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Five things to know about the inaugural PWHL Walter Cup finals series

In the battle for women's pro hockey supremacy, chalk one up for the Americans. Actually, chalk two.

PWHL Boston and PWHL Minnesota are the last teams standing in the Professional Women's Hockey League playoffs. They will start the best-of-five Walter Cup finals Sunday in Boston, in an all-American conclusion to the league's inaugural season. Here's the lowdown on the showdown.

The schedule

Boston plays host to Game 1 (4 p.m. Sunday) and Game 2 (6 p.m. Tuesday) at Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. The series moves to Xcel Energy Center for Game 3 (6 p.m. Friday). If Game 4 is needed, it will be at Xcel (5 p.m. May 26), with a potential Game 5 at Tsongas Center (6 p.m. May 29).

All games will be livestreamed on the PWHL's YouTube channel. Select games also will be televised on Bally Sports North.

How they got here

Third-seeded Boston swept No. 2 seed Montreal in the semifinals, winning all three games in overtime. No. 4 seed Minnesota — which barely made the playoffs — rallied to beat top seed Toronto, overcoming a 2-0 series deficit with three consecutive victories.

While Boston has won seven of its past eight games, Minnesota made a dramatic turnaround in one week. After spending most of the season at or near the top of the PWHL standings, it took a late-season nosedive, losing seven consecutive games. That skid included a pair of shutout losses in Toronto to begin the playoffs.

One more loss would have ended its season. Minnesota responded with two shutout victories at Xcel, including a 1-0, double-overtime victory in Game 4. Goaltender Maddie Rooney gave up only one goal in the final three games of the semis, and Minnesota ended the series with a 4-1 win at Toronto on Friday.

The matchup

Boston and Minnesota had identical records in the regular season, with eight regulation wins, four overtime wins, three OT losses and nine regulation losses. Though Boston won three of the five games between the teams, Minnesota held a slim 11-10 edge in goals scored.

Boston wore down Montreal with its physical play and depth. Minnesota brings speed, and it's getting contributions from all four lines. The finals also feature two of the league's best goaltenders in Rooney and Boston's Aerin Frankel.

Rooney is the PWHL's top playoff performer in goals-against average (0.45), save percentage (.979) and shutouts (2). Frankel has a postseason GAA of 0.97 and save percentage of .972.

Improved special-teams play could make a difference for Minnesota. After struggling throughout the regular season on the power play and penalty kill, the team struck twice on the power play in the deciding game against Toronto, ending an 0-for-25 stretch. It was a perfect 10-for-10 on the penalty kill in the semifinals.

Smart swap

Minnesota and Boston made the first trade in PWHL history, with Boston defender Sophie Jaques coming to Minnesota on Feb. 11 in exchange for forward Susanna Tapani and defender Abby Cook. It was a productive move for both teams.

Jaques added offense to Minnesota's blue line and has three assists in the playoffs, building on a strong regular season. Tapani, who brought more depth to Boston's forward corps, scored two game-winning goals in overtime to power Boston's semifinal sweep.

Star power

If you watched the 2018 Olympic gold medal game, these rosters should look familiar. The finals will feature 11 members of the U.S. team that beat Canada for gold at the Pyeongchang Games, with five playing for Minnesota and six for Boston.

Minnesota's lineup includes goaltenders Rooney (Andover) and Nicole Hensley, forwards Kelly Pannek (Plymouth) and Kendall Coyne Schofield, and defender Lee Stecklein (Roseville). Boston has forwards Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights), Gigi Marvin (Warroad), Hilary Knight and Amanda Pelkey, plus defenders Megan Keller and Sidney Morin (Minnetonka).

According to Pannek, familiarity breeds competition. "I don't care who I'm playing against. I want to beat them," she said. "Even though there are a lot of American players, I expect it to be as chippy and feisty as the last two [playoff] series were."