In a pleasant reversal of last weekend’s sweep by the Calgary Inferno, the Toronto Furies came into Boston, went to work, and left with two wins under their belt and a guaranteed playoff spot. Christina Kessler was in net for the Furies for both games, and Lauren Dahm started for the Blades. While the Furies were still skating with five defenders, they saw the return of Erin Ambrose and Katie Gaskin, which led to a visible improvement to the defense.
Saturday, 3-1 Furies
The Blades managed to hang in there for the first few minutes, forcing turnovers and getting a couple good chances early. A lot of that offense was courtesy of the line of Grieves, Leary, and Bizzari, who were Boston’s best line this weekend.
That changed when Natalie Spooner drew a hooking call on Nachi Fujimoto while breezing into the offensive zone, despite two Blades players draped all over her. The Furies powerplay only took 53 seconds to capitalize. Kelly Terry collected the puck behind the cage and brought it around to the left post, attempting a wraparound. Dahm made the first save, leading to a scramble in the crease, but eventually Jenna Dingeldein poked it in.
Towards the last five minutes of the period, the Furies started cleaning up on their initial sloppy play, making it harder for the Blades to force turnovers. Emily Fulton had a nice sequence protecting the puck from Dakota Woodworth, sliding to her knees at one point, but keeping the puck in the Furies zone.
The ice tilting in the Furies favor only grew more pronounced in the second period. The Furies had several good chances in the first half, including an end-to-end rush by Renata Fast and Carolyne Prevost that Terry couldn’t finish, and Michela Cava hitting a post. Dahm remained rock-solid, but the rest of the Blades were struggling, unable to get any significant time in their own zone.
It bit them eventually, with Sadie St. Germain accidentally clearing the puck into the stands for a penalty. The Furies leaned on the Blades for the full two minute powerplay, and the constant puck movement got to Dahm. Only eight seconds after it expired, she overcommitted, came off the right post, and Spooner was able to tap the puck in. The goal was technically at even strength, but it seemed like a culmination of two minutes of great passing and offensive pressure. It would be the last goal allowed by Dahm that night.
While Dahm was frustrating the Furies, they had no trouble handling the Blades offense. If a Blades forward got into the Furies zone, she rarely had choices other than to take a shot Kessler could easily handle, and rebound chances were practically nonexistent.
The Furies had an overall size advantage on the Blades, as well as skating skill—players like Ambrose and Fast were efficient defensively as well as offensively, and there were points at which the Blades seemed to be getting pushed around, for lack of a better term.
Near the start of the third, the physical play led to Dingeldein and Grieves earning offsetting roughing minors. 4-on-4 did the Blades no favors, as the extra space suited the faster Furies, although it did give us the opportunity to witness an incredible split-save by Dahm on Jenelle Kohanchuk.
Right as 4-on-4 was dying, Boston’s best line (Bizzari, Leary, Grieves) finally got the goal they deserved. Grieves got the puck at the goal line, passed to Melissa Bizzari in the slot, and she got the shot off quick and beat Kessler high. That line played well all weekend, and it was nice to see a lot of hard work pay off for them.
The goal did not give the Blades any new life, however, which wasn’t helped by Bizzari and then Erin Kickham taking hooking calls that period. There were three hooking calls on the Blades this game, all of which seemed to be the consequence of being offensively outmatched. The Furies continued to get good offensive chances—Cava, particularly, had a couple—but Lauren Dahm did Lauren Dahm things and held the score at 2-1. Dahm did an exceptionally good job dealing with traffic in the crease, which, well. That might have been an omen of things to come.
After Dahm was pulled for the extra attacker, it didn’t take long for a misplayed Tara Watchorn pass to get picked off and end up in the back of the net, courtesy of Tanis Lamoreux. Final score was 3-1, Furies.
1st: Natalie Spooner
2nd: Jenna Dingeldein
3rd: Melissa Bizzari
Sunday, 5-1 Furies
36 seconds into Sunday’s game, held at the Tsongas Center on UMass Lowell’s campus, Toronto took a Too Much Woman penalty. Unlike Saturday, the Blades seized the opportunity early. Kayla Tutino took a bad-angle shot, and her former Boston University teammate Woodworth knocked in a rebound in the crease after Kessler couldn’t corral the puck. For the first time that weekend, the Blades had the lead.
It lasted for about seven minutes. Megan Myers of the Blades was called for hooking, continuing the problem the Blades had the night before, and the goal itself gave me déjà vu. After Prevost had a nice chance on an empty net and couldn’t convert, the puck kicked back behind the net and was collected by Terry, who wrapped it around the left post and threw it through the paint to be stuffed in by Dingeldein.
The game stayed tied for all of 32 seconds, until Natalie Spooner decided she felt like scoring a goal and proceeded to do that, snapping a high shot right past Dahm. It was so soon after the first Furies goal, I was still taking notes, and barely looked up in time to see the water bottle go flying off Dahm’s cage.
While the Furies were still dominating, the Blades skaters had a much better game. After an obvious, and stupid, trip by Grieves, the Blades managed to kill off the penalty. They did much better at stopping puck movement through the middle of the ice, holding the Furies to the outside. At one point, Grieves forced Shannon Moulson to take a tripping penalty by storming into the zone and simply refusing to stop (Meghan Grieves is great). Woodworth also had some good plays, including stripping Gaskin at the blue line for a breakaway, which was easily gloved by Kessler. For the first two periods or so, the line with Woodworth and Tutino joined the Grieves line in making some nice plays. The Blades had two effective forward lines for a while!
The Blades offense might have been better, but unfortunately, Dahm was looking worse. I hesitate to say she had a bad game, but her reactions weren’t as sharp, and she was having much more trouble corralling loose pucks in the crease. The third Furies goal took advantage of this--in a crease scramble, Dahm went down, Allen recovered the puck and slung it back to Fast at the point, and Fast roofed it for a goal.
Later (stop me if you’ve heard this before), Terry brought the puck behind the net, wrapped around and slid the puck to Kohanchuk, who banged it in to make it 4-1. She did that quite a few times this weekend, enough that I noticed it, and I’m not a professional hockey player.
Even with Dahm looking shaky, the Blades had some chances in the first half of the third. Spooner was called for body-checking, but the Furies penalty kill easily controlled the Blades power play. Later, on a solo rush, Myers beat Kessler but hit the post, and there was nobody there to bang home the rebound. If Saturday’s Lauren Dahm had been in net, this would have been a fair(er) fight.
With about 8 minutes left in the game, Dahm appeared to pull something, and went down for a few minutes in obvious discomfort. The trainer came out, but she stayed in the game, to the relief of the Tsongas Center crowd.
The highlight of the game, personally, was a GORGEOUS end-to-end rush from Renata Fast, capped off by snapping a shot from the right face-off circle. It was a fantastic individual effort, and the goal sucked the last of the life out of the Blades. The rest of the game was basically Boston waiting for the end.
1st: Renata Fast
2nd: Natalie Spooner
3rd: Dakota Woodworth
- I have “Renata Fast is a delight”, or variations thereof, at least three times in my notes from the weekend. Speedy, agile defenders who can score make my heart go pitter-pat, and Fast fits the category to a T. She stood out in both games, but especially on Sunday, when she earned first star for a reason. Her second goal was one of the nicest I’ve seen at a women’s game this season.
- It was great to see a lot of offense from people not named Natalie Spooner, but never forget, she is still Natalie Spooner and is still, to quote an esteemed and never hyperbolic colleague of mine, “obviously God”. Spooner’s puck control through traffic is exceptional, and she was frequently stickhandling through the offensive zone with two or more defenders hanging off of her. The Blades really didn’t know how to contain her. Join the club, Blades.
- That being said, the Furies scored eight goals this weekend, and only two of them were from Spooner! I love this whole “depth” thing.
- The air temperature inside Walter Brown Arena on Saturday night was warmer than usual, and the ice quality didn’t look great. I’d say it’s usually on par with the MasterCard Center in Toronto, but Saturday night was worse than usual. There was a lot of slipping and sliding, and the puck was bouncing around. The Tsongas Center, which is the bigger, newer rink used by the UMass Lowell men’s team, was a visible improvement. It would be nice to see more Blades games played in some of the nice, shiny, new Division I rinks in the Boston area—such as Boston University’s Agganis Arena, cough, cough.
Next weekend, the Furies are back in action against Les Canadiennes. Saturday’s game, at 3:30pm ET, will be broadcast on Sportsnet! Tune in to see if they can carry their momentum into a win against the CWHL’s second-place team.