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You Can Bet On Alex Carpenter’s Shot

Alex Carpenter #25 of New York celebrate her first period goal against Montreal at UBS Arena on February 21, 2024 in Elmont, New York.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The day the PWHL's season began, Jared Book, a veteran Montreal hockey journalist, tweeted a quick note on shootout rules. In international play, someone who's already attempted a shot in the first five rounds of a shootout can shoot again starting in the sixth round. (And again and again and again, if necessary. T.J. Oshie made this rule famous at the Sochi Olympics, and as recently as the 2023 Women's Worlds prelims, Sarah Nurse and Hilary Knight made repeat appearances in a nine-round shootout between the U.S. and Canada.) The league had adopted the current IIHF practice of best-of-five shootouts, but with a slight twist, Book confirmed: “Unlike the IIHF, the repeat shootout shooter rule applies from Round 1 so if, say, Montreal wants to send Marie-Philip Poulin to shoot all five rounds, they can.” He added that he didn't think Montreal would ever do this—it was just an extreme example, something they could do. And when Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie steered her team through the PWHL's first-ever shootout a month ago, against Toronto, she did not send Poulin to shoot all five rounds. Just four of them.

To no avail, sadly. Toronto goalie Kristen Campbell stopped Poulin three of four times, an impressive feat for any goalie, and Toronto went on to win off the stick of defensive defender Lauriane Rougeau, unlikely shootout hero. A repeat shooter runs the risk of overexposure. The more the same shooter faces the same goalie, the more information each party accumulates about the other. But you can't blame Cheverie for trusting in the greatest player of all time. There are some shooters worth that risk.

Alex Carpenter is worth the gamble. The league's leading point-getter found the back of Ann-Renée Desbiens's net three times Wednesday night against Montreal, twice in regulation and once in the fourth round of the shootout, redemption for her own miss in the second round. Carpenter's goal would end up the shootout winner, giving her New York team a much-needed (and first!) home victory against a top team in the league and a best-in-world goaltender.

The 29-year-old forward announced herself as the league's scorer to watch about as early as she could. After assisting on teammate Ella Shelton's goal in the inaugural PWHL game on New Year's Day, Carpenter scored the second goal in league history when she streaked down the left wing, caught a defender by surprise, and lasered the puck over Kristen Campbell's shoulder. The first goal she scored last night bore a clear resemblance. Later in the period, in the last couple minutes, she'd score a short-handed “jailbreak” goal, her eighth goal of the year and fifth in her last three games.

Ask about Carpenter around the league, and you'll hear almost everyone say she's inexplicably flown under the radar. Perhaps it's because of the four years she spent overseas, out of North American sight: A late Olympic roster cut in 2018, she played in China and in Russia after the Canadian Women's Hockey League folded in 2019. “Underrated” players typically require some connoisseurship to appreciate; they take the shape of an unassuming minute-eater or a shutdown forward. But Carpenter plays a dynamic offensive game, obvious to the untrained eye. (This lunging, one-handed redirect she scored in a December Rivalry Series game is one of my favorite goals ever.) Her wrist shot is powerful and accurate, and she makes it deadlier with her knack for finding open ice and her legit speed. "I remember practicing against her last season and being, like, 'Oh yeah, I have her,'" Toronto defender Renata Fast told Sportsnet last month. "She’d be coming down the wall and then she takes two strides and she’d be past me and I’d be, like, ‘What?’ And it just kept happening."

About halfway through this 24-game season, New York finds itself near the bottom of the standings, struggling to pick up the regulation wins that count for a little extra in the PWHL, which uses a 3-2-1 point system. But there's no reason to think New York's fortunes can't change: Their goaltending tandem is exceeding expectations, and Carpenter has quickly developed chemistry with her center, Abby Roque, whose puck protection strength buys extra time for her wingers to get open. (Roque set up both of Carpenter's goals last night.) If anything, what New York could use is some more scoring depth; Carpenter has scored or assisted on more than half of New York's goals. But who's going to complain if she's the one taking every shot?

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