Minnesota takes title as U.S. leg of PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour concludes

Team Minnesota celebrates. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

The PWHPA’s United States leg of the Dream Gap Tour is a wrap.

Minnesota knocked off New Hampshire for the second consecutive day, 4-2, in St. Louis to bring the second tour to a close.

The PWHPA held events in New Jersey, New York, Chicago and St. Louis during its second rendition of the tour. They also staged games in New Hampshire and Tampa Bay off schedule.

Minnesota dominated the tour, winning seven of the eight games, to take the tour’s title. They took five points this weekend with two wins and an additional for the shorthanded goal, while New Hampshire was shut out from any standings points.

Haley Skarupa and Alexa Gruschow scored for New Hampshire on Monday, putting them ahead 2-1 before the third period, but Abby Roque continued her torrid pace by tying it in the third. She led the tour with 11 points and earned herself on the Team USA Worlds roster in the middle of it all.

Kendall Coyne-Schofield tallied a shorthanded breakaway, putting it past USA and New Hampshire goalie Alex Cavallini in the third to make it 3-2. She stole the puck at her opposing blue line to earn the unassisted tally.

Sydney Brodt sealed it late to make it 4-2 and wrap up the tour.

Here are some thoughts from the finale, before the Canadian leg begins next week.

The Roque show continues

One of the biggest developments of this season’s tour was the young USA player’s performance. Roque came a long way over the course of it, going from budding star to one of the most dominant players on the entire tour.

That’s good news for USA, who went with a still-older roster heading into Worlds, when they do eventually happen in August.

She was easily the story of the tour, and it was nice to see the near two-month layoff since the last PWHPA event didn’t slow her down over the final two games.

Hensely’s dominance

There’s no doubt Minnesota has a stronger roster than New Hampshire — Minnesota’s results speak to that — but Nicole Hensley may have quite literally played herself into a USA roster spot on the tour.

Maddie Rooney, who started and earned the win on Monday, seemed like all but a lock before the Dream Gap Tour, but Hensley has played some of the best hockey of her career and took a USA spot. There’s a lot of time before the Olympics, and Aerin Frankel, as dominant as she is, is still a rookie. But Hensley’s place seems real secure now as she finished with a whopping .956 save percentage.

It was also good to see New Hampshire’s Katie Burt have a really strong game. Behind a depleted defence, she put in a great performance and had to deal with deflections and breakaways all night.

Defensive depth

New Hampshire blueliner Megan Keller had a big hit early in the game on USA teammate Roque, and the two had a laugh about it.

In all seriousness, she and her defensive partner, Kali Flanagan, had a solid tour. The New Hampshire teammates were also on a pairing at Boston College, and their chemistry showed. Flanagan earned an assist as well, her first point of the tour, and it was well deserved. It could have been a defensive disaster this weekend with fewer than six defenders on each squad, but this pair, in particular, did really well.

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