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Chuli gets fourth win as Montreal holds off Minnesota 2-1 in battle of top PWHL teams

LAVAL, Que. — Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie sleeps just fine knowing she has two brick walls in net. "It's not a worry,” Cheverie said. “I don't lose sleep at night, I lose sleep over other things.
Minnesota' Kendall Coyne Schofield (26) moves in on Montreal goaltender Elaine Chuli as Montreal's Ann-Sophie Bettez (240) defends during third period PWHL hockey action in Laval, Que., Sunday, February 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

LAVAL, Que. — Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie sleeps just fine knowing she has two brick walls in net.

"It's not a worry,” Cheverie said. “I don't lose sleep at night, I lose sleep over other things.”

Elaine Chuli made 21 saves for her fourth win in as many starts as Montreal defeated Minnesota 2-1 in the Professional Women’s Hockey League on Sunday afternoon. Playing back up to Canada No. 1 Ann-Renee Desbiens, Chuli is the only PWHL goalie to see action without a loss this season. 

Chuli has a league-leading .961 save percentage, while Desbiens is fourth with a .928 in seven starts.

"We have two very, very good goalies,” Lefort said. “That much is clear."

"Chuli did what she needed to do again tonight," Cheverie added. "When you have a goalie duo like that, I think It's pretty scary for the other teams."

Sarah Lefort scored the game-winning goal and Claire Dalton also found the back of the net for Montreal (4-3-2-2), which was shut out 3-0 against Toronto on Friday in front of a women’s hockey record crowd of 19,285 at Scotiabank Arena.

Captain Kendall Coyne Schofield scored the lone goal for league-leading Minnesota (5-2-2-3) after winning 2-1 at Ottawa on Saturday. Maddie Rooney stopped 18 shots.

A rowdy sold-out crowd of 10,172 spectators took in the battle between the PWHL’s top two teams at Place Bell.

"In Montreal, the fans are amazing,” Lefort said. “We can see a resemblance between the 10,000 here and the 19,000 in Toronto. We're proud of it."

Dalton opened the scoring on the power play 3:41 into the first period.

It was only Montreal’s second power-play goal this year after going 24 opportunities without scoring.

“Finally, the power play,” Cheverie, a New Glasgow, N.S. native, said in her limited French to start her press conference. 

"It is a little bit of a relief," she added. "But I knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time.”

Coyne Schofield got Minnesota on the board at 17:42 after finishing a sweet backhand over Chuli’s left shoulder.

Lefort scored her first on the season 14:06 into the second to put Montreal up 2-1. She started the play by setting up Madison Bizal for a one-timer, and finished it by burying the rebound.

"It was about time," Lefort said. "Once you make that pass you still gotta go to the net, you still gotta finish the play.”

Chuli made a couple big stops on Minnesota’s Kelly Pannek without her stick in the last minute to keep the game tied heading into the third.

Montreal captain Marie-Philip Poulin nearly extended the lead short-handed with 12 minutes left but hit the crossbar on a deke to the backhand. A short-handed goal would have simultaneously killed the penalty with a “jailbreak” under PWHL rules.

"I've noticed our PK is cheating a little bit for the jailbreak, and I just let them know I don't like the jailbreak,” Cheverie said. "Funny enough that Pou gets a breakaway."

Minnesota earned a second power play just as the other expired but Montreal managed to kill it off.

Lee Stecklein nearly tied the game with a slap shot off the post while Minnesota had the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, but Montreal hung on for the win.


Montreal forward Catherine Dubois was overcome with emotion when general manager Daniele Sauvageau called her Saturday night to offer a standard player agreement.

"I cried, as soon as Daniele told me I was on a full contract and have my chance to play today, I just cried," Dubois said. "I think it was a bottle of all the emotion and I called my family obviously first, my dad and my mom, and we are an emotional family, so we all cried together."

The 28-year-old from Charlesbourg, Que., produced one goal in seven games while playing on 10-day contracts for Montreal.

Upon learning she’d play an eighth, a bunch of family members — including her grandmother and some nephews — quickly arranged to get in the sold-out building. Dubois was even rewarded with a few shifts on Montreal’s top line with Poulin.

"Every day I thought I might not have that chance to play on a full contract,” Dubois said. “You doubt yourself, you wonder, 'what do I do wrong.' But at the end of the day, I play it because I love it and I couldn't stop working. I couldn't stop thinking that maybe one day I will make it.

"Thank God it happened."

In a corresponding move, the team placed defender Dominika Laskova on long-term injured reserve.


Montreal: Hits the road for a game in New York on Wednesday.

Minnesota: Opens a two-game homestand next Sunday against Boston.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2024.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press