May 20th, 2024

Frankel stops 53, Tapani scores in OT as Boston steals 2-1 playoff win over Montreal

By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on May 9, 2024.

Montreal's Kristin O'Neill, right, scores on Boston goaltender Aerin Frankel (31) as Boston's Emily Brown (2) defends during second period PWHL playoff hockey action in Montreal on Thursday, May 9, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

LAVAL, Que. – Montreal dominated the play all night and appeared destined to leave its Professional Women’s Hockey League playoffs opener with a win.

Boston netminder Aerin Frankel had other plans.

Frankel made a PWHL-record 53 saves and Susanna Tapani scored in overtime as Boston stole a 2-1 win over Montreal in Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinal series on Thursday.

“Tremendous,” Boston head coach Courtney Kessel said of her goalie. “Just when you think everyone is beat on the ice, she comes flying across the net.”

Tapani pounced on a loose puck in the blue paint at 14:25 of the extra period for the first overtime goal in PWHL playoff history.

Earlier in overtime, Frankel played hero with a desperation dive across the crease to deny Montreal’s Mélodie Daoust, who was on the doorstep with a gaping net.

“Frankel played really well, we had 54 shots, I think it’s the first time we’ve done that,” Montreal captain Marie-Philip Poulin said. “We just have to keep with it, keep throwing a lot of shots at the net, hinder her sight, putting traffic in front of her.”

Lexie Adzija scored in regulation for Boston. Defender Megan Keller led all skaters with 37:33 in time-on-ice.

The visitors entered the series with wins in four of their final five games, including a 4-3 victory over Montreal in the final game of the regular season to clinch a playoff berth.

Kristin O’Neill scored and Ann-Renée Desbiens stopped 24 shots for Montreal before 9,135 towel-waving fans at Place Bell.

Despite the loss, Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie believes her team’s performance bodes well for the remainder of the series.

“We can’t dwell on it too much,” Cheverie said. “We had our opportunities to score, obviously need to put a couple of those in. It’s disappointing.

“But if I look at the game as a whole, I’m happy with what our group did, what they were able to achieve in this game and I think that gives us momentum moving forward.”

Montreal finished second in the PWHL regular season and six points ahead of third-place Boston. Game 2 in the series is Saturday in Laval.

“It’s a loss that hurts, you always want to win the first game,” Poulin said. “But that’s what’s fun, we can come back. It’s not over.”

The winner meets Toronto or Minnesota in a best-of-five final for the Walter Cup. Toronto leads the other semifinal 1-0.

Montreal, which caught fire on the power play late in the season, went 1-for-5 in a chippy game that could have seen many more penalties. Boston was 0-for-2.

Laura Stacey nearly ended the game on a breakaway 10 minutes into the extra period but missed high after chasing down a stretch pass from Daoust.

“Stace probably could have had about four goals tonight,” Cheverie said.

Keller then put Montreal on the power play by slashing the stick out of Stacey’s hands.

Montreal, however, couldn’t bury a winner past Frankel, who remained humble post-game despite snatching a crucial road win for her team.

“I had a couple lucky bounces,” Frankel said. “Someone told me the puck was in my pants at one point and then fell out. “¦ We had a little bit of puck luck tonight.”

” (54) is too many shots and we did get some puck luck tonight, but we’ll take it,” added Kessel. “This is playoffs.”

With Boston trailing 1-0, Sophie Shirley cut to the inside and ripped a shot that hit Adzija’s stick and beat Desbiens to tie the game 1:48 into the third period.

Stacey received a pass from Montreal Poulin while streaking down the wing, but couldn’t tuck her backhand past Frankel with six minutes left.

“At that point when you have so many shots on net and it’s not going in, the other team’s holding their stick a little tight,” Kessel said. “Being on home ice and in this atmosphere, it kind of sets in on the other team.”

Montreal led the shots 43-18 by the end of regulation, but Boston built some momentum late in the third and carried it into overtime for Tapani’s winner.

“Probably relief,” Tapani said about her emotions after the goal. “I had a pretty good feeling we were gonna score at some point.”

O’Neill opened the scoring with a power-play goal 1:07 into the second period. Stacey’s one-timer hit Frankel’s shoulder and fell on the goal line before O’Neill knocked it into the net.

In the first period, Poulin danced around two Boston defenders on the rush before laying a pass to Stacey, but Frankel slid from post to post for an acrobatic toe save on the one-timer. Poulin hit the post from a tight angle on the rebound.

Tabin’s point shot in the final minute trickled through Frankel and rolled just wide of the net. Frankel then hooked Poulin to put Montreal on the power play – ultimately leading to O’Neill’s opener early in the second.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2024.

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