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CWHL Recap: Playoff race heats up as Furies beat Blades 5-1 and Thunder fall to Canadiennes 2-1

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It’s a race to the finish line and every point counts.

A group of Toronto Furies players hug in celebration of a win. Chris Tanouye/Canadian Women’s Hockey League

Toronto Furies 5 v Worcester Blades 1

Tonight the Furies held an alumnae night, specifically celebrating former Olympian Jennifer Botterill and Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James. Both women are former captains of Toronto CWHL teams, although both played before Toronto was named the Furies, as well as for Toronto teams prior to the founding of the CWHL. (The history of Toronto area CWHL teams is somewhat convoluted but generally the Toronto Aeros, the Burlington Barracudas and the Mississauga Chiefs are all considered predecessors of the Furies.)

Veteran forward Julie Allen was also honoured, as tonight marked her 100th CWHL game.

It was yet another do-or-die game for Toronto. With Shenzhen only getting one point in their final three games this week, the Furies playoff hopes are now under their own control again — if they win their last three games, they will grab a playoff spot. The Blades have not won a game this season, but they’ve shown improvement and in previous seasons the Furies have had the dubious honour of being either the first or the only team who has lost to the Blades. Underestimating Worcester could be deadly to their playoff chances.

Elaine Chuli got her second start in a row. Starting at forward were Julie Allen, Shiann Darkangelo and Mackenzie MacNeil, with Mellissa Channell and Renata Fast on the blueline.

To counter, the Blades had Jessica Convery in goal (and, unusually for the Blades this season, she stayed in for the whole game) with Lauren Williams and Alexis Miller on defence and Megan Myers, Kaitlin Spurling and Meghan Grieves up front.

The scratches for Toronto were Jessica Platt, Jenna Dingeldein, Emma Greco and Jordan Hampton. Emily Fulton rejoined the lineup after her fall last Saturday.

First period

It didn’t take long for the Furies to get on the board in this one. Sarah Nurse rushed up the ice and poked a puck past Convery’s pads just 1:02 into the game. Julia Fedeski was credited with the assist. (I thought it was Natalie Spooner, but possibly I saw the 4, saw she was with Nurse and hallucinated “24” because those two are always together these days.) It was Fedeski’s first CWHL point.

There was an unfortunate incident at the Furies bench eight minutes in that involved Toronto players crashing into each other as the door to the bench opened.

Spooner had a breakaway shortly afterwards, but shot wide.

Brittany Howard earned the first penalty of the game, a tripping call just past the halfway mark of the period. The Furies had a few rushes, including a shorthanded chance for Nurse that involved stealing the puck from Convery to try again, very exciting, but the penalty expired without any goals for either team.

Renata Fast and Taryn Harris collided with five minutes left with no call, Fast seemed to go down pretty hard, but stayed in the game.

Carrie Atkinson was sent to the box for roughing at 15:35. The Furies first unit consisted of Spooner, Nurse, Channell, Carolyne Prévost and Carlee Campbell. They had a bit of a discussion prior to the faceoff which mostly seem to consist of Campbell telling the others what to do. It took them 11 seconds to score.

Campbell took a shot that bounced off a Blades player in front and Prévost swooped in to bury the rebound. Channell was credited with the secondary assist. 2-0 Furies.

About two minutes later Nicole Anderson was caught tripping Fast. Toronto switched up their power play units a bit (I noticed Megan Quinn was out on the first unit) and didn’t manage to score on the advantage.

Shots on the period were tied at seven apiece although it seemed like the Furies were getting the majority of the shot attempts.

Second period

At about 4:17, Sarah Nurse hit the post. This audibly frustrated approximately half the crowd—Toronto plays host to a lot of Blades fans.

Spooner managed to do something I don’t think I’d ever seen before: she sent a wraparound attempt high over the net. Wraparounds generally stay on the ice, don’t they?

Fast and Morgan Turner (the Blades have three Turners, I would like to reiterate that is mean) were both sent off for roughing after an incident in the corner. Spooner argued vigorously with the officials on behalf of her teammate, but 4 on 4 it was.

Quinn got a shot off, Chuli had to be sharp with a stop... and then Quinn was called for hooking and the Blades got 46 seconds of 4 on 3. The Furies held the fort but didn’t really manage to clear the puck until the initial penalties expired. At 5 on 4 Jess Vella had a neat shorthanded steal in the neutral zone, and Prévost got a chance as well.

Two minutes after Quinn returned to the ice Natalie Spooner was denied by Convery with a little help from Courtney Turner, who got a hooking call on the play. Spooner was denied again on the power play, as was Prévost.

Chuli had to fight off a particularly fluky shot when the Blades came in on a 2 on 1 and Fedeski didn’t seem to be entirely aware of which of the two was carrying the puck.

With 51.4 seconds left in the period, Channell was sent to the box for a trip. Campbell and Spooner combined for a shorthanded chance but didn’t make it count.

Shots on the period were 11 to 7 for the Furies, although the shot attempts might have been a little more even in this period.

Third period

Toronto started the period on the penalty kill, but it wasn’t until a second or two after the penalty had expired that Meghan Grieves managed to beat Chuli unassisted. 2-1.

Eight seconds later, the Furies were back on the kill, as Quinn was called for roughing. All in all the Furies had looked like the better team up to this point but they didn’t really look like they were playing for their lives.

Chuli was busy to start the kill. Allen managed to kill some time by flipping the puck down the ice... and into the Blades bench. Whoops. Not the best kill the Furies had managed. Quinn did manage a breakaway shortly after she got back.

Brittany Howard was one who started to step it up at that point, combing with Pŕevost for a chance before being stopped twice in a row later on.

Just before the halfway point of the period the Furies thought they had scored but Convery was flat on the ice with the puck underneath her and not over the goal line according to the officials. Taryn Harris ended up with her second penalty of the game, a hooking call.

The Blades actually managed a shorthanded chance on this penalty but it was Natalie Spooner who scored to put the Furies up 3-1. A mess in front of Convery resulted in Spooner sending a puck up and in and out of the net before the Blades had even realized a goal had been scored. Assists went to Nurse and Channell.

A few seconds afterwards Nurse went in for a backhand shot and lost her footing as Convery made the save. Both she and Convery ended up in a heap in the net. Unsurprisingly the puck that flew over them to land in the net before either of them could get up was not actually called a goal.

Brittany Howard was called for hooking. Nurse and Prévost both had shorthanded chances but it was Howard herself who was the next Furies goalscorer. About a minute after she got out of the box she sent a shot whizzing past Convery to make it 4-1. Campbell and Darkangelo got the assists.

Emily Fulton followed that up ninety seconds later with her second goal of the season. She grabbed the puck and went one on one with a Blades defender before sending a lovely shot in high on Convery, jostling but not quite popping the water bottle. Julia Fedeski made it a multi-point game by getting her second professional assist, and Sena Suzuki got the secondary assist. (I note that this is indicated as Suzuki’s first point of the season, although she was credited with an assist last Saturday. That either didn’t get officially recorded or was taken away from her.)

The Furies ended the game on the penalty kill because why not? (Okay because Campbell got called for delay of game).

Shots were 14 to 9 for the period and 32 to 23 for the game in favour of Toronto.

Three stars

3. Meghan Grieves, Worcester Blades (1 goal)

2. Mellissa Channell, Toronto Furies (2 assists, 1 penalty)

1. Carolyne Prévost, Toronto Furies (game winning goal)

Notes

  • The Blades struck me as very aggressive this game, if often pretty disorganized. They chased after the puck with vigour but didn’t get very many shot attempts.
  • My notes are littered with descriptors of “blocked”, “wide” and “high” for a lot of Toronto chances. Five goals on 32 shots is pretty good but I still can’t help wishing they would hit the net more often. Certainly on Tuesday they’re going to need it.
  • While she wasn’t getting the kind of work she saw last weekend, Elaine Chuli managed to stay sharp and not succumb to boredom, which was a real worry, especially in the first. The chances that the Blades did manage to get were often dangerous or fluky (and fluky chances are often dangerous by their very nature) and Chuli had things handled, sometimes stopping the puck even when she couldn’t stop the Blades themselves from landing in her net.
  • It sounds dumb when you look at the final score but Toronto is going to need to be better than this on Tuesday. I don’t know if it was a bit of playing down to their opponent or saving some gas for Tuesday or some other factor but the Furies were a little scattered and more opportunistic than systemic.

Les Canadiennes de Montréal 2, Markham Thunder 1

Over in Montréal, the Markham Thunder took on les Canadiennes in Montréal’s annual Pink in the Rink game, which benefits McGill’s breast cancer clinic. Markham sent out a starting line of Laura Stacey, Victoria Bach, and Jamie Lee Rattray, with Laura Fortino and Ella Matteucci on defense, with Erica Howe getting her usual Saturday start. The scratches were Ailish Forfar (who is currently competing with Team Canada at the Universiade), Jocelyne Larocque, Elijah Milne-Price, and Brooke Webster.

Montréal countered with Emerance Maschmeyer in net, the killer top line of Jill Saulnier, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Ann-Sophie Bettez at forward, and Melanie Desrochers and Erin Ambrose on the back end.

First Period

The first period didn’t have much action show up on the scoreboard—no penalties and no scoring—but there was a lot of back-and-forth action in the game, including this great save by Howe on Mélodie Daoust.

The Thunder outshot les Canadiennes 11 to 6.

Second Period

Victoria Bach opened the scoring just under three minutes into the second period, scoring her 19th (yes, you read that correctly) goal of the year off a rebound of a Laura Stacey shot that Maschmeyer couldn’t corral.

Gina Repaci went off for tripping at about nine minutes into the period, and while the Thunder killed off that penalty, Kristen Barbara was called for roughing not long after. It was Mélodie Daoust who made the most of Montréal’s power play. She tipped a Poulin point shot past Howe, tying the score at 1-1.

Marie-Joëlle Allard went off for tripping shortly after Daoust’s goal, but the Thunder weren’t able to use the skater advantage to tie it up. A Rattray penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct a few minutes later was similarly killed off. Despite that, Les Canadiennes took the lead with about thirty seconds left in the period. Saulnier got the goal this time off a beautiful feed from behind the goal line by Bettez, who threaded the puck through multiple Markham defenders to find Saulnier for the shot.

Montréal got the lion’s share of the shots this period, outshooting Markham 16 to 8.

Third Period

Matteucci went off for tripping at about thirteen minutes in, and less than thirty seconds later, Megan Bozek and Saulnier were sent off for offsetting roughing minors. Despite calling a timeout with about thirty seconds left, and pulling Howe, the Thunder weren’t able to even up the score. Les Canadiennes won the game in front of a huge home crowd, 2-1. The Thunder were massively outshot in this period, 3 to 13, and in the game itself, 41 to 18.

Three Stars

3. Erica Howe, Markham Thunder (39 saves on 41 shots)

2. Emerance Maschmeyer, les Canadiennes de Montréal (17 saves on 18 shots)

1. Marie-Philip Poulin, les Canadiennes de Montréal (2 assists)

Notes

  • With her goal tonight, Victoria Bach moved into a tie with Brianne Jenner for second in the league in goals scored, behind only Marie-Philip Poulin. She’s also leading her team in points with 32, eight more than the next highest scorer, Rattray. Bach has had a hell of a rookie season, and as someone who watched her at Boston University, it’s been a delight to watch her hit the CWHL and continue to rack up goals.
  • Should there be some kind of emergency, Laura Fortino showed she could step in and make saves if need be:
  • Marie-Philip Poulin’s second assist of the game puts her at 50 points for the season, a career high. She’s only the fourth Montréal player to reach that mark. I’d say she has the Angela James Bowl sewn up, except Bettez is only three points behind her and anything is possible.
  • It’s coming down to the wire for Markham with regards to the playoffs. Currently Markham is tied with the Shenzhen Rays with 28 points each. Toronto is four points behind them with 24. If Markham gains just one more point in their remaining two games, they’ll clinch a playoff spot. If Markham loses their final two games in regulation and Toronto wins their final two games in regulation, Markham will be on the losing end of a three-way tie and fall to fifth place. The tie-breaker, per Jared Book of EOTP, is regulation wins.

The Furies and Thunder play their respective rematches tomorrow, both at 1:00 pm. Neither will be streamed. Tickets are available online or at the door.