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‘We knew we had to make it’

LOWELL, Mass. – The first-ever PWHL finals couldn’t have ended in a better way: with Minnesota captain Kendall Quinn Schofield scoring an empty-net goal to clinch the championship.

“There’s a lot to be gained on this day,” Minnesota goalie Nicole Hensley said. “She has clearly done a lot for this sport and for this professional league. It’s only fitting that she be the first to touch the Walter Cup.”

Quinn Schofield – a key figure in the founding of the PWHL – won the Walter Cup after her team defeated Boston 3-0 in Game 5 of the PWHL Finals on Wednesday night. Mark Walter, the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and now the sole investor in the PWHL, presented the trophy to Coyne Schofield and – at the captain’s request – helped her lift it.

“I asked Mark to hold him with me for a moment,” she said on the ice after the game. “It was great to be able to carry that next to him.”

Now Coyne Schofield and the PWHL have made Minnesota league history as the first team to win the Walter Cup, the 35-pound trophy designed and manufactured by luxury jewelry company Tiffany & Co.

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“It couldn’t have ended any other way,” said striker Liz Scheepers. The athlete After the match. “She’s the reason we’re all here. She is a huge inspiration for our team and the entire sport.”

Schepers, a Minnesota native, scored her first goal in the PWHL just over six minutes into the second period, which would prove to be the tournament winner. General manager Natalie Darwitz said Schippers’ line with Claire Butorac and Sofia Kunin was one of their best in the playoffs and it was fitting – and good timing – for Schippers to score her first career goal.

“Look at the balanced scoring we got through every line, all our D, I mean, it takes everyone,” Quinn Schofield said. “That’s what it takes to win a championship. And I think that’s why we were able to take this opportunity tonight.”

Michela Cava doubled the lead in the third period with her fourth goal of the PWHL Finals, putting the game out of reach for a Boston team that struggled to generate offense when it mattered most.

Boston goalie Erin Frankel made 41 saves on 43 shots, while her team had just 17 shots on goal and three in the third period. Minnesota did an excellent job of stifling Boston’s offense and keeping most of its chances inside the perimeter.

Although Hensley wasn’t tested often, she solidly stopped all 17 shots she faced and earned her third win and second shutout since regaining the starting lineup in Game 2 of the series.

Minnesota won the best-of-five series 3-2 after thinking it was back on the ice at the Xcel Energy Center — at least a few minutes before Sophie Jacques’ double goal in overtime was disallowed due to goaltender interference . . Alina Mueller scored to force the fifth and final game in dramatic fashion, but Minnesota still came out on top.

“I just think we got something pretty good like last game, which I think we knew we had to get,” Taylor Hayes said. “That feeling (of winning) – you had it and you want it back.”

Heise – the first-ever PWHL draft pick – was named the first-ever Ilana Kloss Playoffs MVP. She scored the series winner in the semifinals and led the playoffs in goals (5) and points (8).

She said her Walter Cup felt heavy after not doing any upper body exercises for a while. “That was a wrinkle for the girls there,” she laughed.

Minnesota entered the playoffs as the lowest seed (4th) and with a five-game losing streak to end the regular season. The team was on the brink of elimination by Toronto, who led 2–0 but won three games in a row to advance to the finals and upset the top-ranked team in the league.

“It’s honestly hard to put into words,” Quinn Schofield said. “We counted out a lot of people. Once we got in, we never looked back. There were times when we were at the bottom, but we couldn’t get out. We may have left some people out, but we believed in us all the way.”

It’s fitting that Quinn Schofield won the Walter Cup at the Tsongas Center, as it was the arena where she returned to hockey after giving birth to her son Drew less than 11 months ago. It was well past his bedtime, but Drew was on the ice with his parents and was placed in the cup.

“What is needed is to go back and be ready to go. On Jan. 3, it was me and him because my husband was still playing football and I got a picture here with him and said my mom is going to play her first professional hockey game,” Quinn Schofield said. Because this would be my first match, and now my last, in the same position as the champions. It has certainly been an emotional year. I am so grateful that Mark and Kimbra believed in us.

It was also Quinn Schofield who called the legendary Billie Jean King six years ago to ask for help about the state of women’s professional hockey. As King told a small group of media on Sunday, she and Kloss met with the three-time Olympian and said they would try to help.

They did this by involving Walter.

“It took us a few years,” says King. “When Mark told us yes, it was a big day for us. We knew then that (the league) had a chance to not only survive, but do so at scale.

King and Kloss now serve on the league’s advisory board and have regular season and playoff MVP awards named after them. When King reflected on what it would be like to see Quinn Schofield become one of the first players to ever win the Walter Cup, she said, “It couldn’t be more perfect.”

(Photo: Troy Parla/Getty Images)

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