With four Furies and six Thunder already in Finland for the Four Nations Cup and the Thunder still looking for their first win of the season, this promised to be an interesting series from the outset.
Saturday, October 29: 2-0 Thunder
Saturday was a significant game for the Furies on a number of fronts: head coach Sommer West became the first female to coach 100 CWHL games and veteran D Shannon Moulson played her 200th CWHL game and 100th as a Fury.
The holes in the lineup also allowed forward Victoria MacKenzie and defender Lauren Platt to make their professional debuts. Both part of the 2016 draft class, MacKenzie had been a healthy scratch so far, while Platt was called up from the reserve list to ensure the team had a full six players on defense.
With only 18 players a side and only four defenders available for the Thunder, it's not surprising that the game was more than a little chaotic.
Early in the first, the Furies gave the Thunder a lot of trouble - Brampton goalie Liz Knox had a lot of traffic to handle and the Furies got chances they straight up shouldn't have. The Lamoureux / Zach / Dingeldein line looked particularly solid.
As the period went on, both teams got extended time in their respective offensive zones. The shot count for the first was 13 - 9 Thunder, but my sense was that if the league tracked shot attempts those numbers would look quite different. A combination of good goaltending from Knox and van der Bliek and bad luck on the part of the shooters kept the score tied at zero despite a desperate flurry of attempts in the final minute from Brampton.
Sarah Edney scored just over three minutes into the second period on a gorgeous shot from the point through traffic. It was the only goal in a less frenetic period, with fewer shots and most of those coming from the Thunder.
One moment I'm not sure the camera entirely caught due to the angle was Carolyne Prevost going about halfway into the splits to keep one foot onside when Sena Suzuki banked a pass into the zone ahead of her.
Jess Jones was called for cross checking early in the second half of the period. The Furies couldn't cash in on the power play but worse, Jones caught the defense by surprise as she came out of the box and found herself on a breakaway with a solid chance on net.
Near the end of the period Moulson got a double minor for interference and roughing (meaning she more or less clocked the opposing player). Jess Vella had a great short handed chance that she created by basically barrelling over the defence to get it out. (I am not entirely sure such things are legal but hey, nobody called anything.)
Less than 10 seconds into the third period with the Furies still short handed on the Moulson penalty there was a puck battle on the end boards. The battlers lost track of the puck, it squirted out, Rebecca Vint scooped it up and basically saucered the puck around both defender and goalie to make it 2-0.
Despite multiple efforts from Vella and a nifty play by Jenna Dingledein and Michela Cava, that was all she wrote and the Thunder came away with their first win of the season. The game sheet had the final shots at 38-18 Thunder but I'd bet good money the shot attempts were a lot more even.
3. Liz Knox (shutout, 18 saves)
2. Sonja van der Bliek (36 saves)
1. Sara Edney (GWG)
Sunday, October 30: 5-0 Furies
Going by the tweets from both teams, this game was a lot more fun to watch (also, who doesn't love watching a win?). Unfortunately Brampton's home rink is a bit too far for travel and we're still a ways from having every CWHL game streamed.
Christina Kessler was in net for this one. I'm not sure that Kessler was the difference all by herself — the temporary lines and defence pairings from the day before now had a game under their belt (the only defence pair that had played together prior to Saturday's game was Moulson and Gaskin). Michelle Saunders also stepped in to relieve emergency callup Lauren Platt.
Plus the seven Furies power plays might have been a factor, considering they converted on two of them. The first period in particular seems to have been quite chippy, including Kelly Terry getting a total of 12 PIMs - two for head contact and a ten minute misconduct for a hit to the head.
Nonetheless the Furies proved they did not need Natalie Spooner around to score goals, with seven players putting up points, including five different goal scorers. Carlee Campbell and Michela Cava seem to have clicked well on the power play unit, and Campbell scored her first professional goal in the third period at even strength off an assist from Terry.
3. Carlee Campbell (1G, 2A, 2 PIM - 1st pro goal)
2. Michela Cava (1G, 2A, 4PIM)
1. Christina Kessler (shutout, 25 saves)
Furies of note
Jess Vella is a speedy, opportunistic pest who managed to do everything except score in Saturday's game. I'm glad she at least managed an assist on Sunday. If the puck is loose in the neutral or offensive zone, expect Vella to at least be skating hard after it, if not outright putting it on her stick and charging towards the net.
Julie Allen I haven't noticed Allen a lot yet this season but when I do she's making a neat play somewhere. She showed off great reflexes in the first period on Saturday, taking a pass from Cava from behind the net and getting a shot off the second the puck hit her stick. She was also the first goal scorer on Sunday.
Sena Suzuki It was great to see Suzuki back on the ice for the first time this season. She's one of my favourites and she didn't look the least bit rusty. She surprised me with a slapshot that had more power than I remember.
Emily Fulton and Carolyne Prevost The dynamic duo - whose line was bumped up from second to first with the absence of Spooner and Kohanchuk - did everything they could to generate chances on Saturday but couldn't quite seal the deal. Sunday they each managed a goal and I was shocked to see that neither of them listed as assisting the other.
Lauren Platt It's not every day a player gets called up from the reserve list. Platt looked a little tentative at times but managed to contribute to a couple of chances. I doubt she'll stay up when Fast and Ambrose are back from Four Nations, but she showed that just because a player doesn't make the 25 woman roster doesn't mean she can't make a decent showing on the ice.
The CWHL takes next weekend off due to Four Nations and Olympic Qualifying tournaments. The Furies' next series will be against the Calgary Inferno November 12 - 13. The next home series will be November 19 and 20 against the Montreal Canadiennes.