LOWELL, MAEveryone talks about no soap operas, just hockey until hockey is the soap opera. It’s about the narratives guys, the narratives! 

And the Professional Women’s Hockey League’s inaugural season gave us a storybook ending. Kendall Coyne Schofield and PWHL Minnesota are the first-ever winners of the Walter Cup after they shutout Boston in Game 5 on May 29. 

At the beginning of the month, all eyes were on Toronto and Montreal, the first and second seeds in the league respectively, to take the Cup. By the end of May, thousands were watching Minnesota and Boston. Two teams who finished the regular season with identical 12-9-3 records—battle it out in a chaotic Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center on May 26.

Boston’s Aerin Frankel and Minnesota’s Nicole Hensely took their teams to a scoreless second overtime where a goal from former-Boston defenseman, Sophie Jaques, seemingly won the Cup for Minnesota on home-ice. Gloves and sticks were thrown up, the crowd celebrated and then the goal was overturned for goalie interference. Shortly after, Boston forced a Game 5 with a wrister from Alina Müller. 

The teams met for a winner-takes-all final in Lowell where Minnesota had control of the game from the first puck drop to the final horn of the game. They were up one thanks to a second period goal from Liz Schepers. All hope wasn’t lost for Boston as the team, captained by Hilary Knight, is known to find their groove in the last 20 minutes of the game. 

Then Michaela Cava scored her fourth goal of the playoffs to clinch the game and send Minnesota up 2-0. The final nail came with an empty-netter from captain Kendall Coyne Schofield just before the final buzzer. 

PWHL Minnesota were first-ever Walter Cup champions—for real this time.

It clearly wasn’t Boston’s night as they ended the game with 17 shots to Minnesota’s 41. That doesn’t make Minnesota’s win any less meaningful. Coyne Schofield’s team made their argument for their playoff spot at the start of the season. While they went on a five-game losing streak after the international break, they took on and beat the league-leading scorer Natalie Spooner and her team for this win. 

Aerin Frankel was the showstopper for Boston. As Minnesota celebrated the win, the sold-out home crowd filled the arena with “Frankel” chants. The Green Monster ended her playoff run with a .929 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average. This was PWHL Boston’s first sell-out crowd with 6,309 fans in attendance.  

Creating Hockey Legacies

Along with her six gold IIHF World Championship medals, her 2018 Olympic gold and her role in making the call that got the PWHL rolling. The first ever Walter Cup win is another part of Kendall Coyne Schofield’s nearly unparalleled legacy in hockey history. Like any captain who watched her team almost lose it all, she knows it took them all to get to where they are now.

“It took a team effort from just everyone you see here,” she said in post-game interviews. “…there were a lot of moments where we could have gotten down and out. There were moments where we were down, but we knew we were never out—we stuck together.”

For first-draft pick, and Ilana Kloss Playoff MVP Award winner, Taylor Heise the win was all about having the right mindset. 

“Obviously we believed in each other even though the losing skid wasn’t fun,” Heise said. “But I think we all learned from it, and we have the best backup—whether that’s goaltenders, defense or forwards — and obviously we believe in each other every single shift that we’re out there.”

Heise tied linemate Michela Cava with eight points in the postseason, including a league-high five goals. 

The Walter Cup marked the second women’s hockey championship win for Coyne Schofield, Lee Stecklein and Amanda Leveille in Minnesota after the Premier Hockey Federation’s Minnesota Whitecaps won the 2019 Isobel Cup. 

This Is Only The Beginning For The PWHL

The last five months only showed a sliver of what the PWHL could be. Thankfully, the league’s second year is just around the corner with the 2024 PWHL Draft set for June 10. All eyes are on New York who holds the first pick after ending in sixth during the regular season. Princeton University captain Sarah Fillier and Ohio State University’s Hannah Bilka are both contenders for the first two picks of the second draft.

With logos and team names for the original six expected to come before the start of the 2024-25 season. The big question for the PWHL is when expansion will begin. After breaking women’s hockey attendance records left and right this season, it’s clear, fans want women’s hockey. 

Make sure you check out more coverage over at the Blog section of Area 51 Sports Network.