PWHL Minnesota's Grace Zumwinkle reflects on hat trick in home opener

Hockey game#
PWHL Minnesota forward Grace Zumwinkle scored a hat trick in the team's first home against Montreal. Minnesota won the game, 3-0. Nicole Neri for MPR News
Nicole Neri for MPR News

Updated 7:01 a.m.

Grace Zumwinkle, a former University of Minnesota star, scored the Professional Women’s Hockey League’s first hat trick on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul as Minnesota defeated Montreal 3-0.

MPR News’ editor and newscaster Todd Melby talked to Zumwinkle about Saturday’s game and the record-breaking crowd of 13,361 in attendance, the most people to ever watch a women’s pro hockey game.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Grace Zumwinkle: It was obviously super exciting. I think what was more exciting was just the atmosphere at the Xcel. And I think breaking the attendance record of having roughly 14,000 fans was just as special as the hat trick in and of itself. It's just huge that the league is getting to this point. And obviously super exciting for our team, especially with a lot of players from Minnesota.

When you skated out on the ice Saturday and you saw those people and you felt the energy in the building, were you all tingly?

Zumwinkle: I think a lot of us were nervous. I think that was maybe evident in the first 10 minutes of our game. But then, once we settled into it, it was just like any other hockey game. And so I think the jitters and nerves were definitely there for us.

How did it feel to play in front of a Minnesota crowd, a state of women's Minnesota hockey?

Zumwinkle: It was surreal, I think, especially playing for the Gophers, I got a taste of it, but nothing quite like having maybe 10,000 more fans than I was used to. But I think it's just the first word that comes to my mind is “pride.” And I think that was evident in the fans that showed up.

Let’s talk about what happened on the ice. Your first goal, you're pretty close to the net, maybe you can describe goal No. 1 for us?

Zumwinkle: I remember getting the puck dot-lane. And then I know the period was running down. I think there was maybe two or three minutes left. And I was like, “Oh, I might as well just throw a puck on net.” I don't think we had many shots on net in the first period. So I was like, “I'll just throw one on net and see what happens.”

And I think it ended up squeaking far side. So I'll take it.

And then the second goal, which happened near the beginning of the third period, you were super far away from the net.

Zumwinkle: I remember circling up high and then kind of transition skating and just throwing one on net. And I think it ended up just staying on the ice actually. And I don't know if it deflected off one of the Montreal players’ skates or what happened, but I just remember seeing that going in on the ice near side.

And then your third goal to complete the hat trick was near the end of the game. And would you even count that one? I mean, it was an empty netter.

Zumwinkle: A goal is a goal. So I'll take it.

How many hat tricks have you had in your in your career?

Zumwinkle: Oh, gosh, really putting me on the spot. I honestly have no clue.

So you've had so many you can't remember?

Zumwinkle: I mean, I wouldn't say that. But I'm just saying like, I've had some in my career. I just, I don't usually pay attention to those statistics.

When you saw people throwing their hats, their stocking caps and everything out onto the ice, how did that feel?

Zumwinkle: I think for me personally, like it was just the cherry on top of the whole day.

And the team has another game on a Wednesday night also at the X. What do you know about your opponent?

Zumwinkle: Yeah, they're a very good team [Toronto]. We got a taste of them, and some preseason games in Utica. And they're very fast and very physical. So we'll have to be ready for that. But in this league, there's so many good teams and you can't take a night off. So it will be interesting to play them for the first time. But each team has their own strengths. So we always got to be up ready for the challenge.

All right, Grace. Well, thanks so much for talking to us.

Zumwinkle: Thank you so much.

Listen to the conversation using the audio player above.

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