PWHL Ottawa hosts Boston, with both battling for last playoff spot

Estimated read time 7 min read

The contest on Wednesday could be considered the biggest game in franchise history so far.

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Anyone walking through the rink-level corridors at The Arena at TD Place around 7 p.m. on Wednesday might be a little surprised by the music coming out of the PWHL Ottawa dressing room.

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They’re likely to hear a 1961 hit made famous by The Tokens, which is less of a ‘pump up’ song than a ‘keep calm’ classic picked by coach/crooner Carla MacLeod.

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“I’ll just sing ‘wimoweh, wimoweh’ or whatever … The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” MacLeod joked with reporters on Tuesday when asked how she plans on keeping her players “loose” leading up to a showdown with PWHL Boston in what could be considered the biggest game in franchise history — despite what the Ottawa bench boss is preaching.

“We’ve tried to always do what we do, and focus on us, and make sure that we’re in the right spot. Every opponent, every game is a big game. It’s surely not bigger than the rest. They’re all big and they have been from the start of the season.

“Maybe for us, it’s just more staying to our routine and our rhythm, and coming in and doing what we’re setting out to do, and recognize it’s going to be a hard-fought game. There’s there’s no doubt about it.”

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It should be, given what’s at stake.

In what is shaping up as a two-team race for the final playoff spot, Ottawa has four games left and a two-point lead on Boston, which has three dates remaining on its schedule.

That means a regulation-time victory for the visitors will give them three points and have the teams flipping positions in the standings.

After Boston, Ottawa faces second-place Montreal, first-place Toronto and sixth-place New York.

On Boston’s remaining schedule after Wednesday will be games against third-place Minnesota and Montreal.

Worth pointing out is that Ottawa has won just once in four tries against Boston to date but currently is playing its best hockey of the season with its first three-game winning streak.

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Ottawa’s last loss, in fact, was in a 2-1 shootout to Boston at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on March 16.

Boston comes to town riding a two-game winning streak with back-to-back 2-1 victories over Toronto and New York.

“They’re opportunistic for sure,” MacLeod said of PWHL Boston. “They’re a well-structured team, they have a lot of faceoff plays, and there’s a consistency to the game that they’ve been able to possess. They’re a hungry team right now … when you’re just on the outside looking in, they don’t do much feel to get excited for a game. So they’re going to come in really hungry … they’re going to be a great opponent for us, they have been all year, and we expect nothing less (Wednesday).”

Two Ottawa players should have a pretty big appetite to excel: Forward Sammy Davis, who GM Mike Hirshfeld signed off the Boston reserve list on Feb. 28, and forward Shiann Darkangelo, who was acquired from Boston in a deadline deal on March 18 for Lexie Adzija, who was a fan favourite at TD Place when she wore the home team’s colours.

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“Definitely,” Davis said when asked if there was any added motivation facing a roster that she couldn’t crack. “You definitely have a point to prove. So I’m going to go out there and compete as hard as I can and hopefully get that win.

“We’re both like pushing for that playoff spot, so it’s going to be competitive, it’s going to be physical. And I think it’s just going to be a really good game.”

Darkangelo was an important player for Boston when she was traded for a good player on Ottawa. The deal was about two teams filling needs, so there should be no revenge factor in play.

Of course, the 30-year-old American would still like to beat her former friends.

“There’s six teams so it’s pretty exciting that it’s come down to this,” said Darkangelo. “Everybody’s playing for points, so that’s what’s important.”

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Both Darkangelo and Davis have been made to feel at home by their new teammates.

During the team practice at Monday’s Fan Fest, the faithful sang Happy Birthday to Davis, who turned 27 Tuesday, when her teammates also made a fuss.

“I do not want to be the centre of attention …. today’s been very uncomfortable for me,” Davis said with a laugh. “At home I have a twin brother actually, so usually my mom makes a carrot cake for us and we always sing Happy Birthday, but we’ll have to do that when I get home.”

Meanwhile, Fan Fest was a big hit for those in attendance.

“Hopefully the fans had fun because that was obviously the goal and the objective,” said MacLeod “But it was fun for us too. We’re grateful we could get a skate in and make it meaningful, but obviously with the fan energy and the cheering, that just puts a little extra pep in the step. It was a lot of fun.”

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