July 24, 2024

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PWHL Minnesota wins first-ever Walter Cup championship: ‘We knew we had to get it’

PWHL Minnesota wins first-ever Walter Cup championship: ‘We knew we had to get it’

LOWELL, Mass. – The first-ever PWHL Finals could not have ended in a better way: as Minnesota captain Kendall Quinn Schofield scored an empty-net goal to clinch the championship.

“There’s a lot to deserve on this day,” Minnesota goalie Nicole Hensley said. “She’s obviously done a lot for this sport and for this professional league. It’s only fitting that she be the first to touch the Walter Cup.”

Quinn Schofield – a key figure in the creation of the PWHL – lifted the Walter Cup after her team beat Boston 3-0 in Game 5 of the PWHL Finals on Wednesday night. Mark Walter, the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and now the sole investor in the PWHL, presented the trophy to Coyne Schofield and — at the captain’s request — helped her lift it.

“I asked Mark to hold it with me for a moment,” she said on the ice after the game. “It was great to be able to carry that alongside him.”

Now, Coyne Schofield and the PWHL Minnesota have made league history as the first team to win the Walter Cup, the league’s 35-pound trophy designed and manufactured by luxury jewelry company Tiffany & Co.

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“It wouldn’t end any other way,” striker Liz Schippers said. The athlete After the game. “She’s the reason we’re all here. She’s a huge inspiration to our team and the entire sport.”

Schepers, a Minnesota native, scored her first goal in the PWHL just over six minutes into the second period, which would prove to be the tournament winner. General manager Natalie Darwitz said Schippers’ line with Claire Butorac and Sofia Kunin was one of their best in the playoffs and it was appropriate – and good timing – for Schippers to score her first career goal.

“You look at the balanced scoring we got through every line, all our D, I mean it took everybody,” Quinn Schofield said. “That’s what it takes to win a championship. And I think that’s why we were able to rise to the occasion tonight.”

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Michela Cava doubled the lead in the third period with her fourth goal of the PWHL Finals to put the game out of reach for a Boston team that struggled to spark offense when it mattered most.

Boston goalkeeper Erin Frankel made 41 saves on 43 shots, while her team only had 17 shots on goal and three in the third period. Minnesota did an excellent job of stifling Boston’s offense and keeping most of its chances on the perimeter.

Although Hensley was not tested often, she was solid stopping all 17 shots she faced to earn her third win and second shutout since regaining the starting crease in Game 2 of the series.

Minnesota won the best-of-five series 3-2 after thinking it had it back on the ice at the Xcel Energy Center — at least for a few minutes before Sophie Jacques’ double goal in overtime was disallowed due to goaltender interference. . Alina Mueller scored to force the fifth and final game in dramatic fashion, but Minnesota still came out on top.

“I just think we got something pretty good, like last game, that I think we knew we had to get,” Taylor Hayes said. “Such a feeling (of winning) – you had it and you want it back.”

Heise – the first-ever PWHL draft pick – was named the first-ever Ilana Kloss Playoffs MVP. She scored the series winner in the semifinals and led the playoffs in goals (5) and points (8).

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She said her Walter Cup felt heavy after not doing any upper body exercise for a while. “That was a wrinkle for the girls over there,” she laughed.

Minnesota entered the playoffs as the lowest seed (4th) and on a five-game losing streak to end the regular season. The team was on the verge of elimination by Toronto, which led 2-0, but won three straight games to advance to the finals and upset the top-ranked team in the league.

“It’s honestly hard to put into words,” Quinn Schofield said. “We counted a lot of people out. Once we got in, we never looked back. There were times we were down, but we didn’t get out. We may have left some people out, but we believed in us all the way through.”

It’s fitting that Quinn Schofield won the Walter Cup at the Tsongas Centre, considering it was the arena where she returned to hockey after giving birth to her son, Drew, less than 11 months ago. It was well past his bedtime, but Drew was on the ice with his parents and was placed in the cup.

“What it takes is getting back and ready to go. “On January 3, it was me and him because my husband was still playing soccer and I took a picture with him here and said my mom is going to play in her first professional hockey game,” Quinn Schofield said. For this to be my first match, and now my last, in the same position as the champions. It’s been an emotional year for sure. I am so grateful that Mark and Kimbra believed in us.

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It was also Quinn Schofield who made a phone call to the legendary Billie Jean King six years ago to ask for help on the state of professional women’s hockey. As King told a small group of media on Sunday, she and Kloss had met with the three-time Olympian and said they would try to help.

They did this by getting Walter involved.

“It took us a few years,” King said. “When Mark told us yes, it was a big day for us. We knew then that (the league) had a chance to not only survive, but to do so in a big way.

King and Kloss are now members of the league’s advisory board and have had regular-season and playoff MVP awards named in their honor. When King thought about what it would be like to see Quinn Schofield among the first players ever to win the Walter Cup, she said, “It couldn’t be more perfect.”

(Photo: Troy Parla/Getty Images)