Minnesota defeats Boston 3-0 in Game 5 to win first-ever PWHL championship

(AP) – Minnesota won the inaugural championship of the Professional Women’s Hockey League on Wednesday night, getting 17 saves from Nicole Hensley to beat Boston 3-0 in a winner-take-all Game 5 and claim the Walter Cup.

Three nights after prematurely celebrating a would-be game-winner in double overtime that was waved off for goaltender interference, Minnesota finished the job early to bring the new league’s title back to the state that calls itself the “State of Hockey.”

Liz Schepers scored to break a scoreless, second-period tie, Michela Cava made it 2-0 midway through the third period and Kendall Coyne Schofield added an empty-netter with two minutes left. Hensley, a two-time Olympian from Colorado, earned her second shutout of the playoffs after posting one in 14 regular-season games.

Boston goalie Aerin Frankel, dubbed the “Green Monster” in her forest green home sweater, made 41 saves for the runners-up. The sold-out crowd at the Tsongas Center, about an hour north of Boston, chanted her name and “Thank you, Boston!” after the final buzzer, even as the Minnesota players celebrated on the ice and league officials set up the podium for the trophy presentation.

Boston forced a decisive fifth game only after Sophie Jaques’ apparent goal in double overtime in Game 4 was taken off the board because of goaltender interference. The Minnesota players, who had already streamed onto the ice to celebrate, throwing their equipment in the air, gathered up their gloves and sticks, and the game resumed.

One minute later, Alina Muller scored to send the series back to Boston.

The crowd was eager to see the home team claim the new trophy, named for league benefactor and Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter, chanting “We want the Cup!” just like Bruins fans do down in Boston. A Fenway-style “Sweet Caroline” singalong kept them busy during the second break.

But with the game scoreless early in the second, Minnesota forward Sydney Brodt skated through the slot toward the goal. She whiffed on a wrist shot, drawing Frankel out of position, then slid around to the right side and centered the puck behind her, where Schepers tipped it in.

It was still 1-0 when Cava circled behind the net and stuffed the puck between Frankel’s pads; it trickled toward the net before the goalie knocked it over the line when she reached back to save it with her stick hand.