person.
Having support in the stands was a remarkable feeling for Team Adidas forward Kelly Pannek, who says that seeing the young girls cheering and reaching out for high fives makes the game that much more special.
“It reinforces what we’re doing,” said Minnesota native Pannek. “This past year and a half for women’s hockey and women’s hockey players has been very exhausting and draining, and it makes it so much easier to hop on that ice and look around and see young girls that are so excited to see you play. They don’t necessarily know who you are, they just know that they want to be you one day.”
The Canadian leg of the Secret Dream Gap Tour will kick off on May 24 in Calgary, Alta. The round-robin competition will feature games with the Association’s three northern teams: Team Scotiabank (Calgary), Team Sonnet (Toronto), and Team Bauer (Montreal).