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PWHL Minnesota falls to Boston 4-3 in opener of Walter Cup finals

As the saying goes, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Being both at the same time is best of all, as PWHL Boston proved Sunday in Game 1 of the Walter Cup finals.

Boston used tenacity, outstanding goaltending and a fortunate bounce to edge PWHL Minnesota 4-3 to open the league's championship series. Boston scored three goals in a back-and-forth second period to wrangle the lead away from Minnesota, then helped goalie Aerin Frankel shut the door on any hopes of a Minnesota rally before 4,508 fans at Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.

Only 15 seconds after Taylor Heise pulled Minnesota even with her second goal of the game, Boston defender Jess Healey got that blessed bounce for the game-winner. Healey's shot from the left boards, just inside the blue line, struck the stick of Minnesota's Sophia Kunin and zipped past goaltender Maddie Rooney.

Minnesota outshot Boston 33-22 and got three goals from its top line. But Frankel's unflappability, plus that well-timed bit of luck, gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

The victory was Boston's sixth in a row. Game 2 is Tuesday at Tsongas Center.

"I just threw it on net, and I think I got a little lucky," Healey said of her winning goal, scored at 17 minutes, 25 seconds of the second period. "But I guess that doesn't matter, as long as it's in the net."

Minnesota coach Ken Klee praised his team for another strong game. Only two days after beating Toronto 4-1 on the road, finishing off a tough, five-game semifinal series, Minnesota played with speed and spirit.

Heise finished with two goals and an assist, giving the former Gophers standout from Lake City four goals in her past two games. The center combined with linemates Kendall Coyne Schofield and Michela Cava for all three Minnesota goals and 12 shots.

But Minnesota could not get past Frankel after Heise tied the score 3-3 at 17:10 of the second period. Frankel made 30 saves and stopped Minnesota cold in the third period, when it outshot Boston 13-7.

"We were right there,'' Klee said. "I liked our effort. I liked our compete. They just had one more play than us, and hit a stick on the way to the net.

"We had a couple of defensive lapses, but for the most part, I like what we did with the puck. Without the puck, we'll just clean up some things."

Heise said the team was excited to play only two days after Friday's emotional victory in the semifinals. While Boston had more rest, ending a sweep of Montreal last Tuesday, Minnesota gained steam throughout the first round and wanted to keep the momentum rolling.

The matchup was billed as a test of Minnesota's speed against Boston's physicality. While Minnesota used its speed effectively, Boston recorded a 35-15 advantage in hits.

BOXSCORE: Boston 4, Minnesota 3

Cava converted a backhand pass from Heise into a wraparound goal at 4:38, as Minnesota controlled play early. Then several players with Minnesota connections got to work for Boston. Susanna Tapani, who started the season with Minnesota before a trade to Boston, scored on a rebound to tie it 1-1 after one period.

After Heise scored early in the second period, two former Gophers helped Boston gain its first lead. Warroad native Gigi Marvin set up Taylor Wenczkowski's goal, then Vadnais Heights native Hannah Brandt beat Rooney from the low right circle for a 3-2 Boston lead.

Rooney made 18 saves, while Minnesota was 0-3 on the power play.

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.