Ottawa 3, Toronto 1
Daryl Watts arrived as a pro hockey player with an offensive resume that does cartwheels off the page.
As it turns out, she’s also adept at performing mental somersaults.
While the 24-year-old left-winger had one goal through Ottawa PWHL’s first three games, she knows she coulda/shoulda had many more.
“I am super aware of all the chances that I’ve had,” Watts said with a sheepish grin after the team’s morning skate on Tuesday. “It’s like a knife to the heart like when I don’t score on those opportunities, like the last game when I had, you know, two feet of open net and I hit the post. That just killed me.”
The power of positive thinking, she has discovered, comes with no guarantees.
“Sometimes when I think about scoring goals, it doesn’t work,” said Watts. “Like last night, when I was going to bed, I was like, ‘Let’s get a hat trick tomorrow.’ But then I was like, ‘No, let’s actually not score any goals,’ and that way, it’s like reverse psychology, like tricking my brain, I’m going to tell myself I’m not going to score tonight, and then maybe I’ll score.”
The only thing that mattered a few hours later was that Ottawa finally scored more than the opponents in a game at TD Place.
Goalie Emerance Maschmeyer was the star Tuesday night, stopping 30 shots in a 3-1 final against Toronto for Ottawa’s first home ice win.
“As a goalie, it was actually a lot of fun,” said Maschmeyer. “I love getting a lot of shots, so when they’re peppering me early, there’s nothing better.”
The crowd of 6,316 fans stayed behind to do a thunder clap celebration with the players when it was over.
“We worked on that a while ago … before our first game, so it’s nice to be able to pull it out,” said captain Brianne Jenner, whose team lost its previous two home games by identical 3-2 scores in overtime. “The crowd knew what they were doing, so it looked pretty organized for the first time.”
Said Maschmeyer: “That celebration at the end, just to be in that moment with the fans was incredible. We just feel so much passion from them and we just wanted to get our first win for them.”
Jenner and Emily Clark scored their first PWHL goals before Lexie Adzija iced the victory with an empty-netter 42.5 seconds from the final buzzer.
Jenner has no immediate plans for the souvenir puck, other than to stash it in her closet.
“I think as a competitor you’re hungry, and I think you for me I was just focusing on putting pucks on net and having a shot mentality,” she said of the goal. “But yeah, you don’t you try not to think too much about the outcomes, especially when you’re in the middle of those games.”
Brittany Howard replied for the visitors while Erica Howe stopped 17 shots.
“I think it was an ugly one for sure,” Jenner said of the win. “Not our prettiest game. I think we’ve had probably a bit better games moving the puck, but you have to find a way to win in those and I thought we did, we fought hard in the third. Those are some big penalty kills, some big blocks, big saves from Mash. So those are things you want to see, especially when you get to later in the season. When we’re seeing that now it’s a really good sign.
Watts’ best chance came early in the second period when she couldn’t get a good handle on a hard pass from Aneta Tejralova.
Scoring is something Watts has been good at her whole life, from minor hockey into college. In the 2017-18 season, in her first year at Boston College, she had 42 goals and 40 assists in 38 games to win the Patty Kazmaier Award, which is presented to the top player in NCAA Division 1 women’s hockey.
In five seasons at the college level — two at B.C. at three at the University of Wisconsin — Watts wound up with 297 points (136 goals, 161 assists) in 172 games.
“One of my coaches at Wisconsin, Jackie Crum, would say when I wasn’t scoring, ‘At least you’re getting the chances, so you’re doing something right. That’s all you can ask for,’ ” she said. “It would be nice to have more of those going in, but I have faith that they will start to go in.”
Ottawa coach Carla MacLeod is one of Watts’ biggest fans.
“She’s dynamic, right?” said MacLeod. “That’s a player on the ice, when she gets the puck, you kind of just perk up a little bit because you just think something creative could occur. She’s gifted when it comes to skating, a very, very smooth skater, but incredibly skilled with the puck and you want her to be at her best and just feel free to to make the plays, and shoot the puck when she sees (the chance) because she’s got an elite level shot.
“She’s just she’s learning the pro game, and now the other side of the puck is understanding how do you make contact, how do you backcheck. I think what I love is that her game is becoming a complete game, and certainly she’s certainly a player that’s a fun one to watch, and definitely fun to coach.”
MacLeod also has faith the goals will come for Watts.
“Just look at her statistics, her history speaks volumes, her history is incredible,” she said. “When you look at her NCAA production, we all played NCAA, not everyone’s produced like she’s been able to, so it’s just learning at the next level. You have you find, find that same sort of confidence and capacity, but you know, I we’d be kind of goofy as coaches to get in the way of for her given talents. And so it’s not about coaching her in that area of the game. It’s just helping her build out her entire game.”
Facing Toronto was special for Watts, who grew up in Etobicoke as a “huge Leafs fan” and whose favourite player was Mats Sundin.
She recalls the Leafs playing hard against Ottawa, but not having a lot of success, but she was also born in 1999 and therefore a little too young to remember Toronto bouncing the Senators from the playoffs in four of five spring showdowns in the early 2000s.
Watts, meanwhile, is excited about another Battle of Ontario forming in the PWHL.
“I think it’s super fun,” said Watts, who scored her one goal goal in Ottawa’s 5-1 victory over Toronto earlier this month. “It’s kind of interesting to be from Toronto, but now playing for Ottawa playing Toronto. I think there’s definitely a space to create like a huge rivalry and really intense games.”
Ottawa is back in action at TD Place on Wednesday with Boston providing the opposition. Game time is 7 p.m.
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