FanPost

Furies swept up by the Thunder

Brandon Taylor, CWHL

This was a big weekend for the Furies. They came into Saturday's game on a three-game winning streak after sweeping the Boston Blades on the road in the last CWHL games of the season. Natalie Spooner was on a five-game point streak, having scored 14 points in that timespan (10 goals and 4 assists) and tied for lead league in points. However, the Brampton Thunder have been a bigger challenge than the Blades this season, and the Furies were just not up to the task.

January 2nd 3-0 Thunder

With the game being broadcast live to the nation, I was afraid it would be a blowout by the Thunder, who are having a great season, or end with some ridiculously high score. Instead, the first two periods remained scoreless, mainly courtesy of goalies Christina Kessler and Erica Howe's excellent play. There were also several penalties, ten minutes in total for each team, but the Furies' power play also continues to be abysmal. "Worst power play I've ever seen," per my companion. (She was exaggerating, but not much.)

The Furies continued their season-long tradition of passes that couldn't connect, leading to possession and scoring chances for the Thunder. In the end, it was their generally messy defensive play that lead to the Furies' downfall in the third. Laura McIntosh started it off with a goal less than two and a half minutes into the period, followed eleven minutes later by a goal from Jess Jones. Ellie Seedhouse sealed the deal with an empty net goal at 17:33.

The three stars were a little unexpected - Christina Kessler and Erica Howe as third and second star were no surprise but Jess Jones as first star definitely was. Not only did I think Howe deserved the first star with her 24 save shutout, but Ellie Seedhouse had two points on the game (assist and the empty-netter) to Jones' one goal and two penalty minutes.

Notable scratches included Kelly Terry (Furies) and Jamie Lee Rattray, leading scorer for the Thunder, both away at the Nations Cup in Germany.

Saturday's game, sponsored by You Can Play, was also the first regular-season Furies game to be broadcast on Sportsnet. Fortunately, the Canada-Finland WJC game was over before the 2:00 pm start time, so I have my fingers crossed for decent ratings. Attendance also crept up about halfway through the first period.

The Leafs lent out Andy Frost as the game's announcer, we had an actual anthem singer as opposed to the usual instrumental recording and there was a ceremonial puck drop with commissioner Brenda Andress, You Can
Play VP Jillian Svensson and a VP from league sponsor Scotiabank whose name I didn't catch (sorry ma'am). As a fundraiser, You Can Play t-shirts were available at the merch table for $10. (Jerseys also now
available at games, some of them customised!)

The TV timeouts were confusing for the crowd and at least somewhat for those on the ice. From my vantage point, I could see Andy Frost in the scorer's booth counting the refs back in with a five or sometimes ten-count on his fingers, but there was no pre-game explanation about the fact that these would be happening and that the game would therefore run much longer than usual. I had expected we'd get Lauren Howe as in-game host, which would have helped, but she was not present.

As with any of the marquee games, this one was held at rink 1 of the Mastercard Centre, which has the largest seating capacity. Unfortunately, it was deemed necessary to tape off the seating on the team bench side of the rink. At first my companion and I thought it had to do with optics - the commentators and two of the cameras were positioned above the empty side, and certainly with everyone jammed into the remaining side and behind the home net it looked more full than it was to those cameras. However, we then spotted another camera above our side - the crowd would have looked dismal from there. By the second period, there were people standing around the corners of the rink watching against the glass, some of those seats could definitely been filled. I'd love to hear comments from anyone who actually watched the broadcast.

January 3rd 5-4 Thunder

(check out Jashvinah Shah for some great vines from the game)

This was a much faster game than Saturday's. The Furies got off to a quick start, but it wasn't long before the Thunder caught up. Special teams were the story, with two short-handed Thunder goals (both by Fielding Montgomery) and two power play goals (Prevost and Spooner) for the Furies before Carolyne Prevost scored the first five-on-five goal halfway through the second period. The Thunder tied it up early in the third with a power play goal from Sarah Edney, and Jocelyne Larocque put them ahead with a blast from the point for another shorthanded goal. The only five-on-five goal the Thunder managed to score was Laura Fortino's empty-netter which, due to a fantastic goal by Spooner 21 seconds later, stood as the game winner. In total, there were 28 minutes of penalties, 5 minors to the Furies and 9 minors to the Thunder.

The last few minutes of play were a complete mess, a lot of it due to interesting officiating. The Thunder had two empty net goals called off due to delayed offsides, as well as one chance that hit the post for icing and another attempt foiled by Suzuki. The clock failed to start for the final face-off, so the last less-than-ten-seconds were played twice.

Notable players for the Furies included Sonja van der Bliek's excellent work in net, Spooner's many offensive chances (leading to two goals and maintaining her position as league leader in goal scoring), Carolyne Prevost coming this close to a hattrick and Sena Suzuki at both ends of the ice.

First star Fielding Montgomery (Thunder, 2 SHG), second star Carolyne Prevost (2 G) and third star Kristen Richards (Thunder, 2 A, 4 PIM)

This was the first Brampton game I'd watched (courtesy of CWHL Live), and it was interesting to see the Thunder logo actually painted on the ice at Memorial Arena. It's too bad that even for Saturday's televised game that wasn't possible for the Furies.

In a stunning display of this is why you watch the game *and* read the stats, the official scoresheet for Sunday's game lists Christina Kessler as the Furies goalie of record. The 34 saves on 38 shots were actually by former Thunder player Sonja van der Bliek, acquired in a trade earlier this season and who still doesn't have her own jersey. Saturday on the bench she wore Olivia Ross' 33 with tape over Ross' name in order not to confuse Sportsnet, and in goal on Sunday she wore Sami Jo Small's 1. The league provides jerseys for all players, so I don't know if there's some sort of limit per season that's causing the holdup, but it's getting embarrassing.

At the moment, the Furies have two goalies on the active roster and two on the IR (Small, on mat leave, who started skating at practice this week and Ross, listed as "upper-body injury"). Things could get very interesting if both ladies are ready to come back before the end of the season.

Next games are January 8 and 9 at home against Les Canadiennes. Saturday's game at 7:30pm will be streamed.

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