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Aerin Frankel, resilient PWHL Boston bring Walter Cup Finals back home for Game 5

Around her, some teammates waited, too, some bent over at the waist, others whispering quietly to each other. They’d already watched the Minnesota players erupt in celebration, already stepped over the discarded helmets, sticks, and gloves that littered the Xcel Energy Center ice. As they lingered near the boards and on the bench, all they could hear was the 13,000-plus fans screaming for what they believed was a Walter Cup championship for the home team.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Aerin Frankel was hovering near the blue line just beyond the visitors’ bench, waiting, watching, hoping, believing, that she and the rest of her PWHL Boston teammates would get another chance. She hadn’t followed many of her teammates through the rinkside door, choosing instead to stand alone while the excruciating minutes ticked by.
They watched, they waited, but they never doubted.
Not after what they’d already seen from Frankel. Brilliant all night in net, through three scoreless periods in regulation, through another scoreless period in overtime, and through nearly all of a second overtime until the apparent goal, there wasn’t one teammate who doubted Frankel’s assertion that the only reason she couldn’t make what would have been a 34th save in Game 4 was because she’d been pushed backward into her own net.
And when the official review was announced, when what would have been a championship-winning goal for Minnesota was taken off the board because Frankel had indeed been the victim of goalie interference, well, you could all but feel what the Boston players were about to do next. Just over a minute later — 1:10 to be exact — Alina Muller’s screaming game-winner with 1:24 to go in the second overtime earned Boston a 1-0 win in Sunday night’s Game 4 of the Walter Cup Finals.
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With that, these exhausted, spent players practically sprinted off the ice, knowing they still had somewhere to go. First, the celebratory locker room. Next, back home to Boston. Pulled from the brink of elimination, they get one more night of hockey. Buoyed by the magic of sports, the greatest reality show of them all, they gave this brand new league one last night of hockey, this inaugural PWHL season and its first-ever championship series down a winner-take-all Game 5 Wednesday night at Lowell’s Tsongas Center.
“It’s obviously deflating when you are playing a game this long and you think you score a goal and then you’re celebrating on ice and it gets called back,” Frankel said. “So I think right away, we just hit the reset. And we’ve been in overtime so much already this year, we just stuck to the systems that have been working for us this year.”
The system is called Frankel.
Or more recently, thanks to some creative thinking by some league play by play announcers, the system could be called the Green Monster, which is Frankel’s increasingly popular nickname. Frankel is a human hockey version in goalie pads of the beloved Fenway Park left-field wall that has stopped so many home runs, her 5-foot-5-inch frame belying a startling ability to cover ground, smothering pucks in front of the net or snaring them out of the air with a gloved left hand. In seven overtime periods this postseason, she has yet to let up a goal. She was everywhere Sunday, keeping Boston in the game.
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Aerin Frankel’s Game 4 heroics included denying Minnesota’s Sophia Kunin in the second overtime. David Berding/Getty
“She’s the Green Monster,” a smiling Boston coach Courtney Kessel said. “She was tremendous. From the moment we came back from [the world championships break] we came back with a different group. They’ve been tremendous. They’re going to kill me. It starts with our goaltending. It starts with Franks — her ability to stay calm and keep us in games. Going into a championship if you have a hot goalie you can win.”
Having thickened its skin not only through two hard-fought playoff series but across the final third of the regular season just to earn the chance to be in the postseason, Boston tapped into its hockey reserves as soon as the sting of the Game 3 loss wore off. The team that won four of its final final five regular-season games to earn the third overall seed, the team that won three straight overtime games to upset No. 2 seed Montreal in the opening round, the team that left Xcel Energy Center after Friday night’s Game 3 loss fully confident it had two more games to play and would bring the series back home, that was the team that showed up for Game 4.
“I feel like our backs have been up against the wall for quite some time,” Kessel said after Game 3. “I think the run we went on to get us where we’re at is an accomplishment for sure we know what it’s like to fight back and we’re going to continue to fight.”
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Or as Sidney Morin put it that night: “We’ve been counted out all season before this, but here we are, we’re still alive.”
Still alive, with Frankel to thank.
Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at tara.sullivan@globe.com. Follow her @Globe_Tara.

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