Toronto Furies vs Kunlun Red Star, 0-2

New year, new Furies, or at least it seems that way. Fresh off their win in Boston last weekend, the Furies put on what might have been their best performance at home this season. Unfortunately, the score didn’t reflect their efforts.

Sonja van der Bliek got the start in goal, Michelle Saunders and Carlee Campbell on defense and Emily Fulton, Carolyne Prévost and Hayley Williams were the starting forwards. Kunlun countered with Noora Räty in goal, Taylor Marchin and Jessica Wong on the back end and the terrifying combination of Shiann Darkangelo, Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter at forward.

First period

The Furies came out looking strong and fast in the first period, frankly a surprise against Kunlun’s star players. It was a tight battle with a lot of movement between zones but not a lot of shots on goal. The Furies seemed more focused and organized than I had seen in a long time.

As the fastest player on the Furies, Prévost got most of the chances in the first, but her teammates weren’t letting her do all the work. There was plenty of great stick work and tight turns that resulted in a number of takeaways.

One of the best chances of the period for Kunlun came when a rebound off Sonja van der Bliek’s pads went almost straight up in the air and landed inconveniently right in front of a Red Star player (possibly Zhixin Liu, but I couldn’t swear to it). Fortunately van der Bliek managed to keep the resulting shot out as well.

Things seemed to break down a little in the final minute, with Kunlun getting a flurry of shots on net. The slap of rubber against van der Bliek’s pads was a loud but welcome sound. Mostly as a result of those last few seconds, Red Star led 12-4 in shots at the end of the period.

There were four penalties in the period - coincidental minors for Fulton (roughing) and Zoe Hickel (cross-checking) at 7:25, Stack for high-sticking at 15:21 and an interference call on Shannon Moulson as the buzzer went. With few stoppages, the period lasted less than half an hour in real time — the puck hadn’t dropped at the Thunder game when the Furies first period was over. I had to wonder how long they could keep matching Red Star’s pace.

Second period

There was a minor issue with both nets to start the second. The officials seemed to take a little longer to settle van der Bliek’s net.

The combination of beginning the period on the kill and Kunlun’s speed took its toll on Toronto. About three minutes after they’d killed off the first penalty, Fulton took a hooking call that was just one of those things that happens when trying to defend a faster player. Unfortunately, this time the Red Star took advantage.

Stack and Hickel cycled the puck down low, moving it and themselves in a winding pattern that pulled too much of the Furies attention on them and off of Carpenter, who had edged her way into a prime spot in front of van der Bliek. Stack got her the puck and Alex Carpenter knows what to do with time and space  out in front of the net and the puck on her stick. It was a great shot and van der Bliek didn’t really have a chance. Carpenter’s first CWHL goal was a beauty. 1-0

Carpenter caused the next Toronto penalty as well. She got a breakaway and all Saunders could do to stop her was take the two minute penalty for tripping. It very likely saved a goal. Still, van der Bliek had to put in some impressive work to keep the Furies from being burned on that one.

Having to kill off three penalties in the first 10 minutes of the period clearly wore on the Furies. Instead of quick takeaways and smart zone entries, they were relying on chipping the puck up the ice, or slapshots from players like Campbell to try and get out of the zone.

Saunders took another tripping penalty that was a bit of a soft call and more of a case of needing to manage her stick than needing to slow down a faster player.

I have in my notes at 15:02 of the period “finally! an offensive zone faceoff!” it might not have been the first of the period, but it certainly felt like it. Van der Bliek earned wave after wave of applause from the fans for some incredible saves. Her defence also sacrificed themselves a few times to block shots, I’m sure a number of Furies have ugly bruises tonight.

Third period

Rested and starting the period at even strength the Furies looked much more effective in the third period. They drew a slashing call on Hickel in the first minute and managed to put some decent  pressure on Red Star during the power play.

Once again, rebounds off of van der Bliek’s pads were scooped up to become zone entries at the other end of the zone.

Danielle Gagne and Jessica Platt both had good chances on Räty, although neither of them came in with support and to score on Noora Räty you need to get her moving side to side (this is a recording).

Despite all the good things they were doing, with seven minutes left in the game, the Furies luck took a turn for the worse. A rebound came out of a mess in front of the net, van der Bliek couldn’t see it and Rachel Llanes put a seeing-eye shot through the mass of bodies to extend Kunlun’s lead to 2-0.

Toronto went on the power play a few minutes later when Madison Woo went to the box for slashing. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t seem to get anything much going. Coach Flanagan called a time out with just over three and a half minutes left, pulling van der Bliek.

The Furies absolutely did not give up. They put pressure on the Red Star, forcing Räty to stop play multiple times. A few attempts at empty net goals were turned aside by excellent defensive work. I think it was Campbell that had the crowd going wild when she redirected a puck the whole rink thought was going to go in.

Valiant effort from the Furies, and I definitely hope to see the same level of play again tomorrow, but ultimately in vain.  Räty got her shutout with just 16 saves, nine of them in the third period.

Three stars

3. Sonja van der Bliek, Toronto Furies (36 saves)

2. Rachel Llanes, Kunlun Red Star (first CWHL goal)

1. Alex Carpenter, Kunlun Red Star (first CWHL goal/point)


Score aside this was an absolutely fantastic game for Sonja van der Bliek and she should be very proud of herself.  The crowd at this game was one of the loudest I’ve ever heard at a Furies game and a lot of the noise was for her. She was show-stopping.

As has been mentioned in a few of the articles about Platt this week, she’s been moved up to forward. Brooke Beazer seems to be her defensive replacement and she’s doing well in that role.

A power play of Stack, Hickel, Carpenter, Wong and Darkangelo would make any national team pause - that the Furies held them to one goal is impressive.

Still not sure who constitutes an “import” by CWHL rules or what the rules surrounding imports actually are this season, but since people seem to care - there were 10 players dressed for Kunlun whose hometown is listed as somewhere outside of China. Some of those are players of Chinese descent who have been playing with Team China in exhibition matches this season.

The scratches for Toronto were Jessica O’Grady and Amanda Makela. Still no word on Julie Allen.

Markham Thunder vs Vanke Rays, 6-3

Elsewhere in the GTA, the Markham Thunder faced off against the Vanke Rays, but in this game the team from China did not have as much luck. Elaine Chuli  got the start for the Rays, with Liz Knox in net for the Thunder. This  was also the first game for Markham’s newest member, free agent signing  and recently-cut US National Team defender Megan Bozek.

Devon  Skeats of Markham opened the scoring about five minutes in with her  second goal of the year, and at the end of the first, Laura McIntosh  made it 2-0.

It was in the second that the floodgates opened.  Markham scored two quick goals, the first from Kristen Richards, and  then after Vanke’s Yue Hou was called for slashing, Jenna McParland  scored her first of the season on the power play.

Barely  thirty seconds after McParland made it 4-0, Xin Fang put Vanke on the  board. McParland soon scored again, making the score 5-1, Markham. This  all occurred within the first six minutes of the period. Brooke Webster  would tack on a power play goal for Vanke late, and the second period  finished up with the score 5-2.

The  third was full of penalties--six in all, three for each team (one  imagines that four goals before the halfway mark might lead to some  frayed tempers). After Dania Simmonds took a slashing call halfway  through the third, a power play goal by Emma Woods gave Vanke hope of a  comeback. It didn’t work out that way. McParland finished the hat trick  with under two minutes left in the game, and Markham took this one,  6-3.

Three Stars

3. Nicole Kosta, Markham Thunder (1A)

2. Ashleigh Brykaliuk, Vanke Rays (2A)

1. Jenna McParland, Markham Thunder (3G)

Rematches are Sunday at 1:00 pm for the Furies and Red Star and 1:30 pm for the Thunder and Rays. The Thunder game will be in Bowmanville at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.