PWHPA ends year with bang
by Andrew Podnieks|13 MAR 2023
Canadian players Jessie Eldridge, who scored the game-winning goal in the final, and Jamie Lee Rattray were among the PWHPA champions with Team Harvey’s.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
Jessie Eldridge scored with 42.1 seconds remaining in regulation to break a 4-4 tie and give Team Harvey’s a thrilling 5-4 win over Team Scotiabank in the championship final game of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association’s 2022/2023 season. Team Harvey’s received the Secret Cup to cap what was the most successful season to date for the organization, which can boast the top female hockey players from North America. The trophy was presented by PWHPA chairperson Jayna Hefford and tennis legend Billie Jean King.

Players on all four participating PWHPA teams now return to their national teams to prepare for next month’s IIHF Women’s World Championship in Brampton, Canada. Team Canada’s roster consists entirely of PWHPA players, excepting two collegians (Sarah Fillier, Danielle Serdachny), and although Team USA has yet to announce its player selection, it will almost certainly be weighted heavily towards PWHPA players.

While prior years have seen a hodge-podge of teams and players, the PWHPA this year formed four sponsored teams which remained the same throughout games between October and March. These games were spread over weekends in various cities across North America, starting in Montreal, moving to Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario, as well as Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Washington, before ending in California. Midway through the year, the players descended on Ottawa for an All-Star Game weekend at the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL Senators.

The four PWHPA teams formed a veritable who’s who of the world’s best players. 

Team Harvey’s featured Marie-Philip Poulin, the top scorer this season, playing alongside Lee Stecklein and Hayley Scamurra, and goalkeeper Ann-Renee Desbiens.

Team Adidas included Amanda Kessel, Laura Stacey, Sarah Nurse, Sarah Potomak, Jincy Dunne, and Meaghan Mikkelson.

Team Scotiabank had a lineup that included Alex Carpenter, Natalie Spooner, Melodie Daoust, and Rebecca Johnston.

And, Team Sonnet boasted the likes of Hilary Knight, Brianne Jenner, Abby Roque, Claire Thompson, goalie Nicole Hensley, and Russian Iya Gavrilova.

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association was conceived nearly four years ago when the Canadian Women’s Hockey League dissolved and the top North American players in the National Women’s Hockey League left that league in unison, all players vowing not to play again until a new professional league could be created.

This final PWHPA weekend was hosted by arenas in California and consisted of four games. In one semi-finals on Friday, top-seeded Team Harvey’s, coached by Daniele Sauvageau and Kori Cheverie, defeated the number-four seed Team Sonnet by a 2-1 score thanks to an Emily Clark goal in overtime. Later, Team Scotiabank, coached by Dean Seymour, defeated Team Adidas, 4-3, on a Blayre Turnbull OT goal. Both games were played at Great Park Ice Arena, the training centre for the Anaheim Ducks located in Irvine, California. 

The wins set up the end-of-season final at the Acrisure Arena, home of the Coachella Valley Firebirds. In Saturday’s placement game, a Kristin O’Neill breakaway goal in another overtime gave Team Adidas a 3-2 win over Team Sonnet and a third-place finish. That game was played at the Toyota Sports Performance Center, practice facility of the Los Angeles Kings.

In the championship game on Sunday night, Team Harvey’s dominated the opening ten minutes, but Kelly Pannek of Scotiabank opened the scoring on the power play when her shot deflected off a skate in front past Ann-Renee Desbiens. Pannek made it 2-0 soon after, but Harvey’s cut the gap when Jamie Lee Rattray capitalized on a turnover and beat Emerance Maschmeyer with a shot. Alex Carpenter restored Scotiabank’s two-goal lead with a wicked shot over Desbiens’ glove, but Emily Clark closed the gap late to make it a 3-2 game after 20 minutes.

Harvey’s tied the game early in the second on a power play of its own. Poulin’s slapshot from the high slot snuck through the equipment of Maschmeyer and trickled towards the goal line. Clark pushed it in to make it a 3-3 game. As the game approached the midway point, Harvey’s took their first lead in dramatic fashion. Jessie Eldridge made a sensational stretch pass to Clark, sending her in alone. Clark roofed a backhand on a deke at 9:54 to make it hat trick before the game was half done.

That lead didn’t make it out of the period, though. In the dying seconds Harvey’s failed to clear the zone, and Blayre Turnbull took the puck to the net and banged in her own rebound with 8.6 seconds remaining. The third was cautious and defensive for the most part, but Harvey’s had two great chances to win. The first came when Clark snapped a shot off the crossbar, and soon after Hayley Scamurra’s hard shot was stopped in highlight-reel fashion by a Maschmeyer glove save.

Just when it seemed overtime was inevitable – and it was going to be unlimited five-on-five – Poulin stole the puck deep in the Scotiabank end and got it to Eldridge, who did the rest.