Tonight Markham continued their assault on the final playoff spot, while Amanda Makela had one more shutout for Toronto. Annie brings you the Markham recap courtesy of CWHL Live, while Nafio has the Toronto recap live and in person.

Calgary Inferno at Markham Thunder

Markham kicked off its second-to-last home game of the season with a familiar face in the lineup—Jocelyne Larocque returned from the Pyeongchang Olympics. The Inferno also have added some Olympians to the roster, in the form of forwards Brianne Jenner and Blayre Turnbull. While Lauras Fortino and Stacey didn’t play tonight, they were on hand to drop the puck to start the game.

Lindsey Post started in net for the Inferno, while Erica Howe got the start for Markham. While Calgary has clinched a playoff berth, this game still mattered in terms of home-ice advantage, but it wasn’t nearly as crucial as it was for Markham. The Thunder are neck and neck with the Vanke Rays for the final CWHL playoff spot.

First Period

Laura McIntosh almost started the game off with a bang for Markham with a breakaway off a long stretch pass, but she wasn’t able to convert. Moments later, Taylor Woods tried the same thing.

Sophie Shirley danced around the offensive zone, looking entirely comfortable out there. Shirley might be young—she’s only 18—but her talent stands out even on a roster full of grown women.

Calgary’s first good shot came off the stick of Dakota Woodworth, who received a pass from Brittany Esposito and put a shot on Howe. Fortunately for Markham, the whistle blew before Howe had total control of the puck, because Esposito came in hard to crash the net.

Nicole Brown and Jenna McParland got a two-on-one for Markham, but McParland hit the crossbar.

An attempt from Iya Gavrilova led to a goalmouth scramble, but Jenner couldn’t put it home. Jenner and Gavrilova already look wonderful together, as one might expect.

There were a lot of turnovers this period, from both teams, but turning the puck over to Jamie Lee Rattray in your own zone is a poor choice, Inferno.

Megan Grenon’s blocked shot was brought the other way by Becca King, but King wasn’t able to get behind the Inferno defenders and she didn’t make much of it.

Brown prevented an Inferno from intercepting a Kristen Barbara stretch pass, and she charged in and got a shot off on Post. I appreciated Nicole Brown a lot this period—she and Jenna McParland look dangerous out there.

Larocque kept the puck in the zone and took a hard slapshot from the point, but Post saw it and was able to make the save. Soon after, Post made a good save on another point shot, this one redirected. We saw Larocque’s one-timer several times this period, and she’s very good at getting it through and on net. I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets one in this game.

Markham has the first goal, and it’s a great one. McParland wins a board battle, cuts to the slot, and hangs onto the puck until she’s able to put it right past Post. Nicole Kosta gets the only assist.

There was a scary moment for Calgary when Post lost her stick—she ended up with Turnbull’s, until Jenner was able to clear the zone by literally skating through Larocque. Jenner came in hard but she and Gavrilova weren’t able to get anything going.

Despite the physicality of this period, it wasn’t until the final minutes that we got our first penalty—a body-checking penalty on Kristen Richards for flattening a Calgary player along the boards.  The Inferno had trouble getting anything going, and at one point Rattray nearly got a shorthanded breakaway when the puck hopped over Jenner’s stick at the point. The best chance on the powerplay was a quick little shot from Shirley after she carried it in.

Right after the penalty expired, Brown picked up Richards as she left the box and they were off on a 2-on-1. Brown’s rebound found Richards, and she was able to tip it past a sprawling Howe. The first period ends 2-0, Markham.

Second Period

Turnbull opened the second period for Calgary with a hard shot on Howe from the high slot. Shortly after, Shirley nearly got one past Howe, using that slippery speed to get herself in position in front of the net.

Barbara turned the puck over to Rhianna Kurio on a bad pass, giving Kurio and Kelty Apperson a 2-on-1. Kurio wasn’t able to score, but that’s Markham getting lucky.

After a collision between Kelly Murray and Dania Simmonds, Murray went down and stayed down. She remained on the ice for a decent chunk of time, attended by the trainer, until finally going down the tunnel.

Calgary started to get more shots on net in the second, with Apperson and Turnbull having solid chances right after each other. The shift in momentum was helped by Alexis Woloschuk going off for roughing. The Inferno did a much better job maintaining solid pressure for about a minute, but with about thirty seconds left, Calgary attempting to recover the puck from Rattray in their own zone led to Shirley taking an interference penalty.

After thirty seconds of (violent) 4-on-4, Markham got a minute and a half of power play time, their first of the game. Having Megan Bozek and Rattray together on the power play is great in terms of puck possession. The Inferno almost killed it off, but with two seconds left, Gavrilova took a slashing penalty.

Rattray tried to mimic McParland’s earlier goal, but the Inferno penalty killers clogged up the slot too much. She had another sharp shot soon after, and Calgary had a really good shorthanded chance that Howe was able to stop, but nobody ended up scoring for either team.

It didn’t stay at even strength for long. Devon Skeats was called for high-sticking after she went down in a heap with an Inferno skater, so Calgary was back on the power play. A dangerous-looking shot from Gavrilova was deflected over the top of the net, but Calgary kept the pressure on It’s a Katelyn Gosling shot from the top of the faceoff circle that finally got past Howe. 2-1.

Calgary kept the pressure on at even strength. Kurio tried to slide a pass to Woodworth for a redirect, in an especially dangerous-looking chance.

McIntosh and a teammate had a great 2-on-1 chance that they weren’t able to finish. Calgary gave up a lot of 2-on-1s this game.

Bozek is called for body-checking, giving Calgary an opportunity to tie it up. Woodworth took a point shot similar to Gosling’s from the opposite side, but Esposito couldn’t redirect it past Howe. It’s the best chance Calgary got on that power play, and the second period ends 2-1.

Third Period

Calgary started off the period with the remaining time of the Bozek penalty. Jenner hammered a hard point shot from the faceoff circle that Howe is able to track and save. As the penalty expired, Howe had to sprawl out in her crease to control a shot off a rebound, but she was able to keep it out.

Markham took it the other way, and it was Post’s turn to make three excellent saves in a row before Calgary was able to collect the puck and get it out of danger.

Shirley tried to use all that speed to cut around Larocque, but Larocque is an Olympian and equal to a bit of teenage overconfidence. She defended it beautifully.

Rattray had a great chance coming in alone, but Calgary’s defense got back quickly, and once Rattray ran out of space her shot was handled easily by Howe.

Markham took a two-goal lead about five minutes in, Jocelyne Larocque celebrating her return and first game in Markham with a goal. Larocque collected a great feed from Brown at the half boards, lined up and sniped it right past Post. 3-1 Markham.

One of those long passes connected to Kosta, but before she could make anything happen, Apperson nailed her right in the back with a cross-check. That put Markham right back on the power play, with an opportunity to take a three-goal lead. Rattray almost does it singlehandedly, coming off the bench, grabbing the puck and cutting hard into the Calgary zone, attempting to tuck the puck between Post and, er, the post. The Inferno were able to kill off the penalty.

Calgary looked a bit knocked back on their heels after the Markham goal. McParland had a nifty move to try and get in on Post, but she couldn’t get around both defenders. Fortunately for Calgary, Barbara took a slashing penalty, and they had yet another power play chance. They give up several strong shorthanded chances to Rattray, because Rattray is just so good, you guys. She’s so good. The Inferno spent more time chasing her down the ice than applying pressure to Markham’s penalty kill.

Kosta sent a hard shot off Post’s pads, but McParland couldn’t connect on the rebound to put it in the wide-open net.

A strong backhand attempt by Kayla Gardner was saved by Howe. She also stoned Esposito  from right in the slot. Howe’s played very well tonight—Calgary got some dangerous chances, and she came up equal to all but one.

Jamie Lee Rattray finally got her goal in the ending minutes, popping in a rebound from a point shot up over Post. It would have been wrong for this game to end without her on the board, somehow. 4-1 Markham.

Calgary pulled their goalie in the ending minutes, and after Turnbull failed to bury a rebound off a Shirley shot, Bozek took the puck the other way and sent it right into the empty net. The final score for the game was 5-1, Markham.

Three stars

3 Katelyn Gosling, Calgary Inferno (1 goal)

2 Erica Howe, Markham Thunder (29 saves on 30 shots)

1 Jocelyne Larocque, Markham Thunder (1 goal)

Toronto Furies vs Boston Blades 3-0

The Toronto Furies welcomed back Olympians Natalie Spooner and Renata Fast for a ceremonial puck drop. Other than that, the only thing on the line for this final series on the Furies schedule was pride.

Boston locked up their grasp on seventh place in the standings a while back, but have been looking much improved under new head coach Kacy Ambroz, who joined the team midway through the season. Unfortunately for Boston, several of their players were not in the lineup tonight, and that may have had an effect. Toronto was only missing Carlee Campbell, Jessica O’Grady and Sonja van der Bliek.

With Amanda Makela in net, the Furies made the odd choice of starting a line of Sydney Kidd, Alexa Aramburu and Shannon Stewart, with Brooke Beazer and Ella Stewart on defence. Boston countered with Lauren Dahm in net, Sato Kikuchi and Taryn Harris on defence and Casey Stathopoulos, Meghan Grieves and Melissa Bizzari at forward.

The game started off with a pair of uncalled trips, and I wondered just how chippy this game was going to be allowed to get. Before I could wonder too much, Brittany Zuback seemed to casually toss the puck into the net. 1-0 Furies, just 55 seconds into the game.  Assists went to her linemates, Carolyne Prévost and Emily Fulton.

Things continued to go the Furies way and about two and a half minutes later Sydney Kidd would score her second of the season. The puck appeared to be chipped in, taking an enormous hop up over Dahm and into the back of the ned. 2-0 Toronto. Shannon Moulson and Shannon Stewart got the assists.

That was it for goals on a goaltender for the rest of the game.

The Blades had the only two power plays of the game (according to the game sheet online, Brooke Beazer was called for a bodycheck at the buzzer at the end of the game, but that didn’t allow for any power play time).

The first power play, a bodychecking call on Beazer early in the first period, who stood up to a player at centre ice, did not reflect well on Boston. They had a hard time getting the puck to stay in the Toronto zone, and ended the power play in their own zone.

In the second period Alessandra Bianchi got tangled with a Blades player at centre ice and went down, writhing and seeming to clutch at her throat. The trainer came out and she was helped off the ice. As far as I could tell she didn’t return to the game. Meanwhile, the refs had called a hooking penalty on her, which was served by Cassidy Delainey.

The Blades acquitted themselves better on their second opportunity, and Makela had to make a couple of good stops, including a nice high glove save on Grieves. Prévost did get an opportunity on Dahm just after the penalty expired, but generally Toronto was kept pretty busy.

Brittany Zuback was awarded a penalty shot late in the second for... reasons (Dahm made a save, with some other Blades as backup, apparently this was somehow Bad? I don’t know and it’s not explained on the game sheet). That was exciting but unfortunately fruitless.

Other than that, the Blades had 30 shots to the Furies 26. Makela and Dahm were both good, but they were both also lucky - each team had a number of close chances that stayed out due to bad timing and the blessings (or curses, depending on who you were rooting for) of the hockey gods.

Dahm was pulled with just under two minutes to go. It took the Furies a few tries but eventually Carolyne Prévost managed to collect her own puck and put it in behind a sprawling Blades defender (after missing a completely undefended net a few seconds beforehand, it must be stated). It was announced in the arena as unassisted but on the sheet Zuback is credited with an assist.

Final score, 3-0 Furies. Up next, final home game of the season.

Three stars

3 Amanda Makela, Toronto Furies (30 save shutout)

2 Sydney Kidd, Toronto Furies (1 goal)

1 Brittany Zuback, Toronto Furies (1 goal, 1 assist)