As momentous a day as Monday was for the sport of women’s hockey, no championship was handed out.
And that was the message within the room for Toronto PWHL after a disappointing 4-0 loss to New York.
As hard as that first game loss was to swallow, particularly when everyone was celebrating the accomplishment of a league that will set women up professionally for years to come, it was still just one game.
So there was no video session reliving the 4-0 loss as the team reconvened for practice in anticipation of Friday’s game in Bridgeport, Conn., where Toronto will see the same opponent.
Toronto PWHL head coach Troy Ryan was in no hurry to have his team relive what was, on one hand, the day their dreams came true and, on the other, a bit of a disappointment.
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Normally, it is Ryan’s practice to spend the day after a win or a loss going over video and learning where his team can be better. And yes, that will come.
But after acknowledging Monday’s first PHWL game wasn’t just any old game, Ryan decided it was best to hold off on the corrections and give his team a little time to reflect on the day that changed women’s hockey forever.
Ryan knows better than most what this first PWHL game meant to so many of the women on his team and with that in mind he’s not about to get too worked up over the result.
“You can’t,” he said. “If it surfaced too many times in a row, you would have some concerns. One of the things I said to my family yesterday and coaches that were around when we went for dinner after the game, you think of how crazy it would have been for a coach to be really negative or be really hard, hard on anyone (after an event like that.)
“It’s not being soft. It’s not because they are women. It’s none of those things that people will say, but when you think of how big the game was from a historical standpoint … just sense of pride for all those athletes. Sometimes a coach who is unaware could ruin that whole day and that experience and I just wanted no part of that.”
Ryan will voice his opinion and point out the areas that need correcting, but at least in this circumstance, to do so right away and overshadow the day that was with any type of negativity just felt wrong.
Kali Flanagan was like a lot of the women reflecting on the game a day later. The Toronto defender certainly wasn’t happy with the result, but acknowledged the circumstances around the game that led to a rough start for the Toronto women.
“I don’t know,” Flanagan said when asked about the out-of-character play by Toronto on Monday. “It’s one of those things where it was a super-emotional game and so there was a big anticipation and obviously a historic day. We had been waiting for it for a long time, so kind of just riding off the coattails of that.”
Flanagan said the message from the team leadership group – captain Blayre Turnbull along with assistants Renata Fast and Jocelyne Larocque as well as Flanagan, Sarah Nurse and Emma Maltais – was basically leave this one behind and not dwell on it.
“We’re just going to kind of try and flush whatever breakdowns we had and focus on the positives going into Friday,” Flanagan said.
And while there may not be any real apparent positives in that one-sided score from Monday, it doesn’t take a lot of digging to find a few.
Toronto outshot New York, had more time in the opposition end than New York and won the turnover battle, to list just three. But none of that showed up on the scoreboard because Toronto failed to execute the rest of the game plan.
“What it shows is we weren’t doing the little things to make those things benefit our game,” Ryan said of the battles Toronto won. “Our offensive zone possession time was great. We had 62 attempted shots on net. But the way we played, we would have to have had 202 to score a goal. We had no one at the net front, no one off the weak side. If you are not providing those variables, most goalies in this league are going to make those saves.”
Friday can’t come soon enough for this team.