Rarely in life do events live up to the hype and excitement built up in advance. This past weekend’s Secret Dream Gap Tour stop was one of the rare events where the hype and expectations were met and even exceeded. Players descended upon New York City on Friday, and took to the ice on Saturday and Sunday night to finally kick off the 2021 season for the PWHPA.
New Hampshire (Women’s Sports Foundation) and Minnesota (Adidas) put on a show over two nights. On Saturday, Team Adidas took a 5-2 decision over Team Women’s Sports Foundation. On Sunday night, under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, Team Women’s Sports Foundation responded with a 4-3 victory to earn the series split.
Team Adidas was given the weekend victory, 3-2 in points, and the cash pot prize. They earned the extra point thanks to scoring five goals on Saturday night in their victory.
After two competitive games, expectations are high for the upcoming slate this weekend, which sees Team Women’s Sports Foundation and Team Adidas meet two more times. They’ll play at the United Center on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 pm (NBCSN), then finish their four game series on Sunday at 10:30 am at Fifth Third Arena in the second Secret Dream Gap Tour stop.
Before we can look ahead, however, we have to look back. This weekend was thrilling, with both sides getting a victory and with highlights galore. Among the standouts, Team Adidas forward Abby Roque shined in her professional debut, while Team Women’s Sports Foundation forward Brianna Decker wowed fans with her outing at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
Players like Codie Cross, Delaney Belinskas, Jincy Dunne, Roque and Ryleigh Houston made their professional debuts over the course of the weekend, and all impressed in their own ways.
They were among the many players who caught the eyes of fans over the course of the weekend. Here’s a look at who we thought stood out above the crowd.
Making Their Mark
Alex Cavallini (NH): The 2018 Olympic Gold Medalist started at Madison Square Garden and outdueled Maddie Rooney, who she backed up in South Korea. Cavallini stopped 32 of the 35 shots that she faced in the victory, and really had no chance on two of the three goals. Hilary Knight’s bomb would be tough for any goalie to stop, while Kendall Coyne-Schofield was left all alone in a high-danger area on her goal Sunday night. Cavallini made her case to both Team Women’s Sports Foundation and Team USA for a big role moving forward. She heads to Chicago with a 1-0-0 record, a 3.00 GAA and a save percentage of .914.
Ryleigh Houston (MIN): If you don’t know Ryleigh Houston, now you know. Houston finished the weekend with three points in two games, scoring a goal and adding two helpers. She was all over the ice in the third period of Saturday night’s victory, and her goal displayed the underrated shot that she possesses. Team Adidas is loaded with big names at forward, but Houston stood out in a big way in New York. A native of Winnipeg, Houston played college hockey at the University of North Dakota before transferring to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. This is a good player that can create on the forecheck. It was a great professional debut for her.
Brianna Decker (NH): Surprise surprise, Brianna Decker is good. She finished the weekend with four points (2 g, 2 a) and paced the offense in Sunday night’s victory. Not only was Decker dynamic and creating scoring chances all over the ice, but she was a leader and playing on edge. In the opener on Saturday night, she got into it with Kendall Coyne-Schofield early on. On Sunday, she was the vocal leader for a team looking to get their first victory and challenge for the weekend title.
Decker’s edge, leadership and skill makes her a top player for Team Women’s Sports Foundation. Her performance on Sunday night is likely just the beginning of what should be a dominating Dream Gap Tour.
Kendall Coyne-Schofield (MIN): Like with Decker, there really shouldn’t be any surprise that Coyne-Schofield finds herself on this list. She scored three points (2 g, 1 a) on the weekend, and could have had more. On Saturday night, she drew a penalty by using her speed and pulling away in the neutral zone. Later in the game, she had another breakaway opportunity, but this time got stonewalled by Katie Burt. Coyne-Schofield’s speed was an issue all weekend for Team WSF’s defense, and she routinely found herself in high-danger areas. One of the best players in the world looked the part this weekend.
Hayley Scamurra (NH): The first goal of the 2021 Secret Dream Gap Tour belonged to Hayley Scamurra. Scamurra displayed patience, hockey IQ, skill and strength when she drove to the net and fired a backhander by Nicole Hensley to open the scoring on Saturday night. It was her only point on the weekend, but the former Northeastern Huskie and Buffalo Beaut was all over the ice and playing a strong 200-foot game. With the amount of skill on the Team Adidas roster, having responsible players will be key for Team Women’s Sports Foundation. Scamurra was that player this past weekend.
Abby Roque (MIN): What a professional debut for Roque. The former Wisconsin Badger scored four points on Saturday night, lighting the lamp twice and setting up two other goals. That performance proved to be key, as the five goals scored by Team Adidas ended up making the difference on the weekend. Roque tacked on another goal and an assist on Sunday night, finishing the weekend with a Tour-high six points (3-3-6). Consider it a statement made and a message sent to the US National team.